Sunday, August 12, 2018

#1 to # 22 Tips: How to get rid of all the stuff that's holding us back

YOU decided to throw away everything you didn't truly need.

The truth? Minimalists are ordinary people who gave up accumulating possessions so that they can focus on the more meaningful things in their lives.

Here is your list of things to remember if you are thinking of decluttering your own life.

1. Discard the preconception that you can’t discard your things.

We only think we’re unable to part with our possessions. But we’re all able to part with our things; we just need to become aware of the reasons why we’ve been unable to do this so far.

You’re certainly not to blame. You’re simply inexperienced—that’s all there is to it. It wasn’t a personality change I went through; I simply learned the techniques and developed a habit of getting rid of excess.

2. Discarding something takes skill.

3. When you discard something, you gain more than you lose.

There are more things to gain from eliminating excess than you might imagine: time, space, freedom, and energy, for example.

You can’t help but fixate on something that you’re about to throw away because it’s right in front of you. And the potential gains from this action aren’t visible. But trust me, there is actually more to gain than there is to lose.

4. Ask yourself why you can’t part with your things.

5. Minimizing is difficult, but it’s not impossible.

6. There are limits to the capacity of your brain, your energy, and your time.

7. Discard something right now.

We think we can’t become a minimalist until our lives have settled down. But it’s actually the other way around; we won’t be able to settle down until we’re living a minimalist life.

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.

It’s easy to minimize things you have in multiple numbers. Go on, take a look. Do you have two or three pairs of scissors? Do you have a bunch of unused ballpoint pens?

You can still cut with fewer scissors. You can still write with fewer pens. Try to reduce the multiples of anything you have to one.

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.

We’re of course all concerned with how others see us. Everyone goes the extra mile to project their intended image. The possessions that we truly enjoy, however, are the things we use often that don’t require a lot of effort to maintain.

And while the trappings of a successful lifestyle are tempting, you might want to consider letting go of the things you keep just to show off to others.


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.

We Japanese have a custom of tackling major housecleaning at the end of the year. But as time passes, we become busy with other things, and naturally, we’re back with our clutter a year later.

Instead of relying on organization techniques, you should first focus on decreasing the amount of things you have to put away. Once you do that, your space will naturally become less cluttered; the cycle will be broken.

18. Tackle the nest (storage) before the pest (clutter).

19. Leave your “unused” space empty.

When we talk about home organization, the concept of "unused" space becomes important. We see an area where we have not put anything, and we think of it as unused space. Naturally, we put out various skills to use and try to fill the void.

For example, we set up our washing machines in a designated spot at home and then notice the unused space overhead. Particularly with the limited size of apartment, we try to make efficient use of what we have. So what we often do is set up a rack over our washing machines where we can store towels, laundry detergent, fabric softener, bleach, and so on.

But of course that isn't the end of it. We often put up a pole from one wall to another, place hangers and hooks onto it, and rejoice in the ingenious storage space that we have created. But this is actually a step away from  downsizing, from living in comfort. Once we have extra storage space, we inevitably start to store extra things. The items on that pole will eventually start to overflow.

A storage area packed with our possessions is like a crowded commuter train. it is not a soothing sight. And it takes more time and effort than we think to maintain its initial state. IT is actually open space, left empty, that ives us peace of mind. While your brain may at first think of them as 'unused" spaces, these open areas are incredibly useful. they bring us a sense of freedom and keep our minds open to the more important things in life.

20. Let go of the idea of “someday”.

When we buy an electrical appliance, it usually comes with a lot of attachment. Think of all those parts for your vacuum cleaner , Kirby or Electrolux, that you've never used. What's that little screw for, anyway? You keep all those parts and accessories, wires because think you might need them "someday." I don't know about you, my friends, but I've never actually used a warranty. They now go straight into the trash bin can. 

We're always thinking about "someday." We keep empty cookie tins , recycled plastic containers, or beautiful paper bags, thinking they might come in handy someday. Many things get accumulated, yet that "someday" is not yet here. We hold on to foreign language textbooks because we're going to start studying someday. We'll get to all those hobby items and tools once things quiet down. Someday. That's what we tell ourselves. But we know by now that  that time is probably never going to come. May I make a gentle suggestion? Let go of "someday." And be free, be happy , be grateful for today. Things we do not need now will probably never be needed.

21. Say goodbye to who you used to be.

When discarding anything, it’s important to consider whether it is something that you need right now. In the same way that trying to prepare for someday in the future is futile, so is clinging to what used to be in the past.

The text books you used in school, the books that opened up your eyes to the world when you were a child, that favorite outfit that once made you shine -- memories are wonderful, but you won't have room to develop if your attachment to the past is too strong. It's better to cut some of those old ties so you can focus on what is important today.

Holding on to things from the past is the same as clinging to an image of yourself in the past. If you’re the least bit interested in changing anything about yourself, I suggest you be brave and start letting things go. Leave only the items that you need moving forward from this very moment.

22. (click here to continue learning the skill of letting go)

Goodbye things, hello minimalism: can living with less make you happier?

Fumio Sasaki owns a roll-up mattress, three shirts and four pairs of socks. After deciding to scorn possessions, he began feeling happier. He explains why.

‘This is what the place looks like when I sleep.’

 ‘This is what the place looks like when I sleep’ ... Fumio Sasaki’s apartment in Japan.

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I’m 35 years old, male, single, never been married. I work as an editor at a publishing company. I recently moved from the Nakameguro neighbourhood in Tokyo, where I lived for a decade, to a neighbourhood called Fudomae in a different part of town. The rent is cheaper, but the move pretty much wiped out my savings.

Some of you may think that I’m a loser: an unmarried adult with not much money. The old me would have been way too embarrassed to admit all this. I was filled with useless pride. But I honestly don’t care about things like that any more. The reason is very simple: I’m perfectly happy just as I am.

The reason? I got rid of most of my material possessions.

Minimalism is a lifestyle in which you reduce your possessions to the least possible. Living with only the bare essentials has not only provided superficial benefits such as the pleasure of a tidy room or the simple ease of cleaning, it has also led to a more fundamental shift. It’s given me a chance to think about what it really means to be happy.

We think that the more we have, the happier we will be. We never know what tomorrow might bring, so we collect and save as much as we can. This means we need a lot of money, so we gradually start judging people by how much money they have. You convince yourself that you need to make a lot of money so you don’t miss out on success. And for you to make money, you need everyone else to spend their money. And so it goes.

 ‘Here’s a look in my closet, from a down jacket to a suit, some white shirts, and the few pairs of trousers that match in a simple style. I am aiming to create my own uniform with a signature style like Steve Jobs had’

I wasn’t always a minimalist. I used to buy a lot of things, believing that all those possessions would increase my self-worth and lead to a happier life. I loved collecting a lot of useless stuff, and I couldn’t throw anything away. I was a natural hoarder of knickknacks that I thought made me an interesting person.

At the same time, though, I was always comparing myself with other people who had more or better things, which often made me miserable. I couldn’t focus on anything, and I was always wasting time. Alcohol was my escape, and I didn’t treat women fairly. I didn’t try to change; I thought this was all just part of who I was, and I deserved to be unhappy.

My apartment wasn’t horribly messy; if my girlfriend was coming over for the weekend, I could do enough tidying up to make it look presentable. On a usual day, however, there were books stacked everywhere because there wasn’t enough room on my bookshelves. Most I had thumbed through once or twice, thinking that I would read them when I had the time.

 Fumio Sasaki
Fumio Sasaki

‘I was miserable, and I made other people miserable, too’ … Fumio Sasaki.

The closet was crammed with what used to be my favourite clothes,most of which I’d only worn a few times. The room was filled with all the things I’d taken up as hobbies and then gotten tired of. A guitar and amplifier, covered with dust. Conversational English workbooks I’d planned to study once I had more free time. Even a fabulous antique camera, which of course I had never once put a roll of film in.

Meanwhile, I kept comparing myself with others. A friend from college lived in a posh condo on newly developed land in Tokyo. It had a glitzy entrance and stylish Scandinavian furniture. When I visited, I found myself calculating his rent in my head as he graciously invited me in. He worked for a big company, earned a good salary, married his gorgeous girlfriend, and they’d had a beautiful baby, all dressed up in fashionable babywear. We’d been kind of alike back in college. What had happened, I thought? How did our lives drift so far apart?

Or I’d see a pristine white Ferrari convertible speeding by, showing off, probably worth twice the value of my apartment. I’d gaze dumbly at the car as it disappeared from view, one foot on the pedal of my secondhand bicycle.

I bought lottery tickets, hoping I could catch up in a flash. I broke up with my girlfriend, telling her I couldn’t see a future for us in my sad financial state. All the while, I carefully hid my inferiority complex and acted as though there was nothing wrong with my life. But I was miserable, and I made other people miserable, too.

It may sound as if I’m exaggerating when I say I started to become a new person. Someone said to me: “All you did is throw things away,” which is true. But by having fewer things around, I’ve started feeling happier each day. I’m slowly beginning to understand what happiness is.

If you are anything like I used to be – miserable, constantly comparing yourself with others, or just believing your life sucks – I think you should try saying goodbye to some of your things. Yes, there are certainly people who haven’t ever been attached to material objects, or those rare geniuses who can thrive amid the chaos of their possessions. But I want to think about the ways that ordinary people like you and me can find the real pleasures in life. Everyone wants to be happy. But trying to buy happiness only makes us happy for a little while. We are lost when it comes to true happiness.

After what I’ve been through, I think saying goodbye to your things is more than an exercise in tidying up. I think it’s an exercise in learning about true happiness.

Maybe that sounds grandiose. But I seriously think it’s true.

This is an edited extract from Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki, published by Particular Books.

Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki
Published 2015.

I am drawn to minimalism for several reasons. I like the efficiency of a minimal lifestyle, decluttered, clean and open. Multi-function gadgets and organization tools that have varied uses are appealing from a design aesthetic. The idea of having so few items I can pack it all in a day and travel the world is tantalizing. But I’m not a minimalist, more a recovering maximalist.

I was drawn to this book by the clean cover and beautiful pictures at the beginning. Sasaki has written a very practical book advocating for a minimal lifestyle and has provided some tips on how to reduce the number of belongings, not just crowding a small Japanese apartment, but thoughts and emotions as well. Sasaki’s argument is what many minimalists proselytize: minimalism is freeing.

The ideas in this book are pragmatic such as the “one in, one out” rule when getting something you remove something else, while other tips are more emotional like holding your hand over your heart and determining if you are uncomfortable keeping the item. There are about 50 practical tips total running a whole range from a beginner declutterer to the advanced ascetic leading a simple life. If hesitant to get rid of items, the author reminds us that digital photographs, requiring no physical space, can often spark the same emotions as a physical object.

Sasaki defines “minimal” as retaining just what is necessary for an individual. However, I feel that he often brags about how much he has eliminated from his life, including a TV and almost all of his clothes. He praises others who have maybe just a cushion on the floor and a teacup. While we may be living in a maximalist society, it seems unnecessary to swing so far in the other direction that we own nothing. Both can be compensating for a more significant issue regardless of how much someone owns. Just because one possesses more, does not mean he or she is automatically living a happy life.

I enjoyed the practical writing of this book, but it’s too extreme for my lifestyle. I believe most people could eliminate many things, objects, moments and such from their lives. However, going to the other extreme of just having one shirt, one pair of pants to wear day after day, just seems unnecessary.

Three shirts, four pairs of trousers: meet Japan's 'hardcore' minimalists.

‘Here’s a look in my closet, from a down jacket to a suit, some white shirts, and the few pairs of trousers that match in a simple style. I am aiming to create my own uniform with a signature style like Steve Jobs had.’

Fumio Sasaki gave away the majority of his possessions and now lives with just the bare essentials.

The bathroom cupboard of minimalist Fumio Sasaki.

Fumio Sasaki’s one-room Tokyo apartment is so stark friends liken it to an interrogation room. He owns three shirts, four pairs of trousers, four pairs of socks and a meagre scattering of various other items.

Money isn’t the issue. The 36-year-old editor has made a conscious lifestyle choice, joining a growing number of Japanese deciding that less is more.

Influenced by the spare aesthetic of Japan’s traditional Zen Buddhism, minimalists buck the norm in a fervently consumerist society by dramatically paring back their possessions.

Sasaki, once a passionate collector of books, CDs and DVDs, became tired of keeping up with trends two years ago.

“I kept thinking about what I did not own, what was missing,” he says.

He spent the next year selling possessions or giving them to friends.

“Spending less time on cleaning or shopping means I have more time to spend with friends, go out, or travel on my days off. I have become a lot more active,” he says.

 Minimalist Naoki Numahata talks to his two-and-a-half year old daughter Ei in their living-room in Tokyo.

Minimalist Naoki Numahata talks to his two-and-a-half year old daughter Ei in their living-room in Tokyo. 

Minimalist Naoki Numahata talks to his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Ei, in their living-room in Tokyo. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Others welcome the chance to own only things they truly like – a philosophy also applied by Mari Kondo, a consultant whose “KonMari” organisational methods have swept the United States.

“It’s not that I had more things than the average person, but that didn’t mean that I valued or liked everything I owned,” says Katsuya Toyoda, an online publication editor who has only one table and one futon in his 22 sq metre apartment.

“I became a minimalist so I could let things I truly liked surface in my life.“

Inspiration for Japan’s minimalists came from the US, where early adherents included Steve Jobs.

Definitions vary, because the goal is not just decluttering but re-evaluating what posessions mean, to gain something else – in Sasaki’s case, time to travel.

 Utensils lie in a kitchen drawer in the home of minimalist Saeko Kushibiki in Fujisawa, south of Tokyo.

Utensils lie in a kitchen drawer in the home of minimalist Saeko Kushibiki in Fujisawa, south of Tokyo. 

Utensils lie in a kitchen drawer in the home of minimalist Saeko Kushibiki in Fujisawa, south of Tokyo. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Sasaki and others believe there are thousands of hardcore minimalists, with possibly thousands more interested.

Some say minimalism is actually not foreign but a natural outgrowth of Zen Buddhism and its stripped-down world view.

“In the west, making a space complete means placing something there,” says Naoki Numahata, 41, a freelance writer.

“But with tea ceremonies, or Zen, things are left incomplete on purpose to let the person’s imagination make that space complete.”

Minimalists also argue that having fewer possessions is eminently practical in Japan, which is regularly shaken by earthquakes.

 Minimalist Saeko Kushibiki stores away her futon mattress in her apartment in Fujisawa.

Minimalist Saeko Kushibiki stores away her futon mattress in her apartment in Fujisawa.
 Minimalist Saeko Kushibiki stores away her futon mattress in her apartment in Fujisawa. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

In 2011, a 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami killed nearly 20,000 people and led to many re-evaluating possessions, Sasaki said.

“Thirty to 50% of earthquake injuries occur through falling objects,” he said, gesturing around his empty apartment.

“But in this room, you don’t have that concern.”

Why You Should Throw Out 90% of Your Possessions

In his new book Goodbye, Things, Fumio Sasaki shares the lessons he learned by going minimalist.

There’s nothing about Sasaki to indicate that he is a minimalist, someone who advocates purging unnecessary material possessions. Then again, what does a minimalist look like? This one wears a gray sweatshirt over a gray shirt, slim off-black jeans, and comfortable-looking black sneakers. He has thick-rimmed black glasses sitting on his face and he carries a large backpack, the kind people might use to go hiking. Later, I learn, the backpack is all he brought with him for his New York press tour to promote the English edition of Goodbye, Things, out April 11. (Sasaki, who lives in Kyoto, Japan, owns a suitcase but its days seem numbered. “Even if I come to New York, I’m not going to be buying souvenirs,” he tells me through his translator, Rieko Yamanaka, “so it seems like I won’t be needing it.”)

Sasaki estimates he now owns about 300 items. "I would say I used to own 10 times more than I do now," he says. Sasaki wasn't happy then. He would find himself assessing his self-worth on what he did and didn't own — and he wouldn't like how he would measure up. Sasaki then learned about danshari, a Japanese concept of decluttering, and began reading the books of Marie Kondo, whose concept of keeping only things that "spark joy" is so ubiquitous that it got name-dropped in the Gilmore Girls reboot. Theme song. It took Sasaki four years to declutter his "maximalist" lifestyle and a fifth year to get to "a more minimalist state," eventually even getting rid of his table, TV, and bed.


Sasaki advises those who wish to pursue a minimalist lifestyle to "find your unique uniform." With permission from FUMIO SASAKI.

For Sasaki, minimalism isn't about how little you have, but how it makes you feel. Sasaki credits his minimalist lifestyle with helping him lose weight, become extroverted and proactive, and above all, feel happy and grateful for what he has. "Minimalism is just one of the many entries to a happier life," Sasaki says, "so if people have a lot of things in their home, but they’re still able to maintain relationships and feel happy, I think that’s awesome." I sat down with the author to discuss the benefits of living a minimalist lifestyle and why Sasaki actually might not be a minimalist any longer.

How would you differentiate minimalism from what Marie Kondo promotes?
Minimalism is about the absolute minimum that you need — not want, but need — and is the self-reflective process of learning what is your absolute minimum for you personally. It’s also about what is the absolute minimum you need to eat, for example, or anything that you consume, not just the material things that you buy. Minimalism is just a principle you could apply to all areas of your life and not just for tidying your home.

In the book, you mention having a souvenir cross that sparked joy but you threw out anyway. Did you end up regretting it?
I wrote in the book about letting go of things even if it sparks joy. Now that time has passed a little bit, now I’m of the mind-set that maybe that was going a little bit too far. [Laughs.] But I don’t regret it at all. I actually think that the more something is important to you, the more it’s OK to actually let it go. Because I remember the texture of the cross, how much it weighed on my hands. I remember everything about it very vividly in my mind. If it was a letter or a card that was really important to me, I remember every word in the card and the letter. It’s all inside me. So even though the material is gone, I still hold it very dearly in my heart.

Could you touch on the ways you think you’ve most benefitted from this minimalist lifestyle?
There’s many benefits but first of all, your household chores are so much easier, like cleaning and washing dishes. And that frees up your time and energy to go out and try new things, or spend more time with the people you love. I think the most important thing that I found through minimalism might be the friends I met through sharing the same values, writing this book, the people that I met.


Fumio Sasaki’s tableware. He chooses dishes with minimalist designs. With permission from FUMIO SASAKI

What do you do in your free time?
I enjoy challenging myself to try new things, going outdoors, scuba diving, running a marathon. Anything that I have never done before, I enjoy trying it out. A lot of things I used to think I wouldn’t be able to do, like it wasn’t for me, now I’m allowing myself to try those things.

Do you have any items that you have that aren’t totally functional, that you have just because you like it?
Most of them are functional. I like to drink coffee so I have a [pourover coffee maker]. And I also have Japanese incense. I’ve come to a point where I’m no longer fixated on how few objects I own. And being a minimalist is no longer my main identity. The most important thing when you practice minimalism is the process of determining what’s most important to you personally, and that’s the main value of minimalism for me.

How much do you spend per month compared to before you embarked on a minimalist lifestyle?
It’s what I spend [my money] on [that’s changed]. Before I became a minimalist, I used to buy a lot of things, objects. But afterward, I would spend more money on experiences, like going on trips. Now that I have left my job and I work from home [and freelance], I’m very conscious of my budget, and I cook all three of my meals at home. I spend about half of what I used to.

What does it look like to travel as a minimalist?
A lot of [my friends] who are minimalists would wear the same things throughout the trip. And their luggage is astoundingly small, even from my point of view. There’s a lot of people who only carry a small backpack and put all their stuff in that when they travel. And the towels would be very small hand towels that they carry.


In the mornings, Sasaki wakes without an alarm and puts away his futon pad. With permission from FUMIO SASAKI.

I would imagine you don’t stay at lavish hotels when you travel.
Even if I were to stay at a regular hotel, the rooms seem much bigger than what I’m used to back home and it seems like there’s actually more stuff in the hotel room than in my own home. So when I do stay at a hotel, and I see that there’s a lot of room, and there’s a lot of fluffy towels, I feel a little bad that there’s a lot of wasteful things that I’m not gonna be using.

Minimalists that I know in Japan lately like to go to guesthouses, which is like a dormitory-style lodging where you could have shared accommodations with your friends and spend a lot of time talking. A lot of minimalists like each other, we like to hang out, so we do sometimes travel together.

How has minimalism impacted your dating life?
It’s not different, actually. Because when you go on a date, you usually go outside. You don’t spend too much time at home. But before, I used to watch movies at home with my girlfriend. The funny thing is, the reason I was able to let go of my TV is because I broke up with my girlfriend and we no longer needed to watch movies together.

Do you ever buy presents for other people and do other people still buy presents for you?
The other day, I had an interview with a Korean TV show, and just for the fun of it, they gave me a big clock. They did say, “You could toss it if you don’t want it,” but I am testing it out, so I do have it at home right now. In terms of giving out presents to people, I often give them things that are edible, things that are on their Amazon wishlists. I have a feeling that 95 percent of gifts are kind of failures. Would you say that it’s true that we share the same guilt of if we receive a present and we don’t like it, it’s hard to let it go?

Oh yeah, definitely. That actually leads to a question I wanted to ask — were any of your friends or family upset to learn that you had gotten rid of their presents?
Actually, no. And I discovered through that that people don’t actually remember what they gave you. The receiver sees it every day and it’s on their mind, but people who gave it often don’t remember what they just gave them.

How often do you buy something new?
If I think about buying an item a few times repetitively, then I will buy it. I’m not sure about the frequency. I’m actually thinking about buying a classical guitar when I go back [to Japan].

How long have you been thinking about it?
A long time, actually. A few months. So I think I will buy it.

There’s been a backlash against the minimalist movement as classist. Some people prefer to buy in bulk because it’s cheaper. Or if they throw something out and then later they regret throwing it out, then they would need to buy a new one to replace it. What is your response to that?
There’s all types of minimalists. Some people don’t care what types of items they own and they just like to spend as little money as possible. Some people love things and they spend a lot of time picking out the perfect item for each thing that they want. When they say people with money can afford to let go of things and buy it if they need it, I think that’s true, but at the same time, there are minimalists who are doing it mostly to save money. In my community of minimalists, there are really wealthy people who work at stock brokerage firms, there are people who are unemployed, but it doesn’t seem to matter. We’re all really good friends and we get along really well. It’s a very varied and diverse community.

What kind of minimalist do you identify as?

I do still love things. I really do. So I’m pretty selective when it comes to buying anything. In terms of myself, I haven’t really thought too much of my identity as a minimalist or not. I use things because I need to. I think that “minimalist” is a useful label for other people to identify me, but from my standpoint, I doesn’t necessarily have an identity as that. So even though I wrote the book when I was practicing minimalism very diligently, I had a feeling that I might no longer call myself that. If I could keep practicing the lessons from minimalism, it’s no longer necessary to practice minimalism, per se, if that makes sense. But I do highly recommend trying it out just once, to try and get the lessons.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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Click here to watch Youtube. Fumio Sasaki used to live a hoarder's life full of clutter. Today, he owns barely 20 pieces of clothing (including socks). Here's why Japanese like him are converting to a minimalist lifestyle.

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