Danshari

I’ve had a few posts with a decidedly Japanese flavour recently. That either means that I’m going through a period of Japan withdrawal (for the 245th time) or I’ve been watching too many Japanese programmes on my iPod again. I’ll let you decide which one it is, but I’ll give you the hint that I have more videos on my iPod than music and I have constant Japan withdrawal. (Did that clear things up for you?)

One of the latest crazes to sweep Japan is danshari and it’s written like this:

If you’d never heard of it, you’d swear it was Chinese, not Japanese because it’s a made-up word that consists of three very important actions intrinsic to the idea of danshari:

Refusal

 Disposal

 

 

Separation

 

 

Basically, it’s the idea of getting rid of the clutter in your life and living with the bare minimum of things. I guess it’s similar to the design concept of ‘minimalism’ in some ways, but it also includes the concept of removing the emotional burden that comes with having too much stuff.

But isn’t having lots of stuff a symbol of your wealth, your comfort and don’t certain things have lots of memories? Isn’t it also good to have things ‘just in case’ or ‘for a rainy day’?

Not in danshari.

According to danshari, clutter weighs you down in more ways than one. It keeps you looking in your past and unable to enjoy your present or make plans for your future. And when you think about it, things don’t have memories – you do.

Danshari involves you first making firm decisions about what to keep and what to reject. Then you dispose of things you have rejected to keep in your life. Finally, you emotionally separate yourself from those things that you no longer need and gain freedom from the clutter.

Danshari is mostly an intervention designed for hoarders, but there are a lot of ideas that I like in there. I like the idea of going back to basics in these times when we’re overwhelmed with gadgets we ‘can’t live without’.

I also like several of the alternative ways of thinking about things.

For example, there is the idea about mottainai.

Although mottainai is translated in English as ‘to be wasteful’, the Japanese word contains a deeper nuance from its buddhist origins, meaning ‘no longer having its original form or meaning’. So when you keep things because they might ‘come in handy’ and because throwing them away would be ‘such a waste’, do they actually retain their original meaning by being shut away in a cupboard somewhere? Things don’t actually have a meaning until they are put to use, so isn’t not putting them to use actually more wasteful than keeping them just in case?

There’s also an interesting take on gifts received in danshari. It takes the stance that gifts are just things that other people have bought. When you fill your home with gifts from other people, it becomes filled with the ‘tastes’ and ‘choices’ of other people and not yourself. When you say to yourself, ‘I can’t throw that away, it was a gift from so and so’, is that a good emotional state to be in when you are in your home, your sanctuary?

So that brings to an end our lesson about danshari. It has kind of given me the urge to go and dispose of some things to get that clean, sweet feeling of emotional freedom.

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22 thoughts on “Danshari

  1. interesting stuff! personally i tend to find it hard to get rid of things that people have actually made for me (rather than just bought). I feel like they are more invested with an emotion from that person, if that makes sense (although, on closer inspection maybe that makes those things even *worse* to keep around!!!)
    i like your point about the original meaning (or use) of things and that in the cupboard or tucked away in the attic they no longer fulfil that role…I’m currently studying Martin Heidegger and this puts me in mind of his present-at-hand/ready-to-hand distinction. Also, the idea of action (as in keep only what you use) reminds me of his philosophy too.
    Spiritually it’s reminiscent of the ascetics to me.
    I like the *idea* of minimalism but I’m not that good at it in practice!!!
    For example I have to confess to being totally besotted with my bargain pair of Le Corbusier chaises in white leather that i cannot bear to even think about parting with! (I DO sit on them occasionally, and they are super comfy, but I think i like looking at them even more! lol! Does that count as a *use*???)

    • I *like* the idea of minimalism too. I was watching a programme about one of the converts to danshari and she’d gotten rid of all of her kitchen gadgets like her rice cooker, coffee maker and all the assorted ladles and flippers and things and just kept one saucepan and one big spoon that she was using for everything.
      That totally freaked me out. She’d gone a bit Amish…lol.

      I get your chaises and I get that you love them more because they were a bargain. I think it’s okay to keep things like that :)

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  5. Just discovered Danshari via a program on NHK World and found this post. Similar to GTD it’s about getting rid of the clutter. You don’t have to be a hoarder to benefit. It does make me question deeply whether that so called bargain at the store really was one. The program showed one woman bought a cooker on impulse from a home shopping network. These are the channels I disable with the parental control.

  6. What a wonderful subtle lesson and discussion. Now can I link to it and spread the word? I’ll try. I’m out in the southern woods and don’t have my computer hotshots with me till next week back in NYC. Thank you for these wise words delivered so gracefully, so, one might say, without the extra stuff…

  7. I am off to Danshari my life ! I want emotional freedom , free of past ties and past bad memories. Finally a way forward and a freedom to be me .

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