Disclosure: This post contains affiliate link(s).
At the ripe old age of thirteen, I spent a lot of time cutting up magazines and browsing the shelves for clothes that would distinguish me from the teeny-bopper demographic that I found myself. I added safety pins to t-shirts and called it creative. I hung brightly colored doily coasters on my bedroom wall to add further to this aesthetic. I havenâ€™t always been in tune with the latest fashion or home decor trends, but golly gosh if I didnâ€™t make up my own.
Fortunately for me, many artifacts of my past are long gone. Much of this is due to my yearly pile making, a courageous effort to dispose of unused and unwanted items I’ve accumulated throughout my life. Thereâ€™s usually one *I’m never getting rid of this* pile, one *I could probably find a use for this* pile, and one *what was I thinking* pile.
More recently, the thought of all my stuff was beginning to weigh increasingly heavy on my mind. Emotional stuff, meaningless stuff, unnecessary stuff. Iâ€™ve come across a lot of articles on living minimally, creating the perfect capsule wardrobe, and â€śThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” but none of these methods seemed to give meaning to the struggle I was experiencing.
Two weeks ago, I chose a stressful and overwhelming day to create the piles of 2015. Which essentially means that all of my negative energy was fueled into chucking handfuls of unworn sweaters across my room. A little aggressive, but it got the job done and I was feeling great!
Actually, I was feeling so wabi-sabi.
To be honest, I have no confidence in my ability to cope with a 37-piece wardrobe and sometimes all of the trash bags and cleaning supplies in the world won’t rid the stench of a bad day. While perusing the library, I picked up Robyn Griggs Lawrence’s book, The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty. It started as an appreciation for rustic, natural, earth-tone elements, which I believed was the ultimate wabi-sabi way, and turned into a deeper understanding of what it means to your home and your soul to find beauty in a lived-in life, cracks and all.
Wabi-sabi is a philosophy that transcends the organic cleaning supplies and alphabetized spice racks of the world, and more simply touches on the ultimate purpose of life–to live with every day concern for ourselves and others.
Wabi-Sabi In A Nutshell
â€śI believe itâ€™s a spirit that lives in us all, if weâ€™re willing to let it breathe.â€ť (Lawrence, The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty)
The very basic root of wabi-sabi lies in Zen Buddhism, where Zen monks believed in the reverence for everyday life as being the real path of enlightenment. Wabi-sabi is often associated with a style of aged home decor and a distressed pair of jeans, but it is so much more.
Wabi-sabi is a philosophy that revels in the imperfect, impermanence and incompleteness of life. To be wabi-sabi is to focus on the wholeness of our beings. It’s about the transient moments in our day, the form and function of the things we possess, and our imperfect and truly authentic selves.
â€śIn our daily lives, practicing wabi-sabi means welcoming each seasonal turn and the changes it brings to our surroundings as well as our psyches.â€ť (Lawrence, The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty)
In any given moment, you may be throwing your clothes across the room. Feeling cracked and vulnerable. All of your flaws shining through you like a blinding light. Embracing that kind of messy, far from perfect, ever-growing kind of self is what it means to be wabi-sabi. My cut-up magazines, safety pinned t-shirts, and doily wall art was more than a creative disaster, it was all that I thought myself to be.
The items we collect, the stuff strewn about our homes, and the treasured goods we store away are often mere physical representations of who we think we are, and maybe who we want to be.
Being wabi-sabi is realizing that this stuff is only stuff. Our humanness is not directly correlated with the amount of junk in our lives.
Spending our energy contemplating the purchase of a bigger and newer piece of furniture, three more pairs of trendy sandals, or decorative-only throw pillows will most likely not bring more joy and satisfaction to our lives.
In fact, according to Julie Morgenstern, professional organizer (yes, thatâ€™s a real thing), we only use about 20% of the stuff we own. Taking note of the clutter that surrounds us will do more than complete a mental inventory of unused Christmas gifts, bargain sales, or that *I could probably find a use for this* pile.
Maintaining a home that is devoid of the distractions that take us away from what matters most–the people, memories, and feelings that walk through the front door–will lead us to the ultimate wabi-sabi way.
â€śWe all know that at the end, we wonâ€™t look back and say, â€śI sure wish Iâ€™d found time to tile the bathroom.â€ť We might, however, look back and regret that we didnâ€™t stop to play soccer with the kids because we were too busy tiling the bathroom.â€ť (Lawrence, The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty)
Clean out your closet. Think twice before buying more. Live in the 20%. Never forget that it is you who is the real currency used to create a beautiful life, not the things you own.
What de-cluttering philosophy works best for you?