Not much to offer you –

Just a lotus flower floating

In a small jar of water


The poetry of Ryokan, an eighteenth-century Japanese poet, is a sparse and Zen-inspired ode to nature and living simply.  This week, I read an article* about the resurgence of minimalism in Japan, inspired not only by the long history and tradition of Zen and its “spare aesthetic”, but also by notions of owning only things that one truly likes and appreciates.

Lately, my spring cleaning has extended into summer, cleaning out the garage, going through closets, and desk drawers.  The amount of stuff I’ve accumulated without trying is astounding, much of it simply junk, paperwork, etc. that I allowed to build up over the years.  Other items meant something to me at some point in the past, but don’t feel important to hang onto anymore.  By cleaning house, I’ve also realized how grateful I am for, as my spouse says, “having all we need and then some.”

Every year, we go through this de-cluttering ritual and have even turned it into a party, inviting friends over to bring their excess stuff and trade it freely, donating whatever is left to a local charity.  It is a fun way to pass items along to someone else who appreciates them anew.  What really amazes me is that even after the annual ritual, I still see so much stuff that I could live without.  What I really want is shelter, a comfortable bed, kitchen/cooking supplies, art, guitar, comfortable clothes, a safe car to drive places, enough furniture for guests, a few good books, and music – these are possessions that I feel happy about versus burdened by.  Keeping extraneous stuff at bay requires diligence.

I am a novice compared to the minimalist masters featured in the article and I feel inspired by them to live consciously regarding material possessions.  I know there is more work for me in this regard – staying grateful for what I have, focusing on material goods that are meaningful and make me feel happy, and regularly de-cluttering.  I appreciate their reminder to all of us about the pitfalls of materialism and the beauty of less.