Kanso: A Japanese Living Practice
& Celebration in Simplicity

By: Kealia Reynolds
Photo by Karolina Szczur

Here’s what kanso is not. It’s not entirely wabi-sabi: the embrace of the imperfect and incomplete, perhaps just a bit of clutter, little care for arrangement. But it is part of an ancient set of ideas that concern wabi (transient and stark beauty) and sabi (the beauty of nature and aging). It’s not entirely feng shui, either: balanced rooms, plant-less homes, and carefully furniture (because somehow centering your bed in the middle of the room allows for good energy). But it is a practice that leaves your home as clutter-free as possible.

Kanso is simplicity. A concept derived from Zen philosophy that reinforces simple beauty, like that of a rock garden or a bold, chaise lounge. A minimalist approach, if you will, not only to interior design, but to the way you live your life. It’s the appreciation of wear and tear and not throwing something away only because it’s old. Applying kanso to your home and lifestyle allows you to appreciate the lifetime of things and to be in the moment. With kanso, acknowledging the beauty of your life should be a priority.

Photo by Nathan Pirkle

Applying kanso to your home

Kanso is about stripping your house down to the bare minimum, so that means getting rid of extraneous items, like those 17 souvenir coffee mugs (though we suggest keeping at least one). Anything that is not absolutely necessary should be omitted from the space, but bare essentials should be kept: a bed, table, or chair. Think about it this way: what actually provides function?

With kanso, it’s important to recognize that beauty and utility don’t have to be overstated or highly decorative—just plain and uncomplicated—which is why those who follow this concept keep only what’s absolutely necessary.

The result is a space that’s calm, clear, and clutter-free. The satisfying gratification of quietness and simplicity. An awakening of the mind. Kanso is a rising trend amongst the dedicated organizers, functionalists, design mavericks, and so many more.

Kanso gives us a peaceful break and allows us to not worry about how our space looks. Rather, it allows us to relax and enjoy our surroundings, despite the lack of things.

So, for those in desperate need of inner peace or a wellness boost, or for those who just want to get rid of all the junk that’s accumulated in their homes over the years, approach kanso with a sense of thankfulness and gratitude. Because we’re convinced that this functionalist trend is worth it. Minimalism, meet your match.


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