Michael Hoffman, in an interesting new article in The Japan Times Online, describes danshari, a lifestyle idea that complements three other stuff-minimal concepts, voluntary simplicity, wabi sabi, and true wealth. Voluntary simplicity, you may recall, has origins in the nineteenth century and calls into question the values of material wealth and status; it focuses instead on frugal consumption, ecological awareness, moral responsibility, and the development of the wisdom to think through--and act upon--what really matters. Wabi sabi, an integral part of traditional Japanese culture, appreciates and accepts complexity even as it values simplicity, tranquility, and naturalness. True Wealth, Paul Hwoschinsky's persuasive antidotes to rampant materialism, suggests that true wealth is attained by leveraging those nonfinancial assets, different for each person, that invigorate and vitalize: talents, hobbies, close connections with other people and animals, communion with nature.
Danshari--its three kanji characters signify refusal, disposal, and separation--has a literal meaning of tidying up. But the movement incorporates psychological and even religious dimensions; it suggests getting rid of mental as well as physical junk. Hoffman calls danshari "a cure--at least a treatment, a purge--for the disease of our times: excess." That we need such a concept is clear. As environmental scholar Richard Evanoff has observed, "It would take the resources of at least five planet Earths for everyone to live at the same level as most Americans do now."