Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki (Norton, $21.95, 259 pages)
Goodbye, Things was a good read. Although I anticipated yet another primer on how to clear out the clutter in one’s life, it was also a memoir detailing author Fumio Sasaki’s discovery that his value in the world was not his possessions. Sasaki had created a persona for himself that was a deep thinker who read tons of books, a connoisseur of food and wine, and a collector of rare, antique cameras. He realized that he had been living for ten years in an apartment crammed full of stuff that he didn’t use.
Hundreds of books lined the shelves of the hallway and were piled up in the rest of the place and yet they went unread. Sasaki knew the titles and authors’ names, but not much else. An increasing number of CDs and DVDs were also part of the mix. Antique cameras languished on shelves. He didn’t even touch them.
By Sasaki’s own admission, the apartment was a dirty mess. Food also played a part in his overstuffed life. He gained weight by eating and drinking in excess while surrounded by stuff. The weight gain led to increased feelings of worthlessness. Sasaki constantly compared himself and his life situation to others he had known since college. His value diminished when he did so.
As an editor for a small publisher, Sasaki had the basics of writing. The publishing business was suffering because it relied upon blockbuster sales. His livelihood was fading away. At the same time, he became aware of the booming minimalist movement, and in particular author Marie Kondo.
Sasaki became energized by his need to change, both himself and his career. He embraced minimalism and documented his process. After whittling down his possessions to a drastic few, he’s now rethinking the idea of having almost nothing. He had a terrible inferiority complex. The stuff he hoarded was protecting him from the deep-seated fear he had of being judged by others. The goofiest outcome was the realization that he was living in a filthy mess!
Goodbye, Things is divided into distinct parts. While the natural inclination is to read a book from beginning to end, Sasaki encourages his reader to explore the chapters based on whatever topic seems appealing.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Note: Fumio Sasaki lives in a 215-square-foot apartment in Tokyo, Japan.