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Decluttering Traditions from Around the World

March 22, 2024
Decluttering Traditions from Around the World


Decluttering is a universal practice that transcends cultural boundaries. As humans, we all accumulate possessions over time, and the need to declutter arises from our inherent desire for order and simplicity. While the concept of decluttering is universal, different cultures have developed unique traditions and approaches to this process. In this article, I will explore various decluttering traditions from around the world, examining their origins, philosophies, and practical applications.

Japanese Decluttering: The Art of Minimalism

One of the most well-known decluttering traditions comes from Japan, where the practice of minimalism has been deeply ingrained in the cultural fabric for centuries. The concept of “mottainai,” which translates to “a sense of regret concerning waste,” is a guiding principle that encourages mindful consumption and careful consideration of possessions.

The KonMari Method, popularized by Marie Kondo, is a decluttering technique that emphasizes keeping only those items that “spark joy.” This method involves gathering all belongings by category, holding each item, and determining whether it brings happiness or serves a purpose. By focusing on the emotional connection to possessions, the KonMari Method helps individuals declutter with intention and mindfulness.

The Philosophy of Wabi-Sabi

Another Japanese concept that complements decluttering is wabi-sabi, which embraces the beauty of imperfection, impermanence, and simplicity. This philosophy encourages individuals to appreciate the natural aging process of objects and find tranquility in their lived experiences. By embracing wabi-sabi, individuals can let go of the pursuit of perfection and cultivate a sense of contentment with what they have.

Scandinavian Decluttering: Embracing Functionality

The Scandinavian approach to decluttering emphasizes functionality and practicality. In countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, where living spaces are often compact, decluttering is a necessity for creating a comfortable and efficient environment.

The concept of “lagom,” which translates to “just the right amount,” is central to Scandinavian decluttering. This principle encourages individuals to find balance and avoid excess, focusing on what is truly essential and serving a purpose in their lives.

Scandinavian design principles, such as clean lines, minimal ornamentation, and neutral color palettes, further reinforce the decluttering mindset. By embracing these principles, individuals can create a sense of calm and order in their living spaces.

French Decluttering: The Art of Living Well

In France, decluttering is often viewed as an integral part of living well and cultivating a sense of joie de vivre (joy of living). The French approach to decluttering is deeply rooted in the concept of “l’art de vivre,” which emphasizes simplicity, elegance, and quality over quantity.

The French philosophy of “less is more” encourages individuals to declutter and surround themselves with fewer possessions, but of higher quality and aesthetic appeal. This approach not only creates a more organized and visually appealing living space but also fosters a sense of appreciation for the items that remain.

German Decluttering: Ordnung muss sein (Order Must Be)

The German approach to decluttering is deeply ingrained in the cultural value of orderliness and efficiency. The phrase “Ordnung muss sein” (order must be) is a guiding principle that permeates many aspects of German life, including decluttering.

German decluttering traditions often involve systematic and methodical approaches, such as the “Aufräumen nach Farbe” (decluttering by color) technique. This method involves sorting items by color, making it easier to identify duplicates and unnecessary possessions.

Additionally, the concept of “Deutsch Gründlichkeit” (German thoroughness) encourages individuals to declutter thoroughly and leave no stone unturned, ensuring that every corner and crevice is organized and clutter-free.

Indian Decluttering: Embracing Spirituality

In India, decluttering is often deeply rooted in spiritual and religious traditions. The concept of “aparigraha,” one of the five ethical principles of Jainism, encourages non-attachment and minimalism in possessions.

The practice of Vastu Shastra, an ancient Indian system of architecture and design, emphasizes the importance of decluttering and creating harmonious living spaces. According to Vastu principles, clutter can disrupt the flow of positive energy (prana) and lead to imbalances in various aspects of life.

Hindu festivals, such as Diwali, also incorporate decluttering rituals, where individuals thoroughly clean and declutter their homes in preparation for the celebration. This process is believed to symbolize the removal of negativity and the welcoming of positive energies.

Decluttering as a Global Movement

While each culture has its unique traditions and approaches to decluttering, the underlying principles of simplicity, mindfulness, and environmental consciousness have given rise to a global decluttering movement. Organizations like The Minimalists and various zero-waste initiatives promote decluttering as a means of reducing consumption, minimizing waste, and creating a more sustainable lifestyle.

Furthermore, the rise of digital minimalism and the decluttering of virtual spaces, such as email inboxes and digital files, has become an increasingly relevant topic in our technology-driven world.


Decluttering traditions from around the world offer valuable insights and perspectives on creating order, simplicity, and harmony in our lives. Whether it’s embracing the Japanese art of minimalism, the Scandinavian focus on functionality, the French appreciation for quality, the German emphasis on orderliness, or the Indian spiritual connections, each tradition provides a unique lens through which we can approach the process of decluttering.

By exploring and appreciating these diverse cultural traditions, we can gain a deeper understanding of the universal human desire for simplicity and the various ways in which different cultures have approached this goal. Ultimately, decluttering is a personal journey, and by drawing inspiration from these rich traditions, we can find the approach that resonates most with our values and lifestyles.

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