(7/31/20 I’ve recently published I Want to Do All the Things, a short ebook for polymaths. It includes this blog post and more! Learn more about it here, or buy it from here.)

Not too long ago I read the book Goodbye Things by Fumio Sasaki. This was a book that I procrastinated to read because on the surface it looked like extreme minimalism. However, when I finally got around to reading it, I was so inspired that I’ve read it twice and plan to read it again.

[Note: This post contains affiliate links from bookshop.org in support of indie bookstores. I earn a commission from these links, but this does not affect what you pay, and I only link to books that I’ve enjoyed.]

One of the things that stood out to me is how Sasaki shares that before letting go of these things, he spent much of his time shopping, watching TV, browsing social media, and trying to impress people with his music, movie, and camera collection. But, after letting go of his stuff, he started traveling and learning all kinds of new skills.

As a polymath, I’m always learning new skills. What amazed me is how his physical stuff stood in the way of his learning new skills and by letting go of these things he became a multipotentialite. He was probably one all along–it’s just that he couldn’t focus on what he truly wanted to learn because of all the distractions. Once he let go of all that stuff, he started living the multipotentialite life!

Along with being a boost to my personal goal of living a simpler life, his story helped me to see that sometimes, my collection of polymath projects can be a mental burden.

In his book, Sasaki brings out how each item you own creates a to-do list. Dishes need to be washed. Computers need to be backed up. Light fixtures need new lightbulbs.

The same is true for my projects. Each project I start has its own to-do list attached to it.

For example, I used to have a rack full of half-done sewing projects. I had a pair of old jeans I wanted to make into a bag and a blouse I wanted to restyle into a pillow….all kinds of stuff.

As a result, I had not used my sewing machine in over a year because my mind was overloaded with sewing projects. It was more than I could process. So I didn’t process those projects at all. They just sat there for years.

Even with hiding those projects on a rack or in the closet, the heavy to-do list remained. I had only one option to reduce this kind of overload.

After reading his book, I let go of all of those projects except one. The one project I held on to was a favorite blouse that I was repairing using the sashiko method. Progress was slow because I’m new to sashiko, but it’s something that I am excited about learning. Also, I was looking forward to wearing my favorite blouse again.

This letting-go process was not a thoughtless, “Throw out all the undone projects!”

Instead, I realized that:

  • Some unfinished projects no longer reflect who I am.
  • Some unfinished projects no longer reflect what I want.
  • Remixing doesn’t feel appealing when you have a lot of old stuff.

I had to look for projects that still made me say, “YES!”

Even if I was like, “Well, I don’t know…” or “I sort of like this…” I decided to let it go. If it wasn’t a YES–if it didn’t spark absolute joy–it was a “no.”

And after six months of making painfully little progress on fixing my blouse, after letting go of my unnecessary projects, I was able to finish it up in less than a month.

I also let go of other projects besides my sewing ones. As I result I was able to reach another difficult goal: moving my old blog to a static blog on Github.

Letting go of so many old, abandoned projects was scary, but I’m glad I did.

Letting go of the old let in the new.

Questions to ask when reducing projects:

It this project related to something else that I want to learn?

Do I really have time for this project?

Do I currently have the funds and resources for it?

Is there a way I can simplify this project?

Does this project fit who I am now?

Are you a polymath or multipotentialite with a bunch of projects going on? How do you manage them?