With the arrival of spring, thoughts turn to spring cleanup.
As we ponder the prospects of a much-needed spring cleanup, it might be reassuring to know that we are not alone in our efforts to rid our surroundings of clutter.
The weekly "be between" column in the Asahi Shimbun's Saturday B section (March 30) asked participants in its online survey, "Katazuke wa nigate desu ka?" (Is it hard for you to put things in order?)
Out of 2,937 valid responses, 69% of respondents admitted that it was, with 24% agreeing unequivocally and another 45% saying that it was, at least to some degree. And while 26% said they had some confidence in their ability to bring order to chaos, only 5% claimed it was their "toku-i" (specialty).
The biggest factor in the negative replies was simply that people couldn't force themselves to throw things away -- so cited by 1,153 respondents. Next was the 574 who gave laziness as the reason, and 454 who said they had too many possessions. Other reasons included, "don't know how to organize things" (427); "don't have enough storage space" (397); "can't find the time for cleaning up" (272); "clutter doesn't bother me" (240); "I just forget to clean up" (112); and "just thinking about dealing with the mess is enough to boggle my mind" (80).
When the participants were asked to name two items from a list of articles they found most difficult to part with, apparel and accessories came out on top, so cited by 1,100 respondents. That was followed by office supplies and related items (named by 925); books and compact discs (704); newspapers and magazines (388); things in the refrigerator (197); things in the "getabako" (shoe closet in the alcove) (121); trash and the task of separating various items into combustibles, etc (111); and things they carry around in their wallet (56).
Among those who said making things neater was their specialty, the most common reply, given by 437 people, was that it made them "feel good" to put things in order. Another 432 said they made it a point to put things in their proper place right after using them. Other replies included deciding where things will be put (344); take pleasure in cleaning up and putting things in order (206); good at getting rid of things (187) and knowing the right techniques for getting organized (151).
"I can understand the feelings of people who live in 'gomi yashiki' (houses filled with, and in some cases surrounded by, clutter)," wrote a Tokushima man in his 70s. "If not wasting things is a virtue, then it stands to reason that not throwing things away is a virtue as well."
But a 49-year-old woman in Kyoto remarked, "Objects also have a lifespan, and we should treat them with importance. When you recognize that importance, then cleaning things up becomes an ingrained habit."
In a sidebar, Mayumi Takahara, director of the Japan Life Organizer Association is quoted as saying that it's natural for people to fear uncomfortable over losing their own possessions.
"The more we think that we must throw things away, the more our minds seem to search for reasons not to do it, she says, adding, "When it gets to the point that the mess starts to interfere with daily living, then cleaning up becomes a means of reducing stress.
"So at whatever level the inhabitants of a home aren't made to feel stress, that home can be regarded as being 'organized.'"© Japan Today