If you’re not familiar with the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi, get ready to wake up to reality — in a good way! The basic concept is simple. Life is imperfect, and its imperfections are what make it rich and beautiful. It can be a hard concept for we Americans to grasp, accustomed as we are to our thirst for instant gratification, to newness and youth and to the acquisition of bigger and better things for their ability to provide comfort, reassurance and status. Living the Wabi-Sabi philosophy is mostly about how we choose to live our lives. Can we slow down and appreciate the moment, even if it doesn’t live up to what we think it should be? Can we learn to appreciate things that have a story and meaning behind them rather than simply judging them by how new or impressive they are or how they fit into our idea for perfection? This also extends to our living spaces, and a Wabi-Sabi home is one where authenticity reigns.
It’s easy to flip through decorating magazines for inspiration, and instead find ourselves immersed in self-pity over all of the beautiful design possibilities that aren’t within our reach. Some say that’s just “human nature,” but is it really just conditioning — or perhaps a sense of competitiveness?
Embracing a Wabi-Sabi Home
Wabi-Sabi embraces nature and life, recognizing that everything goes through a cycle of birth, growth, blossoming and then going the other way. The same can be said for the things we live with. Decorating with a Wabi-Sabi mindset combines nuances of other, more recognized design styles. There’s a little bit of the “Shabby Chic” in it, as well as an appreciation for rustic beauty, and for paring down and eliminating clutter, too. The Wabi-Sabi home is about simplicity too — something we can all use a little more of in our busy, sometimes overwhelming lifestyles. What follows are some examples of how Wabi-Sabi can fit into our concept of what makes our homes beautiful and meaningful …
- Can you appreciate the beauty of a distressed piece of furniture, considering how it’s served someone else in the past, and continues to serve your needs today?
- In a Wabi-Sabi home, possessions are pared down until you’re left with only the things that you really use, really love, and really care about, whether it’s because they have a history or a sentimental value.
- Wabi-Sabi design always includes elements of nature in the form of plants, branches, flowers, and natural materials.
- Weathered wood (and reclaimed wood) has a patina and a richness that’s beautiful, especially when it’s the focal point of a room.
- Make your bedroom restful and keep it simple, paring down to the basic necessities — a comfortable bed, a bedside table for a book and a cup of herbal tea before bedtime, plus a soft rug to step on when you first wake up.
- Embrace things that have developed a patina, a weathered, lived-in feel, and appreciate them for both their utility and their intrinsic beauty.
Wake up Your “Wabi-Sabi Instincts”
Robyn Griggs Lawrence, author of “The Wabi-Sabi House” has a few tips for how to awaken the spirit of Wabi-Sabi that’s within each of us …
- Spend 5 minutes each day just being quiet. Gradually work up to 20 minutes a day.
- Visit flea markets, yard sales and junk stores. You don’t have to buy anything. Just walk around and notice what draws you in. (If you see something that you fall in love with, it’s okay to buy it!)
- Keep a vase with a single flower or branch in it on your desk or somewhere you’ll notice it everyday, and take a moment now and then to appreciate it for its simplicity and its intrinsic beauty.
Living a Wabi-Sabi lifestyle frees you to appreciate what you have, and research shows that having a grateful attitude is good for both your health and your overall happiness. You’ve got to admit that embracing imperfection and cultivating gratitude definitely beats going into debt to acquire things you can’t really afford just so you can compete with the Joneses or impress your friends!