When I was in high school, I read a book called “The Things They Carried”. It was a Vietnam War story. The things they carried referred not just to the physical things that they carried, but also the mental things. The mental scars, depression, and great stress that came with fighting in the war.

Often the things we carry come with a huge weight.

For the last month, I have been traveling around Japan (Tokyo, Nagano, Kobe, Kochi). The place I have spent the most time, Nagano, is small and filled with stuff. Not garbage, just stuff. Things that the owner of the house just won’t let go of. The house isn’t dirty, its cluttered.

Major parts of the house are unusable because there is so much stuff. The simple act of getting a bowl can’t be accomplished with out first moving stuff. I had to move stuff to use the computer I am typing on right now. You have to walk around stuff to to get from one side of the house to the other.

Being in such a small space with so much stuff is stressful. I have known for a long time that I prefer minimalism, though I haven’t always practiced it. I know that too much stuff and clutter stresses me out.

This trip, and staying in this house for nearly three weeks, has made it clear to me. Messiness causes stress. Even more than I thought. It feels like a pressure, a stress I am unable to escape. It’s there staring me in the face every time I see the clutter.

When we collect stuff, we don’t think about the stress that it causes or what we give up. Unless it is something you really love, each thing that fills up space is like a little weight on our mind. A lot of things add up to a lot of weight.

All that stuff also comes at a monetary cost. We pay large prices for our “living space” and then use it as “storage space”. Once that is filled we rent storage and fill that up. We spend time to pay for it, time to move it around, and time to clean it. The cost is high.

Clutter can be hidden for a while, but our habit to acquire things eventually forces it out into the open. The solution is simple and hard. Get rid of things we don’t need and no longer use. Stop buying things that aren’t necessary.

Simplicity and minimalism will be a big focus for me in 2020, and I am really looking forward to it. I’ve already started getting rid of things and am currently reading “Goodbye, Things”.

Wishing everyone a happy, and simple, 2020.