In Japan, an Anti-Decluttering House

The entrance way to House in Miyamotocho, a home in Osaka that embraces clutter

Marie Kondo (or Konmari, if you prefer) and her decluttering empire has taken the West by storm. And it’s given Japan an image of ultra-minimalism where people live a simple lifestyle, free of all the material possessions that have plagued Western homes. This is far from the truth and anyone who has visited an ordinary Japanese home (not one of those modernist homes featured in all the architecture blogs) knows it. People in Japan have stuff. Lots and lots of stuff.

A family of three in Osaka came to architect Yo Shimada with some very specific requests. First, they had many, many belongings. And they weren’t looking for innovative storage solutions where they could tuck it all away. Quite the opposite, in fact. And they also wanted their home to function as a single room, but with the flexibility of having different spaces. And so Shimada, of Tato Architects, proposed a series of elevated platforms – 13 platforms to be exact – interspersed throughout the home. “The floors build up as two spiral shapes, joins at the living room, and then separate into two again before arriving at the rooftop deck,” explains the architect.

The “House in Miyamotocho” was completed last year and, upon completion, the owners, who have lived in the neighborhood for years, slowly began filling it with all their stuff. Finally people may be embracing the mantra that it’s not hoarding if your shit is awesome.

12 Comments

  1. This is my favorite ever post on a design blog. I’m going to have somebody carve “it’s not hoarding if your shit is awesome” on my gravestone.

  2. This is one of my favourites! Lovely stuff.

  3. It’s incredible how utilitarian and plain the home is from the outside and yet how interesting the space is (even empty!) indoors. So much light and movement.

    I do love your quote “it’s not hoarding if your shit is awesome”! But as someone who works hard (and struggles) to limit my displayable cool shit, I can only think here: DUSTING! I got so tired of dusting and dust.

    • Yep. There it is. Display all your awesome shit everywhere. And spend hours/days keeping it all clean. Or else just live in a dust magnet. Trust me. I’ve got awesome shit, too. But if it’s all lost in the scrum, when/if you do finally isolate a single bit to admire or use, it’s a dusty, cobwebby mess unless you’ve spent those hours/days keeping ahead of the dust/cobwebs. The final solution I arrived at? Same as most do. Keep my awesome shit, but have good storage and rotate my awesome shit as desired. Works for me. And it’s like going shopping every time I look to change things out, only it costs nothing. Yay.

      • You forgot the sunlight! Nothing (apart from water) ruins awesome shit more than sunlight! this family’s awesome shit will get ruined in matter of weeks.

  4. Absolutely love this post! Our family home is not anywhere near that minimalist look, we are collectors of awesome things that needs to be displayed. Great to see examples of homes like that 🙂

  5. That’s gonna be my new mantra. 🙂

  6. Paul and Karen Rennie

    March 18, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    So pleased to hear this – stuff is all about ‘feeling’ and stories of life.
    Agreed, dust is a bit annoying, especially if you have cats too.
    See Quentin Crisp on this subject.
    Collecting and curating is what we do.

  7. Love the design and execution. Hate calling treasured items or even just mundane ones, not to mention a million other things, “shit.” Tacky, crude, and total lack of imagination.

  8. The house is amazing. Outside, it looks like a “normal house”.

    But inside – wonderful.

    The page of the architects

    http://tat-o.com/projects/3230/

    The “empty house” versus the “house with a lot of stuff”.

  9. Lovely!….but it bothers me that Marie Kondo seems to get a lot of criticism, and to me it’s misdirected. As I understand it, this article reflects her way of thinking…KEEP anything that makes you happy…’sparks joy’ ….and look after it, put it on display or put it in order. (and I agree with Joan….’sh***t’ is a horrible word. Don’t use it!)

  10. I hope there is some glass that I’m not seeing, because I sometimes drop my awesome shit on the floor and some floors make it break quickly, and this house seems to make it worse. At least then you have less of it.. which is sad, but yay, space?

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