5 Ways Wabi-Sabi Promotes Mental Wellbeing at Home

May 16, 2022
Living In Design

Your home is where you start your day, where you end it and for many, a workplace too. Consequently, the environment of your home defines your mood and heavily contributes to your mental health. This is why it is imperative that your home is oriented in such a way that it is oozing positive energy and encouraging mental wellness. The philosophy of wabi-sabi describes the kind of thoughts and home decor to be had for an ordered and tranquil mind. It begins as a perception and manifests as a practice and interior style. It’s a philosophy that can be lived out in multiple ways, all with the same intention of keeping your mind in its best shape.

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Wabi-Sabi: The Perception, The Practice, The Style

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese philosophy that empowers people to find acceptance in all stages of life. It is a mindset of embracing simplicity, authenticity and imperfection. This philosophy places value in aspects of life that are normally overlooked or perceived negatively and regards them as what makes life beautiful. Practising wabi-sabi means viewing ups and downs, unpreferred occurrences, processes and flaws as the understated charms of life.

This idea ripples into other kinds of philosophical practices, such as minimalism and self-love. Wabi-sabi and minimalism share a less is more approach. They both preach an appreciation for the intrinsic nature of life and the marginalised beauties that it holds. Also similar to minimalism, wabi-sabi rejects materialism. It advises against excessiveness and embellishments, instead encouraging an approach where you humble yourself with simplicity, including when acquiring items that can serve you over decades rather than for a fleeting moment.

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Wabi-sabi has grown from a philosophy into a movement of design and is now even a forerunner for teaching self-love. As of late, people take greater notes of the negative effects social media has on its users. These undesirable effects stem from comparison and a pressure to be perfect, which both result in self-hate. Hence, returning to practices of self-love has become a more important endeavour than ever. In the media, it is often characterised by a lavish spa day and generally treating yourself. However, we learn through wabi-sabi that there is a magnificence in simpler acts. 

We come to an understanding that self-love comes from appreciating all parts of you and of your life. Even the aspects of yourself that don’t adhere to mass media norms, as these make you unique and that in itself is beautiful. Wabi-sabi’s interiors heavily reflect this idea of seeing the value in natural forms. So, by implementing wabi-sabi features in your home you are encouraging a mentality of embracing yourself wholly, which is what self-love is all about. Here we explore 5 different ways to create an interior that better serves your mental health.

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Declutter Your Space, Declutter Your Mind

Decluttering is in alignment with the simplicity pillar of wabi-sabi. It is no surprise that when embarking on a journey of simple living, you would first need to remove any excessive things that no longer serve you. This means discarding furniture or trinkets that don’t have a functional or emotional purpose. A chair solely used as a clothing landfill or an animal figurine you received as a misguided gift would both be suitable candidates. Not to mention that holding on to such furnishings will hinder you from experiencing the benefits of decluttering.

Aside from the obvious physical benefits of having a minimal, organised home, eradicating physical clutter does the same for mental clutter. All the various items in a single room each act as a stimulus, nagging at your attention and mental energy. As such, diminishing the number of stimuli in your space reduces the possibility of distraction and changes your wandering mind into a calm one.

Glimpse Wall Mounted Shelf by 12H

What’s more, having minimal items in your home highlights the items you do have and leads to a greater appreciation for them. You may even notice details of a picture that you hadn't before because it was drowned out by its surroundings. Embrace bespoke and multi-purpose furniture to keep your home permanently decluttered. Our Glimpse Wall Mounted Shelf shown above is a good example of the type of clutter-free implementations essential for simple living, allowing you to hang your jacket and place other out-the-door essentials away when coming home.

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Bring The Outside In

Ever wonder why so many interior styles incorporate nature into their design? It’s because of the astonishing effects nature has on your mental wellbeing, even the colours found in nature, like brown and green can elevate your mood. Wabi-sabi interprets natural elements as an anchor that roots you in reality. Being surrounded by natural elements forces you to release the burdens of societal pressures.

Little things like flower buds waiting to bloom inspire you to appreciate the elegance of life’s processes. Thankfully, you don’t have to always be outdoors to experience the sedation of nature. Raw ceramic dinnerware and pots, handwoven rugs and live edge furniture all work to comfort your mind as the grass of a meadow would comfort your body.

Live Edge Coffee Table by Paya Home

Wabi-sabi also utilises nature to encourage presence in the moment. Taking a book from a shelf made from salvaged wood and reclining in a woven bamboo chair, you can begin to cherish the sustainability of these materials and be mindful of their gifts. A reclaimed shelf, which its storied past, and its ability to be purposeful again. The support bamboo provides to your body. Treasuring the hard work that went into crafting furniture that offers more than the function of utility, that offers an experience. These are all small moments of gratitude that create a happier living space.

Making a Meaningful Home

Wabi-sabi nudges us towards authenticity. It encourages us to incorporate things and perceptions that are true to life into our own lives. This can be manifested through your interior decor with furniture that has a history and carries intrinsic value within its fibres. Slow-crafted furniture is the only way to achieve such a soulful feat. The hands of artisans honour the origin of these furnishings, cementing their story. Items solely seen as functional transform into breathing chests of tales, and your house becomes a home bursting with life.

Kangaroo Bookshelf by Paya Home

With an interior of only purposeful furniture, you may notice a decline in your material attachment. Your attachment to objects will become an appreciation for the emotions and experiences the objects provide. This is wabi-sabi’s intent, admiration for the experiences life grants you. Ikigai supports this teaching too, as it is defined as a feeling of your life having value. How this feeling is manifested is through your experiences with a person or activity that makes your life feel valuable. You would call that person or activity your ikigai. Owning furnishings that remind you of your ikigai will enhance your fondness for experiences over objects. So if your ikigai is pottery, honour your experience with this art form by implementing your creations or that of other artists as home decor.

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Let Time Take its Course 

Wabi-sabi teaches us to accept things as they come and appreciate that nothing is complete. Life is a continuation and the best display of this is ageing. Allowing and valuing the ageing of furniture is a great way to begin to see the beauty in changing with time. Leather, wood, copper and brass are all materials that develop a lovely patina over time. Adopting furniture made from these will remind you that you can’t control everything and there is beauty in the natural ordinance of life. This is the outlook wabi-sabi teaches, that an object’s natural, undisturbed form is its most beautiful form.

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Many of us live in a warped perception of reality. We suppress emotions, ignore issues and pretend to be things that we aren’t. We try to paint a lie over the truth. However, embracing the truth of ageing through the natural wearing of our furniture encourages us to accept the truths of our own lives. Embracing reality may manifest not only through ageing furniture but also via plants and flowers. A seasonal ikebana flower arrangement on your work table reminds you that the various stages of your life serve a purpose and things will unfold at the right time.

The Beauty in 'Broken' Things 

Often in life we are thrown curveballs, sending us in unexpected directions. However, wabi-sabi views an unexpected turn of events not as an obstruction but simply a part of life’s current. Repairing broken items instead of throwing them away aids wabi-sabi with this teaching. Mending ruptures in your furniture teaches you to interpret unfavourable occurrences as part of your furniture’s history, instead of as a setback or end. In turn, it conditions you to interpret the plot twists in your life the same way, as valuable aspects of your journey.

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This lesson is especially efficient when the broken items are repaired in such a way that they’re also highlighted, as is done in Kintsugi. This is a process of using lacquer and gold powder to amend a broken item, emphasising its cracks. Most times, this method of repair produces an object that is more beautiful than the original. In this same way, unpreferred occurrences may produce a better result than your original plan. 

Treasuring the scars of your furniture encourages acceptance of whatever is happening in the here and now. Wabi-sabi sees the glass as half full and teaches that there is always something to appreciate in everything. Teaching you to be happy in how things are and where you are, even if it was a result of a mistake or accident. Hence, cherishing your furniture’s accidents is a method of practising presence, which inspires you to appreciate life, a main pillar of wabi-sabi.

“Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor, it’s anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living” -Peter Walsh