“It’s not the tragedies that kill us, it’s the messes.” –Dorothy Parker
Modern Americans face more choices in one trip to the grocery store than our grandparents faced in their entire lifetimes. All that freedom of choice is reflected in most of our homes, littered with more furnishings and gadgets than we need or want. Stuff is a major impediment to becoming wabi, and it’s one of the hardest ones to break through. Most of us have been programmed to acquire more, more and more from the time we could speak. It’s how our economies roll.
“We live in a world overflowing with our own productions, a world in which objects besiege us, suffocate us, and very often distance us from one another both physically and mentally,” Italian designer Claudia Dona wrote in 1988. “They make us forget how to feel, to touch, to think.”
Take a good look around your house. Chances are, you have more stuff than you need. Are you okay with having a TV in every room (how did that happen?) or the glass duck collection that got totally out of hand? Do you need those sweaters that might fit again some day or the wild-haired, legless Barbies languishing in their own messy Barbie houses? You know, deep down, that the clutter you’ve parked in your home is as destructive to your well being as the constant buzz of a nearby highway. The thought of actually doing something about it, however, is paralyzing.
Your home doesn’t have to be prison-like or monkish, completely without ornament or whimsy. It simply shouldn’t be suffused with extraneous details. Clutter smudges clarity, both physically and metaphorically. Things you’re holding onto because they were expensive, because they were gifts from your mother-in-law, or because you might need them some day are all just getting in your way. In a wabi-sabi home, space and light are the most desirable ornaments.
Next: 10 tools for controlling clutter