As a vintage lover I can’t help but being a bit of a maximalist. I enjoy having all kinds of interesting old bits around me to look at and appreciate. I love the warmth, the coziness, the quirkiness, the history and the beauty of things.
But strangely at times I do feel pulled towards minimalism and recently bought a book titled “goodbye, things: The New Japanese Minimalism” by Fumio Sasaki and dove into it with anticipation. He defines minimalism as” (1) reducing our necessary items to a minimum, and (2) doing away with excess so we can focus on the things that are truly important to us.”
I’m only half way through the book, but I realize while his downsizing is making him much happier, it’s so dramatic that I would feel bereft.
Here are a few of the things he got rid of:
- “All my books [$10,000 worth], including my bookshelves.”
- “Various tools for maintaining my bicycle.”
- “A Tempur-Pedic full-size mattress–extremely comfortable but extremely heavy, too.”
- “Treasured letters I’ve been saving since kindergarten.”
At any given time I have 500-700 books in my possession. Of these I reread and treasure about 60% of them. Could I let go of some the books? Absolutely. I do it all the time. Could I ever be book free? Gosh you might as well cut off my arm. I have been a reader and book lover since the age of five. And yes, I do know about Kindle and e-books, but I’m not interested. Call me a Luddite but I like the look and feel of a real book in my hands. (And there is a certain irony of a man who no longer owns books wanting you to buy his book to tell you to get rid of books!)
And I’m not sure why after purchasing an expensive Temper-Pedic mattress and describing it as “extremely comfortable” Fumio felt the need to jettison it. Did he really move so much that the heaviness of it was a problem? With my aging body, a comfortable bed is an essential. Fumio now sleeps on a thin futon on the floor. (I would never willingly choose to do this now though in my 20s I slept on couch cushions in a house near Chicago and later in San Francisco a 4″ foam pad on the floor. The benefits of youth.)
What I have realized is that for Fumio becoming a minimalist was almost a religious experience. He felt freer, happier, more content.
“If you’re anything like I was–dissatisfied with your life, insecure, unhappy–try reducing your belongings. You’ll start to change.”
“Having parted with the bulk of my belongings, I feel true contentment with my day-to-day life. The very act of living brings me joy.”Fumio Sasaki
While I do think decluttering and getting rid of excess stuff is a GREAT idea and will make for an easier, freer life with less to maintain, I draw the line that it will necessarily make your dissatisfactions, insecurities and unhappiness melt away or give you great contentment. I think life is much more complicated and the inner longings of our spirit aren’t quenched by owning fewer things (or owning more for that matter).
And to be honest I think minimalism is a lifestyle choice “rooted in privilege.“
“The only people who can ‘practice’ minimalism in any meaningful way are people upon whom it isn’t forced by financial or logistical circumstances.”Chelsey Fagan, The Financial Diet
Think about it…millions and millions of people worldwide live minimalist lives because they have no choice and likely they do not feel the same happiness or contentment that Fumio experiences.
All this said, I’m not trying to knock Fumio or those who choose a minimalist (or radical minimalist) lifestyle. I agree with a lot of what he says and many of his downsizing tips are spot, like “Let go of the idea of ‘someday.'” Oh gosh, I have clothes I haven’t worn in years, partly due to the pandemic shutting things down, but also because they are now a smidge tight. (But I’ll lose the weight…right?! Hmmm.)
I find his book intriguing and will undertake some of his ideas and tips, but I will continue to have “unnecessary” things in my life, like paintings, quilts, brass candlesticks, pottery, antique sterling silver spoons. They are some of the many things in life that give me pleasure, along with friends, family and wonderful neighbors (thank you Art and Annie for the refreshing homemade Limoncello!), gardening, traveling, volunteering, eating good food….
I do want to have less. I will have less. But a barren, uncomfortable home is not for me.
Just a few thoughts friends. Would love to hear yours!
P.S. I bought my used copy of his book through Better World Books. Part of their charter is rescuing books that are headed for the landfill and funding literacy. Love that! Check them out.