Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cutting Up, Throwing Away, Becoming Detached

I learned a new word yesterday in Japanese — danshari. Composed of three Chinese characters, it literally means cutting up, throwing away, and separating. I had my friend write the characters down on a piece of paper

so that when I had a moment I could look it up.

Later, when I did, I couldn't find the combination in any dictionaries — a fact which attests to the word's recent coinage — but you can find plenty of descriptions of it on both Japanese and English language blogs.

Apparently the concept has become fairly common in the past couple of years in Japan due to a book by Nobuko Kawabata called Danshari no Susume. Essentially it's a how-to guide for simplifying your life by removing clutter. Not something I would shell out ten or fifteen bucks for, but I guess a little emotional support when you're staring down a mountain of clutter can be useful for some people.

Immediately I thought that macro-economists, or at least the cheerleaders for capitalism would view danshari as a terrible idea. People cleaning out their spaces, getting rid of useless, obsolete or unfashionable items and making do with less?

But my friend quickly disabused me of this notion. The reason she was carrying out her version of danshari was so she could replace her old clothes and things with new. A purging yes, but also an excuse to go shopping. More of a spring cleaning and transformation than the asceticism I was imagining.

There can be some beauty in clutter though — if you catch the light just right, and there's some space around it to breathe.

And the opposite, too, can true. An oppressive feeling can come over one if things are too neat, carefully groomed, or put away.

So I think I'll try to keep the middle course — enough things around to pad my nest and help remember my past, but not so many as to encumber me in case I need to pick up and move.

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