Have any of you read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo?
I haven’t either.
The title is enough to induce an immediate panic of the type usually requiring medication.
For those of you who don’t know, Marie Kondo is the Japanese guru encouraging all of us Americans with hoarding tendencies to loosen our grip on all of our tchotchkes via her KonMari method. She has a reality show where she goes in to someone’s home, teaches them how to tidy up, and in the process both their house and their lives benefit. Her website proclaims, “Tidy Your Space and Transform Your Life.” She has two best-selling books, and a business training others to share the glad tidings of paring it all down. (KonMari.com)
I think if Kondo-san were to come to my house, she’d do what all my other Japanese friends do when they arrive. Scratch their heads and wonder why I’d bought all the junk they’d thrown out. Japanese people have a very unique way of getting rid of the things they no longer need or want. It all goes to a shrine sale.
And then we ExPats fight over it.
Most neighborhoods in Japan have a shrine. Many of them have a sort of garage sale or flea market every so often where vendors sell everything from toys, to furniture, to kimono. The monthly Kawagoe shrine sale just outside Tokyo was the mecca to which we all bowed. (YokotaTravel does a great job describing many of the sales and giving directions in the blog here: YokotaTravel.com )
I can tell you what you won’t see in the home of a Japanese person. A bunch of glass fish floats, old sake jugs, cake molds, or old obi (kimono belts) made in to table runners. Visit the house of an ExPat who’s lived in Japan? We’ve got every surface covered with them.
One thing is guaranteed at a shrine sale: a feeding frenzy of ExPats looking for glass fish floats. I clearly have sharp elbows based on my stash of fishing items.
I’ve got more. And when Spouse finally retires all we’ll need is a boat to start our commercial fishing venture.
We also liked the kokeshi dolls— a lot. These were children’s dolls 150 years ago. We ExPats have recycled them beyond recognition. I’ve seen a Christmas tree with nothing decorating it but Kokeshi dolls and lights. One friend had them displayed in a giant glass bowl, piled high one on top of the other, as the entry way decor, or as I have them, staring at us while we watch tv.
If any of my Japanese friends had seen my bedroom decorated with blue and white sake bottles, they’d think I’d lost my mind. I would think the same of them if they used empty Kentucky Bourbon bottles as the major player in a design scheme.
If someone was getting rid of a sign I was standing there by the garbage when they brought it down. (It’s currently behind too many boxes of old pictures for me to take a photo)
In my case it certainly is true that “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
When you have the opportunity to visit the home of a Japanese person, one thing is clear. The decorations are usually carefully chosen and presented in a manner which highlights that particular object. For instance, an ikebana type display of flowers. It stands alone, not competing for attention with ten other nick nacks around it. The lack of clutter makes the display pop. Some find it serene while others find it stark.
People in Japan are interested in Kondo-san because she’s made such an impact doing things they’ve been taught from birth. First, keep it all clean. School children clean their classrooms every day. Complete with mops, dusters,and the like. Secondly, their houses and apartments are much smaller than ours making every purchase carefully considered because it has to go somewhere. Before living in Japan, I thought if we could fit our cars in to the garage I had whittled our junk down to the absolute necessities. After living in Japan, I know how much storage capacity is under the bed.
Don’t get me wrong. Anything that helps people better manage their lives in a healthy manner I’m all behind. My impression is that Kondo-san is accepting of what brings another person joy without passing judgement. (Her bench mark for what gets tossed- Doesn’t bring you joy? It’s gone)
Even though many don’t understand the love an ExPat has for decorating with their cast off kitchen clutter, it all brings me great joy.
Ok gang, I know many of you are overseas and doing the exact same thing. Please share with the rest of us what brings you joy from your adopted home!
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