June 4, 2019 by Guest Blogger

One in Four Americans admits to having a “clutter” problem and the average American household contains 300,000 items.  Mental health professionals have established clear links between clutter and stress.  

Late modern consumer capitalism saturates our lives with advertising, adding to a persistent drumbeat of cultural pressure emphasizing that our value and worth is measured by the amount of objects we accumulate over the course of our lives. 

Materialism has long been a defining characteristic of American life, but it has definite downsides that can be found in our struggle to redefine our relationship to our environment and in the high stress competitive economy that pushes people to view the accumulation of material wealth as the primary purpose for living.  

Many Americans have long admired Japanese architecture and design because it represents a simpler, more disciplined, less materialistic way of living that many long for.  For Americans, incorporating Japanese design is not so much about what you bring into your home as what you remove from it.  

The first step to “zen”-ifying your home is to declutter it as much as possible.  From there, it is easier to begin creating the kind of peaceful, clean, open living space that Japanese homes are so world renowned for having. 


Minimalism is a defining characteristic of Japanese architecture and design.  Minimalism is a value structure that emphasizes necessity and function over excess and indulgence.  

Being an island nation with limited resources and an unpredictable environment, Japanese have historically embraced values of efficiency, function and minimalism in order to preserve precious resources and to adapt quickly when the unexpected occurs, such as an earthquake, volcano eruption, or Typhoon.  Given the natural disasters that have occurred throughout Japan’s history and are always around the next corner, Japanese have realized that being overly attached to material objects is of no benefit to them.  

Additionally, space is at a premium in the Island nation, and unnecessary clutter only reduces it even more.  If you want to give your home more of a Japanese feel, begin by eliminating all unnecessary furniture and objects in your home.  

Minimalism is also accompanied by efficiency.  Consider upgrading to energy efficient appliances while also repairing rather than replacing appliances in your home.  A home warranty can help you decide how to incorporate more efficient energy use and create more sustainable living, according to House Method.


Consider the major elements of nature: Earth, air, fire, water, and wood.  Japanese homes are designed to minimize the boundaries between the indoors and the outdoors while also revering nature.  

Large windows, unobstructed by draperies and blinds and sliding doors are designed to minimize the barrier between indoors and outdoors.  Additionally, they allow more natural light to flow throughout the home, particularly when furniture and clutter is removed and rearranged to allow more natural light flow.  

Wood such as cypress, maple, pine, hemlock and bamboo are used to construct frames, flooring and ceilings.  Wood is almost never painted in Japanese design, only stained, to show off the natural grain and beauty.  

Stone can be used to adorn a wall or to create natural barriers in a garden. If you don’t have the resources or capability of decorating your home or garden with stone facades or barriers, consider incorporating the Japanese art form of Suiseki, small mounted viewing stones that often resemble mountains, cliffs, or other objects found in nature.  Suiseki is a perfect way to bring  stone elements into a home or apartment without being overwhelming or incurring excess cost.  

Japanese are also famous for their use of plants and greenery in the home, although, many Japanese indoor plants also have minimalist elements.  Of course bonsai is the most well-known of Japanese horticulture, but can be intimidating to Westerners.  A simple small bamboo tree is easy enough to care for and can bring some greenery into the home.  

Finally, Japanese homes generally only use a neutral palette for interior colors: soft greens, greys, whites, and browns.  This palette references the natural world and also creates a tranquil, peaceful living space


Japanese furniture and spaces are designed to be multi-purpose.  Unlike American homes, where rooms are designed with a single purpose in mind, Japanese homes are designed to have rooms that can be easily transformed from smaller into larger spaces by utilizing sliding doors, panels, removable screens and folding barriers.  If one is living in a studio apartment, utilizing panels and removable screens may be a way to organize space and reorganize it for guests. 

Floors often have compartments or levels in Japanese design as does furniture.  Flat, plank designed furniture that is low to the ground and includes drawers provides multifunctionality and versatility. Inset shelving in walls helps to preserve space and avoid the need to add additional furniture pieces.


Japanese bathe every day and the Japanese love their round tubs.  Wooden tubs in particular are popular.  Japanese principles of cleanliness permeate the visual aesthetics of their homes.  

One particularly noticeable feature of this principle is the Genkan, a lower, inset floor in the entryway of a home where shoes are removed.  The Genkan is also usually accompanied by a Getabako, or shoe cabinet where shoes are immediately stored. 

While it may not be possible to have an inset floor in your home’s entrance, you can design entryways and incorporate your own Getabako to encourage visitors (and residents hopefully), to remove shoes while in your home.

Author: Amanda Turner