minimalism

MINIMALISM + LETTING GO OF WHO WE USED TO BE

I recently delved into Goodbye, Things by Japanese minimalist Fumio Sasaki and loved it. Have you read it? I’m a big fan of all things Japanese and the quirky, personable tone Japanese authors always seem to have (or perhaps that’s just how they come across in translation). I raced through Goodbye, Things and was left feeling inspired by this minimalist manifesto more than any other I have read so far. I love the author’s simple, honest approach to his story and, as a minimalist who is now in the post-decluttering stage of her life, I could deeply relate to many of his observations on the benefits of living this way.

Something that came up in the book that really resonated for me was Sasaki’s discussion of minimalism’s role in letting go of who we used to be. It really struck a chord as I recently decluttered some books I had been holding on to for quite some time in a bizarre and fruitless attempt to cling to a part of someone I once was but no longer am. These books – some Spanish textbooks from my uni days – to me represented the fluency I had once upon a time, a ‘golden age’ in my own learning when I worked really hard at immersing myself in the language and was proud of being able to chat confidently to native speakers. I had been gazing at these books forlornly from time to time as they sat gathering dust on our bookshelf, guiltily thinking that I really should take up Spanish again before I forget it all, too ashamed to admit that I had, in fact, already moved on quite some time ago.

Having decluttered these books means I can now abandon the illusion of being a great Spanish speaker and face the reality that that particular time in my life is now over. While I’ve more or less completely lost that skill through disuse, I’ve been reminding myself that I’ve gained a whole host of others in the meantime and that, really, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. People change. Priorities change.

From the book:

There are things you love so much that they start to feel like they’re a part of you. They assemble themselves into a persona that you then have to maintain. Parting with those things means you’re freeing yourself from that particular consciousness.

– Fumio Sasaki, Goodbye, Things

I used to think that people never change, or at least not really, but now I’ve realised that they actually do. I used to think I’d be a vegetarian forever, but I no longer am. I always thought I’d be a mother but I recently realised I don’t want to have a baby. I used to think my first boyfriend was the love of my life, but that obviously wasn’t the case (oh, youth, how you clouded my vision!). While there are certainly things about me that will never change – my love of a good book, for example – I’m now coming to accept that my identity is in a state of constant flux and that this is no cause for concern. I have no obligation to be who I used to be, so it’s ok for me to go ahead and minimise the things associated with that old me and discard the expectations I had of myself when I was that person. This is just one more thing I can thank minimalism for teaching me!

Has decluttering something from your life ever helped you move on from who you used to be?

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7 thoughts on “MINIMALISM + LETTING GO OF WHO WE USED TO BE

  1. Just read this book too. Very good. I love your question. After decluttering I have learned I no longer need to buy books I want to read. There are many ways to read new books nowadays without any purchasing.

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    1. Thank you for reading Joanna! I really appreciate your comment. I’m the same; I haven’t bought a new book in a while since I’ve now realised that borrowing from the library is a wonderful way to avoid book clutter, and I get to save money in the process too 🙂

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  2. “I have no obligation to be who I used to be.” -THIS! This basically sums up my entire approach of decluttering, and how I ended up with some much garbage in the first place. I’m going to have to read that book, it sounds like it had some really useful insights for you.

    Personally, the identity I’ve given up most recently is yoga teacher. I trained as a teacher during grad school and accumulated a lot of Yoga stuff (like books, props, mats, clothes). But, I only taught for about a year before we moved and I haven’t gone back since. My last bout of decluttering was finally parting with the majority of my teacher training books (with the exception of one I use to practice, and two that would be pricey to replace if I got rid of them).

    It was incredibly painful, emotionally speaking, to let go of that identity. But it’s easier now not feeling trapped by it. Like I still owe that part of my life something.

    Sorry for the long comment- you got me thinking!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh yes, I know you would love the book Britt! Thanks for sharing your personal story on this topic. I really can appreciate how hard it must have been to start getting rid of your teacher training books. One would think the only thing that would be hard about decluttering those kind of things would be saying goodbye to the money invested in them, but it’s so much more than that, isn’t it? It’s the time, energy, passion and love that we poured into them. As you say though, it’s easier now not feeling trapped by it – such a liberating feeling!!

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  3. I came across your blog via ‘Tiny ambitions’. Britt’s response to this post encouraged me to click through. Your honest and insightful reflection also resonates very much with me. Even though I have read quite a few books, articles etc on decluttering, and have even written on it myself, I still have trouble letting go of items that hold special significance for me. And books are a biggy. It is very much tied up in feeling a desire to keep past ‘identities’ alive, even though they are no longer part of my life. Thank you for this post, it has helped me shift a few thoughts and feelings that have been hard to ‘move on’.

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    1. And thank you for reading, Ruth! I’m glad you enjoyed the two blog posts and got something out of them that can help you move past keeping those past identities alive. It’s certainly nice to hear I am not the only one who has struggled with this 🙂

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