As I'm going through the process outlined by Marie Kondo I am definitely noticing my increase in reflection and insight. I'm also finding myself curious about the differences between the culture and society of Japan and America. The more I discard and place my objects of joy -I repeatedly get faced with the absolute absurdity of our culture regarding 'stuff'. The reality of how making shopping a recreational sport is now packing people's closets, drawers, attics, basements and monthly rented storage units. It is truly insane how there are entire industries built just to 'store stuff.' Billions of dollars. Billions of dollars that could've been spend on meaningful events, better healthcare, access to more stimulating activities, a less stressful family life or a better quality retirement. Instead we have millions of 'Totes'. Walk into any Home Depot,Lowe's, Walmart,Big Box "Club" store, even the local "Family General." Every season they are banked by the aisle in the color of the next holiday. Places for our stuff.
Now consider Japan. Its technically several Islands so if they don't make it, they have to import it from someone, somewhere else. If you ever vacationed on any island you instantly get slammed with this reality when you ask for a soda that is $5 but the liquor is $5 for a whole bottle if its made there. Their land mass is absolutely limited. It is slightly smaller than California with 127 million people. Our California has 39 million. They have also been victim of not just 2 Atomic bombs, but almost 20 years of a no growth economy with interest rates as low as ours, as well as the recent nuclear power plant meltdown and a few Tsunami's. If you watch any of the reality television of people buying in Japan you viewed how tiny their living spaces are. Most are under 1000 sq feet. 1420 is their average house size, not apartment - that most of the country's population actually lives in. USA is 2170 sq.ft. Their average bedrooms are less than 8 x10. Ceilings are also lower at 7 ft. Young people in urban areas are lucky if they have 500 sq.ft. They don't even make room for our monster sized refrigerators. Our 'dorm size' is their normal. Not only do they have no place to put things they acquire but they made education their recreation, not shopping like we did. Education doesn't take up space. Their idea of a fun thing to do is attend a seminar. Their bragging right is how many they attended. Marie Kondo started her process and book this way.
The other important element is the difference in how the Asian culture treats their parents - the elderly. They are steadfast about the belief that children should take of their parents in their own home until death. When they visit our country or move here they are shocked by how we don't do that. They don't understand how we have entire chains of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and gated communities that divide families by age restrictions. When I started renting to Vietnamese they would always have an elderly parent in one of the bedrooms, who stayed home and was the caretaker of the children while the younger generation worked 12-16 hour days. They all worked together to make it happen. They would accumulate money that would pay off their debt to immigrate, set up their business, buy cars and a home - then the pool of money that would help the next sibling. Everyone working and living together and saving a fortune on not just childcare but also senior services and housing. They also lived 'lite' - took shoes off when entering, believing it's bad luck to do otherwise, and sleeping on futons, using very minimal furniture and using large Woks (one pan) for most of their meals. The children often had minimal toys but music was valued.
So what does that have to do with 'stuff'?? A LOT. If you have a culture that lives 'light' in the number of possessions -where your possessions are in hundreds not hundreds of thousands (300,000 is average in USA) - how much easier it would be to accept additional people into your home and life? Is one of the reasons we use nursing home care is that we don't want to deal with moving and managing a huge household of millions of items that would come with our parent if they moved in?? http://www.becomingminimalist.com/clutter-stats/
I hear many reveal the condition of their parent's homes. We hear it from those we know, at picnics and gatherings. Most who do share claim that they would not consider having their parent into their home as an option for one of two reasons: the adult child had too much stuff and not enough room or the elderly parent having collections, clothing, and overwhelming amounts of objects that would be 'too disturbing' to move or discard. So they explore options where the possessions will either remain until death, avoiding the confrontation - yet doing it in the emotional upheaval of grief. If you have managed your way through a parent's death you know what a burden it is, emotionally, physically and mentally. Every single object needs a decision. Now multiply that by the average of 300,000 and you have your own home already.
Since I've been going through this and sharing more openly I am constantly surprised
how many talk about numerous closets bursting at the seams, countless Totes they
never open, clothing never worn again, appliances rarely used and collections that have become overwhelming. Are they leaving it behind to let someone else deal with it? Did you know that the difference between collecting and hoarding is that collectors carefully arrange, care for and 'will' their precious objects to a beloved or someone who will cherish them. Hoarders don't take the time to care about its condition, how much room it takes, what it costs to store it, or who will get it when they're 'done'. They accumulate because 'letting go' means also tossing out the memory, person or idea that possession reminds them of. Hoarding is about grieving the past or not seeing better in the future.
Watch a "Reality TV" show on Hoarding and most often the 'stuff' is in the way of the Hoarder's quality of life. Often the adult children have ignored, avoided or even shut off contact with them because of the condition of their home. Stuff took on a priority and the adult children recognize it and move out and on. The volume and mass of the stuff replaces the presence of people. I wonder if Japan sees hoarding like we have here.
So if you are attempting to lighten your inventory, surround yourself with "Joy", and move towards creating a home that reflects the 'now' you rather than the one of the past - know that it might also help when it comes time to have family and loved ones help by sharing their home with you or you share their home with them!