Pursuing Minimalism

Sep 19 2017

'White out' by Matt Wiebe on Flickr

‘White out’ by Matt Wiebe on Flickr

August 3, 2017: the day my copy of Fumio Sasaki’s Goodbye, Things arrived on my doorstep.

Sasaki’s earned a reputation as one of Japan’s leading bloggers about minimalism, documenting his 5-year journey towards reducing his possessions. My curiosity got the better of me, and since Japanese self-help writers tend to be less aggressive than their Western counterparts, I figured I’d see what he had to write on the subject.

I devoured the book in 2 days.

The advice seems blindingly obvious: The more you own, the more you have to manage (that is, store, repair, keep clean, etc.). And just having an item in your view subconsciously triggers your mind. You can’t glance your eyes past a stack of unread books without some part of your brain noting it and filing it as something else on the to-do list. Your possessions drain your mind, besides their drain on your bank account.

Somehow, Sasaki got to me. I grokked his perspective, and it felt right.

Importantly, importance matters and remains personal.  I’m keeping my iRobot vacuum because I vastly prefer it to manually vacuuming myself (and it’s now my only vacuum). Sasaki doesn’t need a car, because he lives in the middle of Tokyo, where every conceivable shop is within a 15-minute walk or train ride.

In any event, I’ve spent the past month and a half paring down my board game collection (selling those that I’ve never gotten to the table), selling unused furniture, throwing away duplicate cables (how many spare HDMI cables do I really expect to use in the near future?), and doing the one most time-consuming thing: I bought a small desktop scanner and have been scanning all the paperwork I have in filing cabinets and banker’s boxes.

Why do I write all this? Because on Sunday, after scanning (or tossing) over half of my papers (credit card receipts, mortgage notices, RPG design notes, etc.), I stood up, stretched, and felt a strange emotion.

I felt free.

I know that’s a strange, loaded word to use. I’ve tried to think of a better one, but it truly felt—and still feels—like freedom. There’s less stuff rattling around in my head. I can actually formulate a plan for the evening, remember it all, and stick to it, because there’s nothing else to interfere with it.

It’s been revelatory.

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