Mindful

Fumio Sasaki is a 35-year-old man living in Tokyo. Tired of the materialist society he grew up in, Fumio moved to a studio flat in a new neighbourhood and discarded nearly all his possessions. His new book Goodbye, Things tells the story of how getting rid of his stuff transformed his life. He spoke with writer Kate Bermingham about how his life has changed.

Kate Bermingham: What possessions do you still own?

Fumio Sasaki: I have about 20 pieces of clothing, including underwear. My electronic devices like MacBook Air and Kindle are incredibly useful. My new home came preinstalled with most of the furniture and electronics I need, so I was able to let go of most of my own items in that category.

If you ever feel you don’t have your possessions under control, I think that’s the time to start decluttering.

On the other hand, there are some things I now have more of. I started cooking every meal, so I have more cookware and utensils. My interest is shifting to DIY and farming, so I imagine I will be getting more tools and equipment for those. I intend to continue to let go of things I don’t need, get new things without hesitation when I feel I truly need them, and make small adjustments as necessary.

Kate: Why did you decide to get rid of your material things?

Fumio: It’s because I felt material things were sucking up my time and energy. Material things are originally meant to entertain you or make difficult tasks easier for you. But if they accumulate beyond the amount you can manage, you end up having to spend a lot of time and energy on maintaining them or work long hours to pay for them—the things you own end up owning you. If you ever feel you don’t have your possessions under control, I think that’s the time to start decluttering.

Kate: How has your life changed since you simplified your home, and what impact has this had on your health and happiness?

Fumio: I have more time because I don’t have to spend as much time going shopping or taking care of what I have. I can go out at any time because my room is always clean. With the freed-up time, I have been able to go out a lot more, which led to meeting people and making new friends.

The fact that I am able to properly maintain my possessions and keep my home tidy and clean gives me a modest boost on my self-esteem that radiates to every area of my life.

Above all, I feel content. The fact that I am able to properly maintain my possessions and keep my home tidy and clean gives me a modest boost on my self-esteem that radiates to every area of my life. While I still find myself wanting something from time to time, I no longer feel envious of others or that there’s something missing. This allows me to consistently experience a sense of peace and fulfillment.

Kate: Is this lifestyle popular in Japan? Do you have any friends who have made a conscious decision to pare down their possessions?

Fumio: Even within the minimalist community I personally know, there are over a hundred people. (The number increases every day so I can no longer keep track.) In Japan, minimalism received a lot of attention from the media—I was interviewed by at least a hundred companies based in Japan alone—and more people are practicing it now.

While I still find myself wanting something from time to time, I no longer feel envious of others or that there’s something missing. This allows me to consistently experience a sense of peace and fulfillment.

This trend is being echoed around the world—for example, my book has sold over 80,000 copies in Korea. Now that my book is being published in 13 languages, every day I gratefully receive comments from readers all over the world saying minimizing has made a difference in their lives. I don’t think everyone has to become a minimalist per se, but I do hope all would benefit from even just the essence of it.

Kate: Do you have any tips for readers who are keen to de-clutter their homes and lead a simpler life?

Fumio: To let go is not to lose but to gain. When you let go, something new will inevitably come and fill in the empty space you created. It’s like breathing in during yoga: you can only inhale as much as you exhale.

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Kate Bermingham

Kate Bermingham is a freelance journalist from Galway, Ireland.

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