Fumio Sasaki of Tokyo, Japan owns three shirts, four pants and four pairs of socks. In fact, he has only 150 possessions in total. He’s part of the country’s “minimalism” movement where less is considered more.
Inspired by Zen Buddhism, the idea is to simplify one’s life with a bare minimum of possessions. For 36-year-old Sasaki who was an avid collector of books, CDs and DVDs, that meant selling most of his stuff and unloading some of it to his friends.
“It’s not as though you feel satisfied after collecting a certain amount of stuff. Instead, you keep thinking about what you’re missing. Now, I feel contented with what I have,” Sasaki said.
Sasaki has joined a number of Japanese who say that owning less lets you focus on the things that matter.
“Spending less time on cleaning or shopping means I have more time to spend with friends, go out, or travel on my days off. I have become a lot more active,” he said.
But what lessons can Canadians learn from Japan’s minimalist lifestyle? Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant, has sold two million books about an unconventional method of getting rid of stuff and tidying up.
Kondo’s theory is that you should only surround yourself with the things that you love since human beings can only “cherish a limited number of things at one time.”
It’s the concept of “tokimeku” which in Japanese means “to spark joy.” When getting rid of stuff, she says essentially you have to ask yourself, does this item “spark joy for me?”
“Though it sometimes may seem like our things are threatening to take over our world, we can focus our energy and determination on choosing what makes us happy,” Kondo wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times.
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With spring upon us, for many it means taking the opportunity to declutter and get organized. But the task can be daunting for some.
Deanne Kelleher of kAos Group, a Toronto-based company which offers organizing services says take it one step at a time. First, think about what job will have the most impact and start there.
“Pick something that will give you a sense of accomplishment and make your day easier – which is usually bathrooms, closets and kitchens,” Kelleher told Global News.
It’s important to focus on one area before you move on to another, Kelleher says. Some people will start going through their stuff in their kitchen drawers, move over to the closet and then start in the bathroom. It’s a recipe for disaster, she added.
“They never finish what they start and always end up saying ‘I can’t do this.’”
Once you set a plan to start and finish one area, Kelleher says it’s important to set a realistic time frame and getting all the supplies you need to get rid of stuff: things like a bag for donations, a bag for recycling and a bag to throw stuff out.
But when it comes down to it, eliminating, decluttering or getting rid of material things isn’t the essence of minimalism, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus say. The bloggers and writers of The Minimalists argue that the point of having less is about making room for more. Things like your passions, experiences and personal goals.
“Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff: we tend to give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves,” the two wrote on their blog.
— With files from Thomson Reuters and Patricia Kozicka.