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Goodbye, Things! 6 Decluttering Questions Answered by Minimalist Fumio Sasaki

Since paring down to just 300 items, it's made him much, much happier.

Fumio Sasaki
Photography by: Fumio Sasaki

In 2015, Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo's "KonMari" method changed the way many of us tidy up. Armed with her "life-changing magic," we bid adieu to possessions that failed to spark joy and subsequently found ourselves exposed to minimalist culture.


Fast-forward to today: minimalism — clean lines, less clutter — has evolved into a mainstream aesthetic featured everywhere from magazine editorials to Instagram grids. And there's a brand new decluttering guide to study. Written by Tokyo-based writer and self-professed "regular guy" Fumio Sasaki, Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism, is a fresh take on the ever-popular trend told through the lens of a former "maximalist" turned, you guessed it, minimalist. It's packed with helpful tips to part ways with excess stuff and straight-talk about why you should do it today.


Here, we interviewed Fumio, who lives in a 215 square foot apartment, via email about his debut book and even got him to dish on his top pieces of advice for those of us with, um, lots of art supplies.


1. How, if at all, did the "KonMari" method inspire your journey?

Before discovering minimalism, I did read Marie Kondo's book and found it helpful in reducing my things. In order for something to spark "joy," it actually needs to satisfy a number of conditions. Her method allows you to simplify that process of determining whether or not to keep something, and I think it can be a very effective tool for someone who is tackling decluttering for the first time.


[LEARN ABOUT: KonMari aka How to Clean Up Your Home Once and Never Need to Do It Again]

2. What makes your approach different?

The difference between Ms. Kondo and me is that she had already awakened to the art of tidying up as a little girl; whereas, I was the type who could never tidy up even as a grownup, living in a messy apartment well into my 30s. I think this is why my book can be helpful for learning the fundamental reasons why we accumulate so much in the first place.


3. You begin the book with pictures of your previous "maximalist" lifestyle. What has been your biggest takeaway since changing your lifestyle? What advice do you have for someone wanting to do something similar?

The thing is, this is not a path that others can force or convince you to walk on. Only your own heart can tell you when to start. To those just starting out, I tell them that it's not our personality that prevents us from letting things go — we just haven't acquired the skill to do so. And this skill is not nearly as difficult as mastering a language or a musical instrument. I would say that if the idea of decluttering pushes some kind of a button in you, it may be a sign to give it a try.


[TRY THIS: The Bullet Journal aka How to Organize Your Entire Life in a Notebook]

4. Can you give us a Top 3 from your list of "55 tips to help you say goodbye to your things?"

  • Discarding memorabilia is not the same as discarding memories.
  • Discarding things can be wasteful. But the guilt that keeps you from minimizing is the true waste.
  • The things we say goodbye to are the things we'll remember forever.

In essence, these three tips all point to the same thing. The important thing is not the measurement of how many or few things you have, but your own state of mind and how you feel about the things you have and don't have. If you have a lot of things and are truly happy, that's totally fine. If you can be satisfied with just a few things, that's just as wonderful.


5. There's an interesting bit in the book about how the Japanese used to be minimalists. You used tea ceremonies as an example, but what are some other traditionally minimalist Japanese customs?

If you go to a temple, the floor is lined with tatami mats and there is nothing on it. Traditional paintings have few figures in them and value negative space. Japanese calligraphy and brush paintings are in black and white. Haiku is the shortest poem form in the world. These are a few examples of a minimalistic aesthetic in Japanese art and culture.


6. Speaking of art, at Martha Stewart, we love crafts and creative DIYs. Would you say there's a minimalist approach to storing and organizing a lot of arts and crafts supplies?

Actually, I have recently started getting into DIY myself. To me DIY means minimizing dependency on what others make for me. My plan is to get a small Japanese pickup truck and build a wooden camper on top of it. Because I still love things, I am really into electric tools and carpeting equipment right now. However, what I need to watch out for is that these tools tend to call out for one more tool after another.


Each material thing has the usefulness of having it around and the inconvenience of having to maintain it. If you weigh them both and find that the inconvenience is winning, or if you are just exhausted of chasing after new things all the time, I think that's the time to start giving decluttering a serious thought.


Feeling inspired? Watch how to make three organizational crafts: