Less is More – 대청소

Anyone who’s asked us what my husband and I have been up to lately will know: we’ve been cleaning. And organizing. And recycling. Just generally getting rid of stuff. 요즘에 주말에 많이 청소했다.

When we moved into our apartment in 2015 (I can’t believe it’s been that long!) we spent a few weekends going to IKEA to buy furniture, shelves, pillows, etc. to make it livable. After I quit my job in Japan, I went home to America for a few weeks, so I threw a lot of books into my suitcase and headed for Korea. I shipped boxes to Korea, too, and took a few suitcases worth of stuff with me to Korea on my last trip before officially moving.

Suffice to say, I had a lot of stuff. Books, mostly, but letters from friends, family, and students also took up a lot of room. I brought posters, CDs, clothes, shoes, the IKEA sewing machine that my friend gave me when she moved to Tokyo. I thought that I was only taking what I needed and that I was like all world-travelers; fitting all my possessions into a few suitcases.

However, Junkyu also brought a lot of stuff to the apartment. Pots and pans, kitchenware, all of his books, all of his electronics and instruments (an electric keyboard, an electric guitar, a saxophone, an acoustic guitar, a giant computer, and about nine thousands cables and cords) and our camping gear.

The house looked bare for a while, but after those IKEA trips, and the dozens of Daiso trips since, we’ve accumulated quite a bit of stuff. We tried having a garden on the veranda outside, but we ended up with a bunch of unsightly styrofoam boxes full of dirt and dead plants. A few of our plants did survive, so we put them indoors for safe keeping in the winter.

Planting in our garden last year
I’ve always considered myself a seasoned traveler. I can pack a bag in no time, get through airport security without a hassle, entertain myself in airports, and I know how many times to get up to stretch my legs during a 14-hour flight. However, looking back, I think I could have done without half of what I brought with me to Korea.

A friend of mine expressed her desire to be a minimalist and own only a few essentials. I used to think, “Wow, no way could I ever do that.” My parents, my dad especially, are a lot like me; not usually willing to part with clothes, books, sentimental items, etc. unless given an ultimatum. I thought it was in my genes to become a semi-hoarder.

Finally, though, my husband had enough. He took me into our clothes room one day and told me, “Please get rid of all these old clothes. You never wear them and they take up space.” I was appalled. Do what with my precious clothes? I mean, I’m not a fashionista or whatever, but I usually keep t-shirts that I got from a special place, clothes that I bought in Japan that remind me of a certain time, etc. I wasn’t willing to part with even one old pair of socks.

But he promised he’d buy me clothes only if I threw some away. So I tentatively got rid of a bagful, and we dropped it off in the green box near our house. Korea has a really amazing way of making recycling and donating extremely easy. There are clothes drop off boxes everywhere, and recycling just goes outside, along with regular trash and food trash (that gets composted).
Japan is known for being super-clean and good about recycling. However, I’ll admit that I was not good at recycling in Japan. My building had a small gated area for trash around the back, and everyone put pretty much everything in their trash bags, so lazy me did it too.

However, my husband was adamant that we recycle everything. Every category goes into a different bag: styrofoam, cans, bottles and glass, and hard and soft plastics are separated. Once I got used to it, it felt really rewarding. I now wash plastic containers that have food in them, rinse off milk cartons and fold them down, and everything goes into a different container until we are ready to put them into bags (recycled from the dry cleaners) and put them out for pick up.

After realizing that I didn’t ever miss the clothes that I gave away, and seeing how good it felt to properly recycle and clean the house each week, I started to want to clear out more and more. So every month or so  for the past few months, we choose a weekend and get everything done. We fix things that bother us, buy containers to put away clutter, cook all the about-to-expire food in the fridge, and toss things that we no longer need. I astonished myself by throwing out piles of clothes, and I’ve found that I really don’t miss them as much as I thought I might.

This past weekend, we went upstairs to the closets in which we used to shove the things we didn’t want to deal with, and we cleared them out, put stuff into piles of toss, donate, sell, etc. We did all the recycling, my husband bundled up stacks of books he no longer needed, and we put everything in the car. We took the books to Aladin, the used bookstore chain, and sold them. I also bought a stack of books, so it’s safer to say we traded them, but books are the one thing I really can’t part with

Then we gave my mother-in-law the kitchen stuff we no longer need or have room for, and it’s made my life so much easier to be able to put all the pots and pans we own into one spot. After getting rid of stuff each month or so, we always come home and admire how much better we feel. We truly feel that less is more and that less stuff equals less stress, giving us more time to relax.

We still have a ways to go, but I feel good about how we have both adopted the mindset that stuff is less important than experiences. We’d rather go to the movies or cook a meal at home than go out and buy stuff or spend money on things that we might not ever use.

We also bought some bricks and other things to help us build a small garden on our veranda so that we can try to grow plants again this year. We’re slowly learning how to turn our house into a home, but we are on the right track. As our one-year marriage anniversary approaches, we are thankful to have one another, and that seems to be the only thing that really matters at the end of the day.