If St Francis of Assisi were alive in the world today, he might well be a consultant on the art of “minimalism”. I visited a minimalist home recently: no pictures on the walls, no decoration of any kind, no books visible. It was quite Franciscan, in a very chic way. There is a cleanliness and simplicity to minimalism which is harmonious.

I’ve been taking instruction from a new minimalist guru, who like many such advocates is Japanese. Fumio Sasaki’s instruction manuel is called Goodbye, Things. Fumio’s approach to minimalism isn’t just about style, or even the practicality of de-cluttering your life: it is also about the spiritual rewards of minimalism.

Minimalism aims at reducing possessions to “the absolute minimum you need” and “living with the bare essentials”. It not only makes your life tidier and more manageable: it makes you think about what is important. And “things” are not important.

Getting rid of “things” is freeing the spirit. Holding on to “stuff” distorts life, and gives you the false idea that material objects define your identity.

Give away the gifts you receive, he says: just keep the gratitude. We don’t have to keep material things to remember their meaning. There is more originality in owning less. Discard even that which brings you pleasure.

A little inconvenience can make us happier, writes Fumio. He got rid of all his bath towels – just keeping a simple Japanese hand towel, called a tenugui, for everything.

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