Leonard Koren's take on Wabi-Sabi

I've written a bit before about the concept of wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi is the Japanese aesthetic centered around imperfection, impermanence, and incompleteness. Another reason I am grateful to Marie Kondo of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up::The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I met the concept of wabi-sabi years ago, but as things go, I had forgotten there was a term that describes my philosophy in poetical terms.

My favorite writer on the subject of wabi-sabi is Leonard Koren, who writes about design and aesthetics, he wrote "Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers," published in 1994. According to a 2005 New York Times article, the book "explains the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which celebrates earthiness, chance, unpretentiousness and intimacy of scale."

And in 2010, a different New York Times article said "'Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers,' first published in 1994, presented the Japanese notion of imperfect or humble beauty — you know the look, splintered driftwood against a winter sky, or a single flower past its prime."

From "Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers" itself:

"Get rid of all that is unnecessary. Wabi-sabi means treading lightly on the planet and knowing how to appreciate whatever is encountered, no matter how trifling, whenever it is encountered. [...] In other words, wabi-sabi tells us to stop our preoccupation with success--wealth, status, power, and luxury--and enjoy the unencumbered life. Obviously, leading the simple wabi-sabi life requires some effort and will and also some tough decisions. Wabi-sabi acknowledges that just as it is important to know when to make choices, it is also important to know when not to make choices: to let things be. Even at the most austere level of material existence, we still live in a world of things. Wabi-sabi is exactly about the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from freedom of things.”

Wabi-sabi isn't about lack or sterilized minimalism, it's about finding the poetry within the essence of life, and the delicate balance between having enough, and having too much stuff.

Leonard Koren advises "Pare down to the essence, but don't remove the poetry. Keep things clean and unencumbered, but don't sterilize."

Jane Dolan

Jane founded Jane Organizes in 2008 after a 20-year stint at a Design + Build firm in San Francisco. Jane loves working with rebels and dreamers, co-creating homes they will love. The KonMari Method™ is Jane's organizing tool of choice, after drinking the elixir in 2014.