Is “Goodbye, Things” the New “Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”?

updated Jul 18, 2020
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Marie Kondo is more than a household name. She’s crossed over to the next level and has become a verb for those of us who write, think and obsess about all things home. Yes, “KonMari-ing” and “Kondoizing” are things now. We need our socks to spark joy if we are going to keep them around; why should we settle for anything less? Well, it’s possible we should actually go for less – a lot less – according to a new book I’ve just read which aims to inspire us to consider living an ultra pared down minimalist life, right down to our socks.

The book, called Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism, is hitting the States at just the right moment. We’ve reached peak-Kondo and interest in simplifying and decluttering is at an all-time high, at least through my lens as editor of Apartment Therapy and an ardent follower of design, home and cultural trends. Written by Fumio Sasaki, Goodbye, Things was just released here in the US on April 11, after being published in Japan in 2015 and selling over 150,000 copies.

In many ways, Goodbye, Things feels like the more radical child/cousin/best friend of Kondo’s global blockbuster, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The two books are very similar in appearance; small, compact, pared down, with pale cool tone covers. The authors are both young and Japanese. Goodbye, Things clocks in at 259 pages, Life-Changing Magic at 224.

But, at least according to the back cover of Goodbye, Things, that is where the similarities end. Sasaki is described as follows:

Fumio Sasaki is not an enlightened minimalism expert or organizing guru like Marie Kondo – he’s just a regular guy who was stressed out and constantly comparing himself to others, until one day he decided to change his life by saying goodbye to everything he didn’t actually need.

So, that’s where things diverge; not an expert, not a guru, he’s supposedly more like you and me and everyone else who suspects that we have stuff that we don’t need and that it might not be making us happy. In fact, maybe it’s actively making us unhappy. Sasaki definitely thought so, which prompted him to change how he lived, adopting minimalism and in his words, “I said goodbye to almost all my things and to my surprise, I found I had also changed myself in the process.”

Before beginning his journey, Sasaki was co-editor-in-chief of Wani Books, which focuses on manga. He was an active collector of books, music and movies, which are just some of the many “things” which used to fill his home. But after paring down, he lived in a 215 square foot Tokyo apartment and, according to the press release accompanying my copy of the book, he owned “a total of about 150 items, which includes everything from clothes, futon, and toothbrush, to bottles of condiments in his kitchen.”

I found Goodbye, Things inspiring in its straightforwardness and sincerity; Sasaki’s experience with the process of moving toward minimalism was profound and yes, “life-changing” for him. Sasaki includes a simple but powerful list of ways that he has changed thanks to his journey. He uses the statements from that list to divide and organize information in a main chapter of the book, delving into exactly how each of the changes were made possible and magnified by his move to living minimally. I’ll share them with you here:

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

  1. I have more time.
  2. I enjoy life more.
  3. I have more freedom.
  4. I no longer compare myself with others.
  5. I stopped worrying about how others see me.
  6. I’m more engaged with the world around me.
  7. I can focus better and concentrate on being me.
  8. I save money and care more about the environment.
  9. I’m healthier and safer.
  10. My interpersonal relationships are deeper.
  11. I can savor the present moment.
  12. I feel true gratitude.

Sounds good, right? But, what Sasaki did is by no means easy – it’s extreme. Personally, I’m not interested in going to that extreme. I like my things and am happy to have items in my home that serve a purpose beyond utility. But that’s more than fine, I still found reading the book worthwhile. For some (brave souls!) this absolutely could be a manual on how to pare down to a true minimalist lifestyle, but for me it was simply an interesting, short read that led to a mental reset. I don’t think it would be possible to read Goodbye, Things without taking a look at your own home (and life) with a new set of eyes, there is just so much we all have that we no longer see or appreciate because we’ve simply gotten used to having it.

I believe that there is room for all of us (current minimalists and hardcore kondo-ites possibly excepted) to let go of a little (or any degree of “more than a little”) and feel better for it. Goodbye, Things is a palate cleanser that allows you to focus on finding your own balancing point of stuff vs. space by reminding you of just how much we don’t need to own to have a happy successful home. In the end, what matters is the thoughtfulness the book inspires. Whether you choose maximalism, minimalism or somewhere in between, it’s all good when it’s a considered choice.