I’ve had many epiphanies since my mom died last summer. Among the most poignant is about the legacy of stuff.
A bit of a hoarder, my mom’s drawers and closets were jam-packed with a lifetime of accumulation. About 95% were things I almost never saw her wear, use, or enjoy. We gave away or trashed nearly everything within a few weeks, saving just a few items for posterity.
I’m more of a minimalist, but that doesn’t stop lifestyle creep. While research shows decluttering boosts mental health – greater focus, improved sleep, and decreased stress – living more fully with less entails a mindset change, not just periodic purging.
As is often the case, an ancient approach holds the key to cleaning up our modern act.
The Danshari Method
For centuries, the Japanese have embraced the concept of “Wabi-Sabi” – finding beauty in simplicity and grace in aged, well-loved things.
Danshari is a contemporary take on living simply. Popularized by author Hideko Yamashita, it’s a practice that transforms your relationship with things in your physical space and inner world.
The word expresses three ideals: refuse (“dan”), dispose (“sha”), and separate (“ri”). The focus is on what you gain, not what you’re losing, as Yamashita explains:
Danshari is very different from minimalism, and a Danshari-ist is very different from a minimalist. They are similar but different. If minimalism is an attempt to minimize, and a minimalist is someone who excludes things, then Danshari is the appeal of optimization, and a Danshari-an is someone who chooses things.
The trick is to select wisely, which is easier to do when you know Danshari’s rules of releasing.
5 Simple Rules
The key to mastering the Danshari method is to take action daily to restore harmony and balance by getting rid of what doesn’t serve you. This goes beyond physical things; apply the five rules to digital life and even interpersonal relationships.
- Occupation: Avoid completely filling spaces in your home – shoot for 80% occupancy to free physical and emotional space in your life.
- Replacement: Only bring new things home to replace old, useful things that no longer work.
- One-touch: Keep what you use frequently easily accessible, so you can grab and go in a movement or two.
- Autonomy, freedom, and ease of use: Organize your space vertically for enhanced feelings of harmony, order, and cleanliness.
- Automatic gear: Create an “automatic mechanism of order” – a designated place for everything.
Getting rid of my mom’s stuff meant letting go of nostalgia and sentimentality. That’s hard, so Danshari advises releasing with gratitude. And there is much to appreciate: by removing excess, you clear a path to explore and expand your life with a fresh outlook.
The Danshari Method: Declutter Your Life and Be Happier (Exploring Your Mind)