Have you ever been to Japan?
But I remember learning about Japanese vernacular design in architecture school (aka, the Japanese home).
Cleanliness, simplicity, and harmony are words perfectly describe interior spaces in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Balance is also a fitting word, but not in the same way we tend to think of it in the West, where the Hellenistic holdover of symmetry reigns supreme — at least until the advent of modernism, of which I’m not a huge fan.
Balance in Japanese style is all about a balance of elements, and not necessarily spatial balance.
For instance, the angular and artificial geometries of sliding screens, tatami mats, and square rooms — their squareness emphasized by a lack of furnishings and/or wall adornments — might be balanced out by the natural curvature of an unfinished wood beam.
It’s a harmony of elements achieved through simplicity.
Simplicity at home is something that alludes us Westerners, especially today. In most cases, sensibilities of design and preferences for consistency have totally gone out the window.
We find a neoclassical chair paired with an oriental table, and the two of them sitting in front of a modernist painting. The poised sense of balance I described between the nature and artifice of Japanese architecture is missing, because these disparate pairings are usually not a conscious choice — they’re just what the furniture store had.
If my description of the modern home interior comes off as harsh, check out Home: a Short History of an Idea for written proof in the form of a much more qualified dude talking about these points of design.
But I digress.
The point I want to get to in this article is that we tend to have a lot of disparate junk in our homes, and much of it accumulated over time without a plan.
In our case, we have tons of clothes, toys, magazines, books, and other odds and ends we no longer use, but just haven’t gotten the courage to get rid of for one reason or another (or rather, my wife wouldn’t mind seeing them go, but she might be married to a sentimental hoarder).
Sometimes we get the junk out of sight and out of mind by tossing it into a pay-by-the-month storage facility. There it sits, unused, it’s continuing connection to us adding psycho-spiritual clutter to our lives (if you believe in that sort of thing).
Decluttering has become somewhat of a trend, in part inspired by books like The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It just so happens the book is sitting on our shelf, unread. I haven’t yet picked it up and asked myself “does this book bring me joy?” in an effort to determine whether I should hold on to it or toss it.
Incidentally, that method of going through your stuff is the core strategy of Marie Kondo’s ideology; she draws on an ancient Shinto wisdom and personal experience to create her own deculttering methodology: KonMari.
But aside from the physical space of our lives, I most intrigued by the idea of digital junk, of which we have a lot (and by “we” I mean the average person today).
Do we need to also go through this digital junk in order to purify our living space…or can we ignore it?
Think of all the services you’ve ever signed up for just in the attempt to get a free trial. Think of all the marketing emails you get everyday from these same services, attempting to catch you in their follow-up pipeline.
One email of mine has become so clogged, I’ve pretty much abandoned ship. There are almost 80,000 unread emails sitting there — too many to clean up, and too few important emails to care about checking it regularly. And too many important emails buried in the pile that I think I can’t get rid of.
Then there’s our social media accounts. If you run your owns business(es) you probably have multiple social media accounts. All those posts lingering on our pages…are they cluttering our lives, or do they mean nothing at all? Should I spend hours going through Instagram and asking “does this post bring me joy?” Or should I not waste my time? After all, it’s not taking up any physical space…
We have so much clutter in today’s world, and it’s hard to know how to handle it. I understand the psycho-spiritual logic behind purifying my own living space and eliminating objects that don’t contribute meaning to my life.
But what am I to do with the half-empty bottle of Tylenol? What if I need Tylenol at some later point in life? Should I toss it now if it doesn’t bring me joy? This problem is particularly acute if you have kids…you tend to acquire a lot of medications that only get half-used.
And what about my digital junk? What if a post or blog or picture continues to bring traffic to my website, even if it no longer brings me joy?
Navigating the space of our digital junk is one that I have no smart answer for right now. Maybe there is just too much Instaclutter in my life, and I need to do some deleting before I have an answer.
This post was previously published on Change Becomes You and is republished here with permission from the author.
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Photo credit: Pixabay