Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism

By Fumio Sasaki

My rating: 9/10

Date read: 2019-07-14

Book on Amazon.com

Focused and humble book on the philosophy of minimalism and why you may want to try it. The book draws on the personal experience of the author, and gives you real practical tips on how you can reduce the number of things you own.

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There is happiness in having less.

Minimalism is a lifestyle in which you reduce your possessions to the absolute minimum you need.

[When I was a maximalist] I was miserable, and I made other people miserable, too.

"We are more interested in making others believe we are happy, than in trying to be happy ourselves."

Why minimalism?

Everyone started out as a minimalist.

Unnecessary material objects suck up our time, our energy, and our freedom.

[Hotel rooms] often feel so comfortable, because they aren't cluttered with all the things that usually distract you. This is a minimalist state.

If you're anything like I was – dissatisfied with your life, insecure, unhappy – try reducing your belongings. You'll start to change. (On why becoming minimalist). I think that some of our unhappiness is simply due to the burden of all our things.

There are no set rules [for minimalism].

Minimalists are people who know what's truly necessary for them versus what they may want for the sake of appearance, and they're are not afraid to cut down on everything in the second category.

Minimalism is not a goal. Reducing the number of possessions that you have is not a goal unto itself. I think minimalism is a method for individuals to find the things that are genuinely important to them.

Reasons leading to the rise of minimalism in recent times:

The amount of information that a person living in Japan receives in a single day is equivalent to what someone living during the Edo period received in a year, if not over the course of their entire life.

Human beings are like fifty-thousand-year-old pieces of hardware. [It's hard for us to process as much information as there is today]. [It's time to subtract excess information we receive]

Smartphone means we can carry around cell phone, camera, TV, audio device, game console, watch, calendar, flashlight, map, or even notepad, all in one little rectangle. Invention of the smartphone paved the way for all the minimalists we see around us today.

Services like car and home sharing let you not own these things.

Possessions can be dangerous in case of a disaster.

The Great East Japan Earthquake was said to be so large that it should only happen once every thousand years. I recall hearing someone say that our history from the year 0 through 2000 is the equivalent of twenty old ladies living to the age of one hundred. If that earthquake really was a once-in-a-thousand-years event, it would mean that two of those twenty old ladies would have been affected. Is that a high ratio or is it low?

Why did we accumulate so much in the first place?

We get used to things. The glory of acquisition starts to dim with use, eventually changing to boredom as the item no longer elicits even a bit of excitement. This is the pattern of everything in our lives. No matter how much we wish for something, over time it becomes a normal part of our lives, and then a tired old item that bores us, even though we did actually get our wish. And we end up being unhappy.

Our neural networks are tuned to detect variances in different forms of stimulation. Buying a thing is detected as exciting change, but owning it for a while lacks this variance. Novelty of the stimulus wears off.

"The joy of victory only lasts three hours." Joy of victory isn't nearly as strong as the despair you experience in defeat.

We can't predict our future feelings [i.e. how we will feel about a thing a year from now]. We tend to consider our future based on our present.

Why do we own so many things when we don't need them? What is their purpose? I think the answer is quite clear: we are desperate to convey our own worth, our own value to others. We use objects to tell people just how valuable we are.

Problem arises when what we own becomes who we are.

55 tips to help you say goodbye to your things.

  1. Discard the preconception that you can't discard your things.
  2. Discarding something takes skill.
  3. When you discard something, you gain more than you lose.
  4. Ask yourself why you can't part with your things.
  5. Minimizing is difficult, but not impossible.
  6. There are limits to the capacity of your brain, your energy and your time.
  7. Discard something right now.
  8. There isn't a single item you'll regret throwing away.
  9. Start with things that are clearly junk.
  10. Minimize anything you have in multiples.
  11. Get rid of it if you haven't used it in a year.
  12. Discard it if you have it for the sake of appearance.
  13. Differentiate between things you want and things you need.
  14. Take photos of the items that are tough to part with.
  15. It's easier to revisit your memories once you go digital.
  16. Our things are like roommates, except we pay their rent.
  17. Organizing is not minimizing.
  18. Tackle the nest (storage) before the pest (clutter).
  19. Leave your unused space empty.
  20. Let go of the idea of "someday".
  21. Say goodbye to who you used to be.
  22. Discard the things you have already forgotten about.
  23. Don't get creative when you're trying to discard things.
  24. Let go of the idea of getting your money's worth.
  25. There is no need to stock up.
  26. Feeling the spark of joy will help you focus.
  27. Auction services are a quick way to part with your possessions.
  28. Use auctions to take one last look at your things.
  29. Use a pickup service to get rid of your possessions.
  30. Don't get hung up on the prices that you initially paid.
  31. Think of stores are your personal warehouses.
  32. The city is our personal floor plan.
  33. Discard any possessions that you can't discuss with passion.
  34. If you lost it, would you buy it again?
  35. If you can't remember how many presents you've given, don't worry about the gifts you've gotten.
  36. Try to imagine what the person who passed away would have wanted.
  37. Discarding memorabilia is not the same as discarding memories.
  38. Our biggest items trigger chain reactions.
  39. Our homes aren't museums; they don't need collections.
  40. Be social; be a borrower.
  41. Rent what can be rented.
  42. Social media can boost your minimizing motivation.
  43. What if you started from scratch?
  44. Say "see you later" before you say goodbye.
  45. Discard anything that creates visual noise.
  46. One in, one out.
  47. Avoid the Concorde fallacy.
  48. Be quick to admit mistakes. They help you grow.
  49. Think of buying as renting.
  50. Don't buy it because it's cheap. Don't take it because it's free.
  51. If it's not a "hell, yes!" it's a "no."
  52. The things we really need will always find their way back to us.
  53. Keep the gratitude.
  54. Discarding things can be wasteful. But the guilt that keeps you from minimizing is the true waste.
  55. The things we say goodbye to are the things we'll remember forever.

15 more tips for the next stage of your minimalist journey.

  1. Fewer things does not mean less satisfaction.
  2. Find your unique uniform.
  3. We find our originality when we own less.
  4. Discard it if you've thought about doing so five times.
  5. If you've developed your minimalist skills, you can skip the "see you later" stage.
  6. A little inconvenience can make us happier.
  7. Discard it even if it sparks joy.
  8. Minimalism is freedom – the sooner you experience it, the better.
  9. Discarding things may leave you with less, but it will never make you a lesser person.
  10. Question the conventional way you're expected to use things.
  11. Don't think. Discard!
  12. Minimalism is not a competition. Don't boast about how little you have. Don't judge someone who has more than you.
  13. The desire to discard and the desire to possess are flip sides of the same coin.
  14. Find your own minimalism.
  15. Minimalism is a method and a beginning.

12 ways I've changed since I said goodbye to my things.

  1. I have more time.

    Getting and managing possessions takes a lot of your time.
    Minimalism naturally narrows down your choices so you can arrive at quick decisions.
    Enrichment of time will lead directly to happiness, while the enrichment of material objects will not.
  2. I enjoy life more.

    Cleaning becomes three times easier when you have less.
    Without clutter, you possession have a natural resting place.
  3. I have more freedom.

    With minimalism, there is a freedom to move, and to choose a new lifestyle.
  4. I no longer compare myself with others.

    Comparing yourself with somebody is an instant way to become unhappy.
    When you stop comparing, you find yourself.
  5. I stopped worrying about how others see me.

    You're the only one who's worried about your face [and yourself].
    Keeping up appearances only holds us back.
  6. I'm more engaged with the world around me.

    Taking action leads to happiness. I'd rather regret something I've done than something I wish I had done.
    Minimalists can take risks.
  7. I can focus better. I can concentrate on being me.

    Possessions call for your attention: wash me, clean me, use me! It's a silent to-do list that's always with you.
    Information minimalism.
  8. I save money and I care more about the environment.

    Minimalism is a very effective way to cut down on costs.
  9. I'm healthier and safer.

    Minimalists are slim.
    Things are dangerous in a natural disaster.
  10. My interpersonal relationships are deeper.

    For example, without TV, people are "forced" to interact with each other more.
    It's said that happily married couples talked with each other five more hours per week than couples that aren't happy. Without TV or possessions to manage, there is more time for conversations.
    Few true friends are better than hundred friends.
    Helping somebody be happy is a sure way to be happy yourself. When you reduce the number of things you own, you can devote more time and energy to your interpersonal relationships.
  11. I can savor the present moment.

    By parting with the things that I'd been keeping for my past and my future, I now find that I can think only about the present.
  12. I feel true gratitude.

"Feeling" happy instead of "becoming" happy

[Minimalism helps to] let go of an idea of what happiness should be.

Genetics determines 50 percent of our happiness. The environment determines only 10 percent of our happiness. Our actions determine 40 percent of our happiness. Minimalism helps to maximize these 40 percent.

You don't "become" happy. Happiness is in the moment. There is nothing extra we need to feel happy in this very moment.

What's important in my life? It's the person who's sitting or standing in front of me right now.

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