Danshari: the Japanese art of minimalist storage

Danshari is practiced as a philosophy of life. It is a very well known Japanese minimalist trend inspired by Zen Buddhism.

In Japan's major cities, housing is getting smaller and smaller. Even in the suburbs far from the city center, the surface of the apartments remains restricted and the houses narrow.

That's why people in the land of the rising sun are becoming more and more ingenious at storing their belongings, and sorting them out in a minimalist style.

Danshari, a Japanese philosophy with a symbolic name

The Japanese society is paradoxical because it's a consumer society offering many gadgets (video games etc...), decorative object (washi paper, noren, prints etc...) and derivative products of all kinds. But Japanese culture is also associated with material reduction as a way of life. If you travel to Japan and go to the "art of tidying" section in a bookstore, you will realize the importance of minimalism.

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This philosophy of minimalism has its roots in Zen Buddhism and in particular the concept of wabi, that is to say the fullness of a simple and thrifty life. We invite you to read one of Hideko Yamashita's books. This author is well known for his lectures and books on danshari as an art of tidying up and especially as a minimalist philosophy.

What does Danshari means? 

In Japanese, this word is written with three symbolic kanji: 断捨離.

  • The first kanji, 断 (dan), means rejection or refusal,
  • The second 捨 (sha), gives the verb to throw away,
  • The last 離 (ri), symbolizes separation. It is a catchy word perfectly summarizing the three rules set by Hideko Yamashita to purify one's home but also, live better in one's mind.

The three rules of this art of tidying

The first step of Japanese minimalism, according to Hideko Yamashita, is to learn to refuse to let cumbersome and useless objects into your home. This implies thinking about what you consume before you buy, a practice that is not entirely unnecessary in a country where shopping is considered a real hobby.

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With the majority of shopping malls open every day and the lightning speed of deliveries for online purchases, it is easy to spend without counting. This "rejection" also covers the gifts and objects that our friends or family may give us and that, over the years, accumulate and clutter us.

The second rule is to question our attachment to material goods. The author of the Danshari Method invites us to throw away what clutters our living space. Indeed, there is nothing like learning to sort and separate from non-essential things to save space in a small home. Moreover, there is no room for sentimentality in Hideko Yamashita's work: either the object is useful for everyday life, or it is not and deserves to be thrown out.

Finally, the third and last rule is a philosophy of life, as Hideko Yamashita teaches us to separate ourselves from the very desire of new material possessions. This is the work of separating one's self from the desire for consumption.

A way of living that the author summarizes for us through this series of questions: "What is more important, life or objects? Objects are not necessarily hostile to life, but don't they become hostile when they don't make your life better? Ask yourself: do I need what I have now? If not, why can't I give up my things, all that I have accumulated over the years, and continue to accumulate? What binds me to them? Does my business dominate my life?