What is wabi-sabi?
Rooted in Buddhism, wabi-sabi began with tea ceremonies where the oldest hand-made utensils became the most well-loved as they became more and more worn. Since then, it’s become a way to find happiness and beauty in things that aren’t perfect.
In a world that constantly urges everyone to upgrade and renew, there’s something refreshing about a movement that’s all about looking for contentment in what’s already there. Hoards of devotees claim it’s the pathway to a happier home.
It’s hard to translate exactly, but ‘wabi’ is defined as ‘rustic simplicity’ or ‘understated elegance’ while ‘sabi’ is ‘taking pleasure in the imperfect’.
How does it work?
Wabi-sabi is all about authenticity. Imperfections and cracks show that something has been lovingly used through time. You learn to be content with what you already have and to stop being on the look-out for more.
In fact, devotees will strip back the unnecessary to give themselves the chance to live better with what they have. Removing clutter and pointless items will let the things that you care about stand out and shine.
How do you do it?
Here's the thing. You can't just go out and buy yourself some wabi-sabi, which is good news for your bank account. You simply need to change the way you think about things from trying to find perfection to appreciating what’s there.
Of course, life means that you do need to buy things sometimes. But, even then, it’s possible to practice a wabi-sabi way of doing things. Look for handmade or pre-loved rather than shelling out for mass-produced.
There’s a broad strand of wabi-sabi that is about nature and seeking natural options. Wood and stone, wool and linen are beautiful and tend to age well too.
In the same spirit, the colours of nature are strong in wabi-sabi – cool forest greens, sea-spray aqua and spring blossom pinks. Use them with a palette of cloudy grey, snowdrift white and shades of sand.
A battered old desk that you’ve had for years, a spotted hall mirror, a jumper that you’ve repaired, falling blossom in the garden and your favourite battered old boots are all wabi-sabi. So are wonky carrots, home-grown herbs and well-thumbed books.
So, it's trendy but are there other reasons to love wabi-sabi?
Yes. It’s fair to say wabi-sabi is a win-win-win. Not only does it put a smile on your face, but it’s cheaper and better for the environment.
The biggest shift is in mind-set. Wabi-sabi urges us to focus on being thankful for what we have, rather than seeking what’s new and better. This applies to all of life, not just home, bringing serenity and tranquillity. When Pinterest and Instagram seem to suggest that everyone else’s lives are more glossy than ours, wabi-sabi is a breath of fresh air that blows that away.
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