What is minimalism ?

Amal Chatterjee
6 min readMar 11, 2017


Source : Google photo

Synopsis : Hoarding is a sickness affecting many people who mindlessly accumulate junk all their life and do not know what to do with them. This blog shows the beauty of minimalism with the example of Japan where it is an art form.

There is a sickness called extreme hoarding where people live in a pile of garbage that they have accumulated over a long period of time and can’t get rid of. Some people hoard because they can’t seem to part with anything so they keep on accumulating things they do not have any use for and fill their house with it. This is a kind of sickness both physical and mental but tends towards mental more than anything else.

Source : Google photo

Here are some photos of such extreme hoarders. You can see that such people need help and serious counseling. It is a phenomenon often found in the western capitalistic societies where buying and accumulating things is promoted through ceaseless capitalism where the main focus is to buy the useless things and discard them to be replaced with more useless things so long as people continue to spend money .

How often one hears a woman saying I can’t part with these things because they have sentimental values. The extreme hoarders are a symptom of a mental condition that develops over a period of time and becomes a serious health issue if not treated but by and large the western capitalism promotes such behavior to the detriment of individual’s sanity. We all succumb to this desire to accumulate things when we travel and end up buying things that we don’t even have a place for in the house.

I admit I am no exception because I too have accumulated things that I can’t seem to get rid of although our case is not that serious so we can’t be called hoarders as exemplified by the photos above. But we all have this tendency. The constant obsolescence built into any gadget you buy today makes it harder to get rid of things that have become obsolete so no one takes them even if you try to give them away. The newer gadgets have the tendency to become more and more complicated to repair if anything goes wrong with it so people have to buy new ones all the time.

I think the habit of accumulating is strongly influenced by the culture in which a person lives because the culture is defined as the cumulative behavior of people taken as a whole. In some culture, the materialism is deemphasized like in Japan whereas in other cultures it is a sign of consumerism that people are not ashamed of and even brag about it.

In India people often say that the motto in life should be simple living and high thinking but looking at them you will not believe the Indians to be serious about simple living and high thinking. In reality they do the opposite and keep accumulating all sorts of things that they constantly brag about. This is the influence of the consumerist culture of the West that is invading all parts of the world. They do it through TV ads that run 24 hours a day bombarding people with their message of buy and buy until you cry uncle.

But there are countries where people have fought hard against this trend and reject consumerism to maintain a simple but aesthetic and beautiful life free of clutter and hoarding. Such people are rare so all the more appreciated because of their determination to fight the all-pervading lure of material culture.

I will therefore write today about such a country called Japan. It was devastated by the Second World War when entire cities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated by the Americans who dropped the A bomb there to bring the war to an end although in hindsight it was realized that such drastic action was not at all necessary. Japan was defeated and was about to capitulate anyway because they were at the end of their tether after the long and ruinous war. Who and why started the war is not the topic under discussion so I will limit it by saying that the post war Japan rose literally from the ashes to rebuild their country and did a splendid job. It rose to be the number two economy in the world earning it the envy of the world and the epithet Japan Inc.

So it is all the more important to understand the Japanese resolve in keeping their life simple even under tremendous pressure generated by the capitalistic system they follow and make money out of.

It is true that the Japanese people have used the capitalism to their advantage and have rebuilt their country in a way that has brought in prosperity for the most people who enjoy a higher living standard than the previous generation. But it is also true that the Japanese people are fiercely proud of their long heritage and very old civilization that has imbued into them a sense of national pride rarely seen elsewhere in the world.

When we think of Japan, we think of simplicity of their homes but this simplicity is the result of meticulous planning and the desire to keep it that way no matter what the pressure to do otherwise. This comes from the pride in their heritage and a love of the aesthetic sense that every Japanese feels obliged to maintain. It comes from the art of minimalism. They have shown that a house can be beautiful using the minimalism concept so I include a few photos to prove the point.

It starts with the simple tatami floor that is covered with tatami which a thick mattress is made of rice straw bordered with black edging. It always has a fixed dimension and can be arranged in a number of ways. The golden yellow sheen of the mat adds to the beauty of simplicity in a home where meticulous care is taken to keep the dirt out. So you are given slippers to wear and leave your shoes outside their homes. This way the indoors are kept very clean.

Then you will notice that there are very few furniture apart from a low table around which people sit on the floor to eat. Sitting on the floor in loose Japanese garment is very comfortable and very enjoyable. The minimalism with tatami floor and polished low table and the gleaming lacquer ware adds to the beauty and a sense of space that is truly artistic in nature and makes you appreciate the values the Japanese hold dear to them. The walls are often bare or with a hand painted scroll with a simple window looking out to an exquisite garden that is often called the living picture frame. The photo below is shown to prove how beautiful it can be.

They make excellent lacquer ware that adds to the beauty of minimalism inside a home and a sense of aesthetics unseen elsewhere. The elegance of such uncompromising beauty is the hallmark of the Japanese culture where great attention is given to every detail.

The Japanese sense of simplicity and elegance is combined in a way that is quite unique to them and copied by others.

I once spent some time in Japan and was very impressed by the way they valued

their culture and showed their pride in their long history through their architecture, their art and craft and the silk kimonos that are truly the work of artists. Their ceramics and their potteries have an elegance that is truly Japanese. I have made many power points on the art and craft of Japan so it is worth a look.

We can all learn from the Japanese how to unclutter our homes and discard anything that does not add to the simplicity they have adopted. The link to the power point is given here.




Amal Chatterjee

I am the village bard who loves to share his stories.