Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism is a beautiful and thought-provoking book. Fumio Sasaki writes from his 215-square-foot Tokyo apartment, where he has a bed, a desk, and a wooden box. I, on the other hand, write from my 680-square-foot apartment, which I share with my husband, a parrot, a dog, and a moving van full of furniture and housewares. My place seems like a veritable carnival of excess in comparison. Sasaki presents a vision of minimalism that is redolent of potential. What does one do in such a spare interior?
Sasaki isn’t alone. The book begins with five photo case studies of other Japanese minimalists. It has before-and-after photos. Stop right there. Can we do this? Can we just have a look at series of photos like this? So peaceful, so idiosyncratic. What does one do in a minimalist room? Play Carcassonne with friends or make an illustrated journal, among other things. The fifth person is a full nomad, and his photo spread shows a simple array of possessions that fit in a backpack. I think I have more items than this in my kitchen drawer.
Goodbye, Things has an approachable, casual style. Sasaki writes about his previous maximalist lifestyle (including photos, of course) and how it was ultimately unfulfilling. He explains how materialistic he used to be, caught up in envy and fixated on money, and how minimalism changed him as a person.
There’s a list of “The things I threw away.” Aren’t these always the most fun to read? I’ve made similar lists of stuff I don’t have, some of which I did own at one point and many of which I never have. (I’ve never worn Crocs or owned a Beanie Baby, for instance). The author makes wry comments about the aspirations he had when he bought various items and how much money he had frittered away. He’s kind of a hoot.
Goodbye, Things explores minimalism as a movement. It carries on with a discussion on the roots of materialism and consumer culture. About a quarter of the book is a practical how-to guide to getting rid of stuff. The book closes with ways the author has changed as a result of his minimalist practice.
My household has changed as a result of this book. Sasaki mentions that he has one towel he uses for everything. Just like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy! My husband and I started using hand towels after our showers instead of full-size bath sheets. Works perfectly well, no more musky towels, and at least one load less of laundry every week. We still have the bath sheets in case anyone comes to visit, because sometimes minimalism can just be our little secret.
I found Goodbye, Things compulsively readable - in fact, I finished it in one sitting on a plane. Its clean prose speaks to true art on the part of the translator. This is a really lovely book, perhaps one worth keeping, even in a 210-square-foot room with just two pieces of furniture.
“...saying goodbye to your things is more than an exercise in tidying up. I think it’s an exercise in thinking about true happiness.”
“I believed that my bookshelves were a showcase of who I was”
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.