Wabi Sabi

I would like to introduce a Japanese philosophy called Wabi Sabi.


If you aren’t familiar with this certain philosophy, think “rustic simplicity”; homemade and home-grown; appreciation for the imperfect and incomplete. “It’s the perfect antidote to a throwaway society built on disposable goods and mass-produced, homogeneous items” (housebeautiful.com).

The chipped bowl featured at the start of this post is repaired using Kintsugi, which is the process of repairing a crack with gold to highlight the beauty of its imperfection, rather than trying to hide the damage by using a clear glue.

I am so intrigued by this way of thinking. It’s in total contradiction to our consumer culture here in America. We are constantly drawn to shiny, new things, and this leaves us empty inside when the new car smell wears off. There is so much out there to consume, from clothes, food, information, to the endless stream of just… MORE! This tendency to consume has become quite unhealthy and unsatisfying. Not to mention the toll it takes on your bank account and the stress that brings.

The chip in this teacup can deem it “broken” or “beautiful”. Its imperfection is what makes it unique. It doesn’t need to be replaced, because it’s perfect just as it is.

By making my home in a tiny, one-room cabin, I am bringing more of this simplicity into my own life. I am rejecting the notion that I need an extravagantly large house. I don’t need to impress anyone. We have a lot of opportunities to build upon the cabin, but its imperfect condition is beautiful right now. I’m hoping that by choosing this way of life, I will finally learn what Wabi Sabi means to me. I want to simplify in every area possible, to leave time for what’s more gratifying in life.

This terrifying junk lady from Labyrinth literally caries all her scavenged belongings on her back. A very real picture of how hoarding useless shit can weigh people down.

Speaking of hoarding, we’ve had to downsize our possessions because of the cabin’s limited space. Every item in our house has to have a purpose. It’s such a grounding experience to only have room for the true essentials, and so satisfying to really make the most out of your space. The possessions we keep have so much more value than they did buried under other things. Clutter can not exist, or we would be forced to live like hoarders and wade through piles of junk (or carry it on our backs).

No, that is no way to live.

There are also many unfinished areas of the cabin itself. From missing window frames to cracking paint to its rickety old stairs, this dwelling has “imperfect” written all over it. I think that bothered me last year when we first moved into it, and I always felt unclean and uncomfortable staying there. But now I am starting to see the imperfections as beautiful.

I am falling more in love with my tiny house the more I allow its peacefulness to surround me. It’s far enough into the forest so that it’s very quiet inside and on the porch. I love sitting on my bed and feeling embraced by the tranquility of the forest noises all around me. Bringing natural elements into my house allows me to enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds us.

I already try to embrace Wabi Sabi in how I shop. I would much rather browse a thrift store for the unique and worn. It’s much more enjoyable to pick out clothes that aren’t in a perfectly stacked pile, all identical to each other. And books are meant to be a little worn and faded with use rather than perfectly crisp and unscathed. I like to see the history of an item, and that it has been loved in the past. I’m not one to collect things like shiny shoes and other collectibles for the look of them. I want to either use the things I have or give them away. Less is more – classic minimalism.

Bringing Wabi Sabi into my life will lead me to a new level of peacefulness. The value of the things that have been built to last will only increase with time. We need a change in perspective to be able to see the flawed, timeworn, disfigured, and misshapen things with a new appeal, rather than replacing them for something brand new.

Wabi Sabi is nearly impossible to translate into our modern language, but the fulfillment it can bring is universal to all of us. If we can accept something not despite its blemishes and age, but because of those things, then we will finally break the destructive cycles of consuming and hoarding.

Gif credit: sundayriley.com

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