Back to the index

Goodbye Things

Table of Contents

Goodbye Things by Fumio Sasaki


Cleaning can be really easy if you have fewer things. Let's look at how we might clean the floor if we had an owl sculpture in the room.

Light and easy read, it feels like a collection of blog posts at times. The author is very much inspired by Kondo (and mentions this in the text). If you haven't read Marie Kondo, I'd do that first, her book has much more depth (yes it does, really). This book is fine if you've already read Kondo and want more of the same sort of thing.

(update 2019-07-27: this book is growing on me! Might it be a 4? Could re-read. It is charming somehow.)


loc: 188 There's happiness in having less. That's why it's time to say goodbye to all our extra things. That's the minimal version of the message that I'd like to convey in this book.

Why Minimalism?

loc: 272 You arrive at your destination and lie down on the freshly made bed—or the tatami mat if it happens to be a Japanese-style inn. It feels good. The room is clean and uncluttered. You aren't surrounded by all the things that usually distract you, the stuff that takes up so much of your attention. That's why travel accommodations often feel so comfortable. You set down your bag and step out for a walk around the neighborhood. You feel light on your feet, like you could keep walking forever. You have the freedom to go wherever you want. Time is on your side, and you don't have the usual chores or work responsibilities weighing you down.

The feeling of lightness when you arrive at the hotel, put your bag down, and go out looking for somewhere to eat.

loc: 284 This is a maximalist state. These stressful situations tend to happen when you're saddled with more objects than you can handle. You aren't able to separate out what's really important.

When you head back from your trip

loc: 293 I once heard a line that went Liquor is not happiness but a temporary respite from unhappiness. That was exactly the case for me. I wanted to forget about how miserable I was, if only for a brief moment.

loc: 341 Treasured letters I'd been saving since kindergarten. Because I had a hard time just discarding things, I took photos of everything that I threw away. I shot pictures of the covers of all my books, too. There must be at least three thousand pictures stored on my hard drive.

Kondo technique

loc: 373 We're all born into this world as minimalists, but we Japanese used to lead minimalist lives as well. Foreigners who came to Japan before our industrialization were shocked. While it might be hard to imagine today, most people owned perhaps two or three kimonos, always kept fresh and clean, as their entire wardrobe. They packed light, their legs were strong, and they could walk wherever they needed to go. Homes were simple structures that could quickly be rebuilt, and people didn't tend to live in the same place all their lives. Japanese culture used to be a minimalist culture.

loc: 401 My feeling is that minimalists are people who know what's truly necessary for them versus what they may want for the sake of appearance, and they're not afraid to cut down on everything in the second category. The things that are important to you will vary. The process of reducing your other items will also vary.

loc: 405 Reducing the number of possessions that you have is not a goal unto itself. I think minimalism is a method for individuals to find the things that are genuinely important to them. It's a prologue for crafting your own unique story.

loc: 462 The invention of the smartphone means we can carry around a cell phone, camera, TV, audio device, game console, watch, calendar, flashlight, map, or even notepad, all in one little rectangle. It's also a compass, train timetable, dictionary, thick mail-order catalog, checkbook, or airline ticket. The first iPhone was introduced in Japan in 2007. I think the invention of the smartphone paved the way for all the minimalists we see around us today. No matter how vigorously a minimalist may throw away their possessions, their smartphone is often one of the last items to go (if it goes at all), because it obviously serves so many different functions.

Makes things much easier for minimalists! (or harder, in some ways)

Why Did We Accumulate So Much in the First Place?

loc: 543 Variances or changes are necessary for people to recognize stimuli. This is why we often find ourselves unhappy after we've owned something for a while. Although we initially had a desire for it, our brain recognizes a lack of this variance once we get used to having it. The novelty of the new stimulus wears off, and the item becomes a part of our lives that we now take for granted. Without that variance, we eventually get sick and tired of it.

Depends on the item, there are some things (that 'spark joy') where I get more enjoyment the more I use them. Usually 'mindful' objects that I pay attention to, maintain, repair, use frequently. Things like coat, coffee mug, tools, shoes, etc. Things that show wear, like a zisha teapot, a leather wallet, worn floorboards.

loc: 574 You aren't likely to be five times happier when you get a £500 ring as opposed to one that costs £100. Your smile isn't going to be five times larger, and you aren't going to be happier for five times as long. While there are no limits to the prices that come attached to objects, there are limits to our emotions, for sure.

loc: 685 This is where our belongings come into the picture. We can use items to communicate our personality and our values.

loc: 695 The problem starts to occur when we buy things just to convey our qualities to others, and our collections start to grow too big. The more we accumulate and the harder we work to build a collection that communicates our qualities, the more our possessions themselves will start to become the qualities that we embrace. In other words, what we own equals who we are.

55 Tips to Help You Say Goodbye to Your Things

loc: 757 Though it may seem like reducing your possessions means you're losing out on something, I think it's best to reset our minds on that point. There are more things to gain from eliminating excess than you might imagine: time, space, freedom, and energy, for example.

loc: 760 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, so it's hard to be aware of them. But trust me, there is actually more to gain than there is to lose. Rather than thinking about the loss of everything you discard, direct your attention to the things that you'll be gaining.

loc: 818 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? Two calligraphy paintbrushes? We often lose track of how many of the same items we have because we don't have a designated spot to keep them. That's often how we start cluttering up our space. And the more you have, the harder it is to know what you have. If you have three pairs of scissors, you can start by throwing away one of them.

loc: 825 One essential method for reducing your possessions is to discard things you haven't used in a year. You should also get rid of things you have no firm plans to use in the future.

loc: 829 Dust isn't very pleasant but it is a useful sign that tells us maybe it's time to consider throwing an item away.


loc: 858 As long as you still have the images, you'll be able to recall your experiences. A work of art that your child made in grade school, a souvenir from a trip, or a gift that someone gave you—take pictures of them and it'll be easier to throw these things away when you feel like you can't. I can say from experience that it's very unlikely that you'll actually go back and look at the images. I've taken thousands of pictures and I think I'm just about ready to delete them. When I do, I know it'll mean that I've started to become more focused on the present.

loc: 872 In Japan, it's said that you need half a tatami mat for someone to be seated and a full one (about sixteen square feet) for them to sleep. That's actually all the space we need to get by. If we added a roommate, it would just mean we need enough space for another tatami mat. In that sense, the rent wouldn't increase that much if a friend were to come live with you. But whether or not someone is actually living with us, we all have a roommate. We call them “Our Things.” And the space they need is far beyond that half or full tatami mat I just described.

Yes, most of our hoses are just holding our stuff, we occupy a small part of them.

loc: 885 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. I have so few items in my apartment, it simply doesn't get cluttered. The concept of clutter itself has left me!

loc: 894 Get rid of our storage containers? I can sense your skepticism from here. Our possessions are going to be scattered all over the place if we don't have a proper place to store them. They'll wind up sitting around in piles. Fortunately, most of us can't bear such a sight and we'll feel compelled to do something about it, like start throwing things away. When our possessions no longer have a comfortable home, they'll be just like those pesky insects without a nest—they'll eventually start to disappear.

Or, in my experience, they sit on the floor in little piles for months and months.

loc: 899 When we talk about home organization, the concept of “unused” space becomes important. We see an area where we haven't put anything, and we think of it as unused space. Naturally, we put our various skills to use and try to fill the void.

God yes. An empty flat space is a luxury I want more of.

loc: 907 A storage area packed with our possessions is like a crowded commuter train. It isn't a soothing sight. And it takes more time and effort than we think to maintain its initial state. It's actually open space, left empty, that gives 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.

Yes! Try and protect some areas of the house, leave clear and open

loc: 927 I think the ideal minimalist is someone who can give a rundown of every item that they own. We should be able to recall our possessions if they're all necessary things that we use regularly, right? In other words, if we've forgotten that they even exist, then it's pretty obvious that we don't really need them. When you're combing your apartment for things to discard, there will be times when you'll come across something and say to yourself, “What, I had this?” There are bound to be clothes tucked away in the bottom of your dresser or far back in your closet.

loc: 934 You won't need those knickknacks that fell into the narrow space between your TV stand and the wall. You would have desperately looked for them if they were important.

loc: 1,002 Consider a pickup service that comes to your door to collect your things. Though they don't pay as much as what you might get through an auction sale, these kinds of services are very convenient. Their people come to your home to buy your goods, and you don't even have to go to the trouble of packing them. I often use, where you can sell a huge variety of things.

loc: 1,025 Japan offers a huge variety of shops, and I'm sure it's the same in other places as well. They're always welcoming, and they offer an excellent assortment of goods. Many of these “warehouses” are near our homes, with people waiting to greet us with smiles on their faces. Think of all the online retailers, too—they are also massive warehouses. With so many convenient warehouses all around us, why bother setting one up at home?

loc: 1,029 I can understand people's desires to have a big, comfortable couch in the middle of a big, comfortable living room. I wouldn't mind having something like that myself. But I don't think it has to be set up in our homes. My “living room” is a diner in my neighborhood that has couches that are always comfortable and inviting, not to mention clean and tidy, where I can sit and relax for as long as I like.

Yes. Same for park vs garden

loc: 1,046 I think our lives are better when our belongings stir our passions. As long as we stick to owning things that we really love, we aren't likely to want more.


loc: 1,086 Conversely, we'll be able to get rid of a lot of items at once if we dispose of the initial source. When I sold my TV, I was also able to dispose of my PS3, the hard drive for recording, and the home theater set that connected it all. All the wires and adapters, including their power plugs, also went. If we work up the courage to get rid of our biggest possessions, there's a big payoff.

loc: 1,116 When you think about the trouble of maintaining most items, rentals are a surprisingly handy and affordable solution.

loc: 1,131 Ask yourself which of your items would truly be necessary if you were to start with zero belongings. What if everything you owned was stolen? What if you had to move next week? Which items would you take with you? There are probably a lot of things we have sitting around in our homes for no particular reason. Think about starting from scratch, and it will become clear which items are essential.

Very, very little

loc: 1,153 This is one of the golden rules of minimizing: If you want to buy something, first get rid of something else. Even in the process of minimizing, there will be new items that we need. You can start by getting rid of two or three items when you buy one new item. Once you're down to just your essential possessions, stick with the “one in, one out” rule.

loc: 1,187 Don't buy it because it's cheap. Don't take it because it's free.


loc: 1,201 There's a phrase I like that goes, “If it's not a ‘hell, yes!' it's a ‘no.' ” When we ask ourselves, “Should I get rid of this?” we can turn that around: “If it's not a ‘hell, no!' it's a ‘yes.' ” It'll help us discard everything except the things we absolutely can't part with. And we'll be able to manage just fine.

Similar to 'spark joy'

15 More Tips for the Next Stage of Your Minimalist Journey

loc: 1,246 We feel greater satisfaction when we own and treasure one irreplaceable coffee cup than we do when we have two or three mugs that we aren't particularly crazy about. Reducing the number of items that we own does not reduce our satisfaction.

loc: 1,287 I recently got rid of all the towels I have at home and switched to a single tenugui, a thin Japanese hand towel. It's amazing. It can be used in many ways, and you'd be shocked by how quickly it dries. I use it, leave it hanging, and it's dry the next time I need it. I use it to wash my hands, do the dishes, and dry my body after taking a shower.

Tried using a linen towel for a while. It works fine, but feels less pleasant, and doesn't really gain much over a normal terry towel.

loc: 1,292 Sure, an oversized bath towel will feel much nicer than a hand towel. But in the same way that we get used to such conveniences, we also get used to inconveniences. When a tenugui becomes a daily item, the rare use of a real towel gives me a lot of pleasure. I've lowered my bar for happiness simply by switching to a tenugui. When even a regular bath towel can make you happy, you'll be able to find happiness almost anywhere.

Ok, that is true. Very stoic. I'd rather have a cold shower and use a normal towel however, I think.

Tools is an issue, you can have a very minimal set of woodworking tools, but it is still quite a lot of stuff. If it sparks joy then I guess that's fine!

loc: 1,329 Kondo went beyond the common sense that cutting boards and sponges didn't belong on a laundry line. Our possessions will keep increasing if we're constrained by the standard uses or conveniences of each item, but we can de-clutter surprisingly well if we ignore convention.

loc: 1,347 In my opinion, a person can be surrounded with a lot of possessions that are truly necessary to them. If owning many things gives someone real meaning and purpose, then there's really no need for them to try to get rid of anything. There's no reason to judge a person like that. Similarly, there's no need to go too far and part with things that are really necessary for you. Minimalism is not a rite of penance, nor is it a competitive sport. It is simply a means to an end.


loc: 1,357 There's stimulation in both discarding and obtaining alike, so we shouldn't become too dependent on either type of action. We know that when you decide to discard something you should ask yourself, “Is this something that I really need?” In the same way, it's also necessary to ask ourselves, “Is this something that I should really get rid of? Am I trying to discard it for the sole purpose of reducing everything I have?”

12 Ways I've Changed Since I Said Goodbye to My Things

loc: 1,402 When we practice minimalism, we'll spend less time being distracted by the media or by advertisements because we become aware that we already have everything that we need. And when we feel this way, we can easily ignore most of these messages that cry out to us.


loc: 1,419 As I continue in my journey as a minimalist, I've noticed that my criteria for choosing things has become clearer, and as a result, I spend less time wondering whether or not to buy something. The qualities I look for in the things I buy are (1) the item has a minimalist type of shape, and is easy to clean; (2) its color isn't too loud; (3) I'll be able to use it for a long time; (4) it has a simple structure; (5) it's lightweight and compact; and (6) it has multiple uses.

loc: 1,429 I've experienced a drastic reduction in time spent doing my housework. I'll go into detail later but it's amazing how cleaning time is reduced when you keep things minimal. You'll have fewer things to leave lying around. Own fewer clothes and you'll be doing less laundry, and you'll also be wasting less time trying to decide what to wear.

Yes, especially clothes

loc: 1,448 I'm aware of every single one of my possessions, and since they're always stored in the same location, I spend zero minutes looking for misplaced things.

loc: 1,493 Each morning, I vacuum my apartment before heading off to work. I tidy up the bathroom whenever I take a shower, and as a result it's always squeaky-clean and shining. I do the dishes as soon as I finish eating. I do the laundry before my dirty clothes form a huge pile and hang dry the washed items on my balcony, where I also wipe everything down, including my neighbor's balcony. Yet I haven't gone through a personality change. So why am I no longer a “lazy slob”? The simple reason for the clean new me is that I now have fewer possessions and it's simply easier to clean house. I don't have a lazy personality now, and I didn't back then.

loc: 1,510 Cleaning can be really easy if you have fewer things. Let's look at how we might clean the floor if we had an owl sculpture in the room. Step 1: Move the owl over. Step 2: Wipe the floor where the owl had been sitting. Step 3: Return the owl to its original position. And if we didn't have this statue in our home? Step 1: Wipe the floor. There! Done! It's that simple. It takes a third of the effort, and probably a third of the time, to clean the floor. And forget about wiping those intricate hollows and crevices in the sculpture itself. Now imagine the work we'd have to do if we owned three or four, or maybe ten or twenty of these sculptures at home.

Good example

loc: 1,579 live in a place called Fudomae in Tokyo and my monthly rent is 67,000 yen (about £470). I can live happily on 100,000 yen (about £700) a month, and that includes other modern necessities like my iPhone.

Based on the next comment, this is total. So 230/month? He must be eating very efficiently. If we assume phone + transport costs 80, then he is spending only 150/month on food and other necessities. 5gbp/day, 1.~/meal assuming he buys some other stuff (soap, etc.). Definitely doable, but you aren't eating out much (assuming similar prices between Japan and UK).

loc: 1,584 there are plenty of jobs out there that'll pay 100,000 yen a month. As a result, I don't even have to worry about retirement anymore. I'm optimistic, knowing that all I have to do is earn 100,000 yen each month.

loc: 1,642 On the other hand, a considerable amount of imagination is necessary if you want to compare your yoga class to someone else's game of golf, or your fishing trip to another person's camping expedition. Perhaps that's why experiences give you longer periods of happiness. You'll feel a much richer sense of contentment by building your experiences rather than buying items, because your experiences resist comparison with others'. And because they are tough to compare, your experiences don't even have to be anything rare or expensive to be special to you.

loc: 1,647 Just like our accumulation of material objects, once we start comparing ourselves with others, it will be endless. In the process of writing this book, I would never have been able to write a single word if I had started thinking about books that have been written by people who are better than I am.

loc: 1,712 I'm no longer a superintrovert I now have time. I'm not afraid of how people see me. I easily keep up with housework, which leads to more confidence. This is how the positive cycle of minimalism begins, and what started as a tiny swirl will gradually become a bigger circle. Because of this cycle, there is no longer anything that prevents me from trying something.

loc: 1,720 Started contacting people I want to meet (people are willing to see me, even celebrities!) Participated in face-to-face meetings with minimalists from all over Japan (these are always a lot of fun!) Became friends with people I met through the Internet (I now have friends I can go and see everywhere in the country!) Started a website (I used to think that people who self-promote were too self-obsessed) Joined Twitter (I used to think that people who used Twitter were … well, it might be best to leave that out) Finally moved for the first time in a decade (it took thirty minutes but it shouldn't take more than twenty minutes next time) Declared my love to a girl I thought was beyond my reach and started going out with her (the old me never would have had the guts to do this) Wrote a book, of course (the old me would have said forget it, you're only going to embarrass yourself)

loc: 1,738 The regret we experience for not doing something leaves a much stronger impression on us than the regret we may have for doing something. In psychology, this is called the Zeigarnik effect, which says that people remember things that they once pursued and left incomplete more than they do the things that they had completed.

loc: 1,752 used to be stuck, comparing the pros and cons of taking every action. I spent all my time looking for the most efficient, and safest, method to reach a goal, but I never did anything. Now I take action. I'm no longer worried about preserving some status quo. Seriously, minimalists have no possessions that they are scared to lose. That gives them the optimism and courage to take risks.

Family can make this harder, but that is mostly an excuse I give myself

loc: 1,756 Perhaps the most important reason for getting out there and engaging with the world is that the experiences you gain through your actions can never be taken away from you. Unlike our material possessions, our experiences are inside ourselves, and we can take them with us any place we go. No matter what may happen to us, the experiences are ours to keep.

Very stoic

loc: 1,825 Reduce your possessions and you'll receive fewer messages from them. Less memory will be required for dealing with those items and your brain will be able to function more comfortably. The same thing can be said for information. In this section, I'd like to talk about reducing the amount of information that we obtain—what I call “information minimalism.”

loc: 1,857 Having minimized my material possessions, I've also started to minimize the information I take in. I no longer follow useless news, gossip, or random stand-up comedy. I don't try to fill my conversations with things that other people have made or done. Instead of focusing on the voices of others, I focus on and believe in the voice that's coming from me. What I often feel now is that I'm “returning” to myself. I used to feel that so many great things had already been produced in the world that there was nothing I could add. I was so worried about what other people would think that I developed an oversized fear of making mistakes. If I came up with a great idea, I'd reject it because it came from me.


loc: 1,983 The minimalists who I've interviewed have told me that parting with their possessions resulted in fewer arguments in their homes. Ofumi, one of the people I mentioned at the beginning of this book, confirmed that she and her husband get along much better since they said goodbye to all their extra things.

loc: 2,004 Unfortunately, I can't use this theory in my apartment. I don't have a TV—the only things I do have are a bedroom and a living room. There's nothing spectacular about the floor plan and I barely have anything in the rooms, which might make some guests uncomfortable when they first arrive. They can't look around and comment on the interesting layout or ask me where I bought my couch. I can't turn on the TV to fall back on the family + TV strategy, and I don't have any games that we can play together. All I can do is serve them tea and chat. Yet tea service is well suited to family visits—the essence of tea is for the person drinking it and the person who's serving it to think about each other. My living room is basically a tearoom. Just like in the tearooms used for Japanese tea ceremonies, the only thing that we can do is to face each other, even if the words don't come smoothly. No one gets angry if there's no TV set or radio in a tea ceremony room. All you can do is to drink your tea and talk about the thoughts that are going through your mind.

loc: 2,074 In a way, we're basically equipped to empathize with others because we feel happy when we're nice to someone. Because we are social animals that live in packs, we're programmed to share happiness when we do something for another person.

Selfish reason to be nice

loc: 2,192 That one person I'm not too crazy about is sure to call with complaints again … but I guess it's another chance to build my experience and expertise. The other person's probably tired, too. I wish my subordinates would be more independent … but they're quick to help without a word of complaint. I've been working late continuously and am exhausted … but I'm not sick. I'm in good health and I can do a lot more.

Very stoic

“Feeling” Happy Instead of “Becoming” Happy

loc: 2,254 We get used to changes, even huge ones. How can someone who wants children, who thinks that kids are all that's missing from his life, imagine how he will be feeling three years after he has a child? You don't “become” happy. Happiness isn't a reward that you receive for following examples that are set. It doesn't come attached to certain life achievements, and it isn't handed to you on a silver platter.

Back to the index

Last modified 2019-07-27 Sat 20:37. Contact