I’ve heard a lot of really good things about this book and it’s positive take on minimalism, so I was really shocked and disappointed by some of the assumptions the Sasaki made. While I believe that his intentions were good and that he did not mean to be exclusive in his assumptions, this book reeks of the his privilege and ignorance. I tried to take everything with a grain of salt and I tried to be open minded (he’s Japanese, so maybe something was lost in translation?), but I just can’t get over some of the nonsense in this book.
Sasaki does have some good ideas and suggestions regarding minimalism in general. I didn’t feel that it was particularly unique or inspirational, but he laid out a good foundation for minimalism and why it’s worth considering. Aside from a few minor comments that were stereotypical (ex: women loving clothes/dresses), I didn’t start finding problematic statements and ideas until Sasaki started talking about how to be a minimalist (about a quarter of the way through the book). At that point, he almost immediately showed his privilege by implying that we all have jobs and housing situations that we love (or loved) at some point. To me, this immediately disregarded anyone with limited options, such as the huge number of people/families who are living in low-income situations or have limited job oppotunities.
Sadly, many of the comments/ideas I highlighted throughout the book oozed with the same privilege. Based on his book, I suspect he knows little or nothing about: having to consider the needs of the whole household (whether that be partners and/or children), having limited money or resources, having limited choices for jobs or where you live, etc.
He spoke about minimalism like it was so easy and I felt like he was suggesting that it was ridiculous that we weren’t all living at the same level of minimalism as he is (he’s what many would consider to be an extreme minimalist). He claimed that there was no right way to do things and he claimed that that was OK, but the words he used and the suggestions he made in most of the book implied that we should all just get rid of everything, even some (if not all) of the things that bring us joy.
For me, this book was completely out of touch and it framed a way of living that’s not only difficult to achieve (even for someone like myself – childless, good job, low expenses, etc.), but that also sounds horribly stark.
I appreciated some of the ideas Sasaki had, but I hated this book. If you’re interested in minimalism but not interested in being “extreme,” then don’t read this. It will just make you feel bad about your efforts or feel like the idea is unattainable. There are so many other books out there that are better: more inclusive, more inspirational, less judgy, etc. There are also a lot of online resources (YouTubers, etc.) that cover of range of realistic situations and efforts to be more minimalist. Here’s a list of some of my favourites books and resources that are about or that support minimalism or simple living:
- The Minimalists (their podcast, their books, their Ted Talk, etc.)
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (admittedly, I wasn’t a huge fan of her second book)
- Break the Twitch (I follow him on YouTube, but his blog is the same content)
- The Messy Minimalist (I follow her on YouTube and you may appreciate starting from her first video has she shows a very honest view of the process)
- Soulful SImplicity (I found this book to be very inspirational)
- The Year of Less (another book that I found very inspirational and it’s by a fellow Canadian)
- Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More (an eco-friendly take on minimalism)
- Chasing Slow (a good, solid read about simplicity and minimalism; I posted a review earlier this week)
One final thought: minimalism or simple living doesn’t have to be a life with nothing but the necessities. You’re allowed to have art, colour, an extra mug (or 3), a box of letters, hobby supplies, books, etc. Just don’t have more than what *you* need to function and be happy. Keep the things that bring you joy, as Marie Kondo would suggest, and stop worrying about keeping up with the neighbours, whether they have all the best consumer items or they are extreme minimalist. Only you can know where your happy spot is.