One of my favorite books of 2018 has been goodbye, things by Fumio Sasaki. This was a book that was being discussed at various online book forums and piqued my interest. As it is, I’ve always been fascinated by the Japanese culture and their way of living. As an architect myself, I’ve always been drawn to the minimalism architecture, in other words, the less-is-more design philosophy.
Sasaki is a 30-something writer who lives in Tokyo, “in a tiny studio, with three shirts, four pairs of trousers, four pairs of socks and not much else.” That’s as basic as one can get, and in his book, he attempts to answer one burning question: Is there happiness in having less?
As soon as I opened up the book, I was drawn into the pictures he’s shared with the readers. These pictures include his apartment living conditions: from maximalist living to minimalist living. Just watching the pictures of his clean, organized, decluttered living space made me want to move in there. There’s just something beautiful and peaceful about a living space that’s simple and basic and easy on the eyes, thereby easy on the mind. He’s also shared what his cupboard looks like, his kitchen space, his bedroom, and bathroom: all very clean, basic, organized and simple.
In addition to this, he’s also depicted pictorial case studies depicting how people from various background have embraced minimalist living lifestyle for a more peaceful and happier life. These people include a trailblazer’s apartment, a couple living in minimalist comfort, a family of four living a simple life and finally a globetrotter who travels the world with the most basic items. It certainly is inspiring to look at these pictures and sort of already brought out a desire in me to clean out my own room and mess.
The book is split into five chapters, each explaining the writer’s own journey through adopting the minimalist lifestyle.
In chapter one, Sasaki talks about his lifestyle before, which included cluttered items, messy living spaces, and disorganized systems. He was a lazy man, who didn’t have the energy to get up in the morning to even clean up his apartment. He started looking into minimalism and thus makes the effort to change his lifestyle, which meant that he had to throw out items. In a detailed list, he shared, some of the things he threw out include all of his books, his music collection, antique pieces, camera equipment, full home theater system, and treasured letters, among other things. He goes on to describe a minimalist as “a person who knows what is truly essential for him- or herself, who reduces the number of possession that they have for the sake of things that rea really important to them.” He also shares three things that have helped minimalism movement: phones (everything can be done on the phone), technology (lots of things can be done on a laptop) and sharing (carpooling, air bnb).
In chapter two, he addresses the issue of why we accumulate things in the first place. Sometimes we are so attached to the items we have purchased, be it a 42” television or clothes, we don’t throw them away. We will hold on to things for sentimental value even if the item is of no use. Over the years, these things accumulate leading to a cluttered household. Some of it may be linked to our self-worth, while in other cases it may be linked to the culture where society tells you what you lack, so you buy things to fulfill that gap.
In chapter three, Sasaki address these habits we have of accumulating items, and how to break them. There are 55 tips in all in this chapter, and some of the more helpful ones for me personally are:
(7) Discard something now!
(9) Start with things that are clearly junk
(11) Get rid of it if you haven’t used it in a year
(17) Organizing is not minimizing
(30) Don’t get hung up on the prices that you initially paid
(53) Keep the gratitude
There are loads of other great ideas and tips in addition to the above-mentioned ones, that surely got me thinking of getting rid of things in more a productive and clear manner. Beyond these 55 tips, Sasaki shares 15 more tips for continuing on your minimalist journey, which acts as the second round of this battle.
Chapter four details how the writer’s own life has been changed once he adopted the minimalist lifestyle. Some of the things he talks about is how he has found more time to do productive things, spending less time on social media, less time on shopping and feels happier now. He also finds himself enjoying life a lot more, where clutter is not present to distract him anymore. He also finds freedom in his life to do what he wants to do in life. Along with personality changes, he also talks about how he has stopped comparing his life to others and in the process is more engaged with the world around him. He also finds himself saving a lot more money, in more engaged with other people- developing human connections as opposed to virtual connections- and living in the present moment. Finally, he shares how he’s living in gratitude for most of the time.
Which brings us to the last chapter, where he talks about how there is a difference between “feeling happy” and “becoming happy.” He asks the reader to let go of their perception of what happiness is and instead feel this happiness. “I think happiness is something that can only be felt, and it’s only in the present that you can truly experience it.”
The minute I finished reading this book, I knew I had to make a change in my own life. I started with my cupboard, and much to my shock and horror, I had more things than I actually needed. Three loads of xl garbage sized were filled with clothes and shoes that I hadn’t used in years. 100s of DVDs were thrown out. Old letters and postcards were all discarded (I’ve taken pictures of everything so everything is still retrievable), books that were not needed were sold off at old bookstores, household items were sold off on online websites, gadgets that I didn’t need anymore were sold off, excess furniture was removed from my bedroom. It took me about two to three months to complete all the discarding, and as the writer mentions in the book, I did truly become happier after cleaning out everything.
All the things I removed and donated to charity centers. Things that had accumulated over the last 10 years had to be removed!
Having got rid of everything and in place is a simple sofa and a bookshelf with my favorite books. Absolutely nothing else in the bedroom.
But it’s not just a matter of cleaning out and decluttering. It’s adopting a certain lifestyle that involves only keeping things that are essential to my own happiness. So I have found myself spending less money on unnecessary things, having more time to follow through with my personal goals, stopped comparing my life to others, spending less time on social media and in the process have learned how to “feel” happier and stay in moments of gratitude. By no means is it an easy task. It’s an uphill task, but I promise you, once you get to the other side, you will be glad you did.
I would highly recommend this book to those who are looking to adopt a clean and minimalist lifestyle. Personally speaking, this particular book is always on my bedside table and I refer to it often to remind myself to maintain this lifestyle.