When my husband
suggested we move the blocky wood veneer table from his bachelor condo to our
shared home, I agreed, mainly because I assumed we’d replace it soon enough.
But eight years and two kids later, I find it hard to imagine our home without
it. The table is covered in nicks and scratches. It’s orange-brown but the
imperfections show up in light yellow. It comfortably seats the four of us, but
we can easily squeeze a couple more chairs in when Grandma and Grandpa come for
dinner. For special occasions, it expands to fit twelve. We can barely open the
refrigerator door when all twelve seats are full, but that’s okay. Limited
fridge access has never interfered with the conversations and laughter we’ve
shared with family and friends over Thanksgiving dinners, Passover seders, or
I’ve grown to love that
table and the memories it holds.
Wabi-Sabi is the
Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection. Wabi-Sabi acknowledges that objects
are beautiful, not in spite of signs of wear and tear, but because of them.
Wabi-Sabi appreciates the way an object’s aesthetic appeal develops over time
and with repeated use, inextricably linking the concepts of beauty and utility.
Though I never intended
to embrace Wabi-Sabi—I’ve only recently become acquainted with the term—I’ve
inadvertently adopted this aesthetic not just in my kitchen but throughout my
home. I regularly toss things I don’t use. I like how favorite jeans are have
thinned at inner thighs. I delight in watching my daughters play with my
Cabbage Patch doll. Thinking about creating a Wabi Sabi home of your own? Here
are a few tips:
Limit what comes in
According to Wabi-Sabi, the beauty in a piece is not in it’s shiny newness. Just
the opposite, an object’s radiance is in the meaning and memories it holds, as
well as its utility. Actions you can take to avoid letting new and unnecessary
items into your home include:
Keeping a running list of things you’d like or need to acquire to help you
stay focused and avoid impulse purchases when you’re shopping.
- Unsubscribing from the
email newsletters that stay in your inbox unopened, or those that you
- Putting catalogs you
never shop immediately into your recycle bin or your kids’ art bin for future
- Self-imposing a
“waiting period” when shopping online. Be honest with yourself; If you can live
an extra day without the items in your shopping cart, leave them there for 24
hours before checking out. You might decide you don’t need them as urgently as
you thought you did.
De-clutter what you
Most of us have more stuff than we need or want. We hang onto things we’re
saving for a special occasion, items we might need someday, and dust-collectors
with sentimental value. For one reason or another, most of us have trouble
letting our extras go. Here are a few tips for embarking on a de-cluttering
Start small. In her book “Better Than Before,” Gretchen
Rubin recommends committing to spending just ten minutes of any imposing task.
Set a timer for ten minutes. If you’re drained after ten minutes, give yourself
permission to stop for the day. If you feel energized and you have time, keep
Toss anything you
haven’t used in the past year.
- Remember that Grandpa
wouldn’t want you feeling bogged down by the bird feeder you made together,
which is now taking up valuable real estate in a closet. Take pictures of
sentimental items before letting them go.
- Limit duplicates. If
it’s hard to be objective about how many scarves (or shoes, hammers, or guitar
picks) you actually need, ask yourself how many your neighbor needs and let that
number guide you.
Find beauty in what you have
Leonard Cohen wrote, “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the
light gets in.” Though he may not have had home decor in mind when he
penned those famous lines, the idea behind them is consistent with the
principles of Wabi-Sabi. Take another look at your things. Ask yourself if they
are useful. Then ask yourself if they are beautiful, remembering that beauty
isn’t necessarily the perfect home featured on your favorite design blog.
According to Wabi-Sabi, an item’s beauty is in its scratches, its dings, its
When my husband and I were newlyweds, I created a Pinterest board called “home
decor” and filled it with images of the kitchen tables of my fantasies. They
were modern and sleek, with smooth reclaimed wood surfaces and hairpin legs.
Unblemished, they beckoned me, promising a life just as perfect as they were if
only I owned such a table. I haven’t pinned any new tables to that board since
our first child was born.
I’ve come to appreciate our Wabi-Sabi table. Not only is it a functional table,
but it’s where my kids have sat in their bouncy seats and their bumbo seats.
We’ve clipped high chairs to that table and pulled booster seats up to it.
We’ve fed our kids their first bites of banana and their first chocolate chips
at that table. We’ve blown out the candles celebrating the first year, the
fortieth year, and lots of years in between. I look forward to all the future
birthdays we have yet to celebrate at that table.