Mar 2, 2017

Coping with Less is More

Coping with Less is More photo

The minimalist movement must have originated in Japan, where the concepts of zen, ma and wabi-sabi are very apparent in most aspects of life here, most notably architecture, interior design, packaging, flower arrangements and cuisine.  Famous Japanese minimalists such as Marie Kondo, Tadao Ando, Oki Sato and many more are also recognized for their work and contributions to make this world a more acceptable living space.

Whether it is Influenced by Zen Buddhism, tiny homes, a necessity to keep little in case of earthquakes or going against a over indulgent consumerist society, more and more peole are letting go of their materialistic burdens to create an aesthetically cleaner (or empty) living space, to declutter their minds and have a deeper appreciation for things.

Coping with Less is More photo

Being someone with serious OCD, I am all for being minimal.  I want to see space in my house, so I feel I can breath.   Our move to Japan must have triggered my passion for lesser belongings.   When we moved here, we threw and gave away a bulk of our belongings, just so that we can fit into a smaller living space. When we had settled down, I had to again purge more stuff to make our home livable.  Gradually, purging and decluttering has become a habit for me.  I now find myself going through my belongings on a very regular basis to try and fish out what I haven't used, don't really need or feel nothing for and try to sell, give and throw way.   After a purging exercise, I feel great but that euphoria only lasts me a few days, and I feel uneasy again...

Coping with Less is More photo

The problem I am facing is that It is really difficult to let go! Despite my very frequent purging exercise, I spend more time deliberating whether I should ditch something than I actually declutter. While researching, I was super motivated by Marie Kondo's philosophy of "if you don't feel for it, let it go" but quite frankly, it's quite difficult to decide if I really don't feel for something or I do kind of feel a little for it, sometimes.  

The other question is about wastage.  When I purge, a bulk of the things becomes waste.  I feel guilt about this waste, number one for the financial aspect of it; next, for the opportunity cost of this waste.  Aren't we already running really low on natural resources?  By ditching stuff I don't want or need, I must be scoring high on being environmentally unfriendly.   If owning less is helping the environment, then how do I explain having to ditch more?  It's really a catch 22.

So I always wonder how do people cope with decluttering here?  Or if they even consider it important?  How about those with multiple kids/generations, where do they store all their hand me downs?  What happens after Christmas and birthdays?  How do they achieve an equilibrium in the amount of things that they own and use?  How can you minimalize waste?

I also wonder if to achieve a minimalistic lifestyle, it's is just a matter of owning less or is it something deeper?  Is it an advanced form of self control that I am so flawed in, which render me unsuccessful no matter how many times I try?

Until I figure it out  I will have to continue with my mini purges and struggle with the profound questions of whether or how much I feel for things.



A mum in Japan. The real housewife of Tokyo. Striving to learn to live in Japan!


  • edthethe

    on Mar 2

    I can completely relate to your struggles!!!! I live with a family of 5 , two adults 3 children, in a two bedroom apartment. No matter how much I downsize, there is always more I feel can go, but it is hard to let go. Then there are things like toys and just "stuff" that belongs to the kids. My husbands approach before he met me (I'm a step mom now) was to literally throw everything that was out in open space away. It didn't matter if he needed it and would have to re buy the item later, or if his girls cherished the item and had no way to replace it. With me we are a bit more choosy, but the method of everything out gets tossed is still nice when I'm wanting them to put there stuff away. One day I'd love to get to the point where everything in the house has a place and a purpose. But its a constant process.

  • Erky

    on Mar 6

    Decluttering and minimalist living will always be an ongoing project. Ever since I adopted a similar philosophy myself, it has become a continuous battle - brought on in part by living in such a materialist society where having more junk and clutter is seen as success, in part by family who persist in giving gifts of random "things" because they find it difficult to accept that you no longer desire stuff, and by others decluttering themselves and wanting to rehome things they want rid of. Being a Natural Born Hoarder myself, I know the pain of putting things into the recycling only to find that you need that item a week later. Some items you can work with a virtual sense - I buy almost all my music in digital format now, either kept on my computer or media center, or uploaded to The Cloud to stream on the go. My wife and I have acquired electronic versions of books that we don't read often but didn't want to get rid of - at one point we had a collection that shamed the local library. As much as possible, we also acquire digital versions of movies and games. All of this makes for more space and less dusting. In terms of offloading things you no longer want or need, we often donate to local charity shops or advertise in our church community; for every item that you don't want there will always be someone who needs it desperately but can't afford to buy it. Nothing that is reusable need ever end up in landfill.

  • JTsuzuki

    on Mar 8

    I know this feeling all too well! I come at it from the opposite direction as a hoarder, but it is still a challenge to control the chaos and live within the minimal space available. I am crafty, so a lot of things get remade and reused in whatever way I can think of but that too is a tricky situation. My cleaning-frenzy friends know of my craftiness and tend to offload bags of their old possessions on me in the hopes that I re-purpose the objects, alleviating their guilt over lost opportunity cost. But then I have more bags of "useful" things taking up space. So I pick projects that use whatever excess I have (I made 4 pairs of infant pants with a local mom yesterday, using 3 otherwise useless shirts), but there are other options too. You can hit up book off or recycling shops and sell off some (though not for much) and there are also free-cycling and reselling groups on Facebook for many parts of Japan. The best advice I have to follow is to start small and keep going. If you can get de-cluttering/organizing to become a habit, it's easier to maintain, even if it's just an hour a day of cleaning out the excess. Good luck!