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‘Goodbye, Things’ makes the case for radical minimalism

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Bold next steps after KonMari

minimalist room
Step 3: the final result of Sasaki’s minimalizing.
Photos courtesy Fumio Sasaki

Another day, another minimalist home for the design web to swoon over. It’s easy to appreciate pared-back interiors when the practical uglies of everyday life—old mail and coupons, wire and cables, a frumpy homebody sweatshirt or three—are nowhere to be found. But once outside of glossy staged images, minimalism gets a lot harder—though not totally impossible.

That’s the appeal anyway of a new book boldly titled, “Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism,” in which Japanese book editor Fumio Sasaki shares how he went from living in a cluttered apartment reeking of dissatisfaction to a 215-square-foot abode full of freedom and contentment.

Another Marie Kondo?! You might be thinking at this point, and you would be right and wrong. The book is definitely about cutting stuff out of your life, and No. 26 of dozens of tips he offers for doing so name-checks Kondo and her now-famous concept of only keeping things that “spark joy.” By the next chapter, however, Sasaki lays out a dare: “Discard it even if it sparks joy.”

Indeed, his book, the Japanese edition of which first published in 2015, goes beyond decluttering. It’s about how to reach a minimalism defined as the absolute least you need to live, as well as the benefits you might expect to reap in the process—which in Sasaki’s case, range from a more active lifestyle to spending less time on shopping, cleaning, and comparing himself to others.

Step 1
Step 2

Step 3

After downsizing to the 215-square-foot space, Sasaki step by step (as seen in the photos above) got down to owning just about 150 items, including clothing and everything for the kitchen and bathroom. He gives a tour of the place in the video tour below. (More recently, the author moved from this tiny Tokyo pad to a place in Kyoto, where he has gone up to 300 items, including a real bed.)

Sasaki’s transformation was drastic and so is much of his advice for bidding things adieu. Perhaps more helpful than treating the book as a sequential to-do list is to treat each of his 70 tips as an opportunity to reevaluate how you use and why you keep the things in your home.

Below, take a look at a few of the tips that certainly got us thinking:

1. Get rid of it if you haven’t used it in a year.

The idea is simple: If you haven’t needed something for four seasons (with emergency equipment and supplies being the exception), there’s a good chance you won’t use it again. Sasaki continues, “Dust isn’t very pleasant, but it is a useful that tells us maybe it’s time to consider throwing an item away.” Oof.

2. Our things are like roommates, except we have to pay their rent.

Oh snap! The author puts it like this: “Our Things aren’t going to pitch in with the rent, and they aren’t going to help us take care of the household chores. Instead they create extra work for us...It’s wiser to kick them out.”

3. Leave your “unused” space empty.

This must be the home organization equivalent of becoming comfortable with the silence. Don’t rush to fill the void, Sasaki says, and let it be the left-empty space that gives you a peace of mind.

4. The city is our personal floor plan.

What if your “living room” is the neighborhood diner with the comfy couches and your “home office” is the coffee shop with a friendly, stay-as-long-as-you-want policy?

5. Discard it if you’ve thought about doing so five times.

Can’t argue with this one.