Wabi-sabi is described as an aesthetic that appreciates beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete” in nature. It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence, specifically impermanence, suffering, and emptiness or absence of self-nature.
After watching videos about wabi-sabi and exploring the different ways interior designers implemented its ideas on their designs, a few things spoke to me:
There is beauty in the imperfect. I have this earthenware plate set I am obsessed with and one day, I accidentally chipped one of the plates. I was very upset that it was no longer perfect and not worth serving to guests lest they think I’m inattentive to detail. There is also a voice in my head reminding me of my cultural imperative to throw it away as it was a bad omen to keep broken glassware or earthenware. I settled on using it as a plant tray.
I also used to harbor anxiety over the mismatchiness of my home decor as it can be a challenge combining masculine and feminine presence in the home while keeping both represented. Currently I am trying to make peace with a neon blue lava lamp in my mostly neutral (boring beige) traditional home. I keep reminding myself that I don’t live in an Architectural Digest universe and that is all well and good.
There is no need to purchase art/decor that hold no meaning for me. I used to anticipate the latest releases of collections by my favorite commercial brands (Studio McGee, Magnolia Home, etc.). Although I still find their pieces reminiscent of home and comfort, I find that I was only purchasing these items to keep up with the trends. None of these items held actual meaning to me and my family. Now my living room is adorned with my favorite books as coffee table books, baskets I painstakingly crocheted, vases crafted by an artist in the family, and dried flowers from an event I have good memories about. I understand this goes against the wabi-sabi philosophy of not injecting one’s nature into spaces, but doing this felt right.
Home projects will be done when they get done. One thing we have forgotten about keeping a home is that we are not professional influencers whose job is to curate perfectly manicured homes 24/7. There is such a thing as a budget in terms of both time and finances. Home projects are a recurring theme in my home life as I love doing them: from the conception to designing to executing. I grew up doing home projects with my father and am blessed to find an equally handy life partner with a construction background. It’s a family hobby, and if we get all the home projects done ASAP, what else is there left to do?
Nothing is permanent. Looking back at the home projects we have completed, it is clear that our home changes as we change. The furniture or decor I thought were going to be mainstays ended up donated to others. Nothing is permanent and that is okay. While I do take great care of the objects in my home, it’s not the end of the world if things get soiled/ broken. This relieves a great deal of stress in keeping a home: the idea that one day these things will be gone. And I should use my home as a vehicle for creating memories with my friends and family. Although one day, those memories too will be gone. And that is okay.
Overall, the concept of wabi-sabi lifted a great deal of stress off my shoulders. From keeping a home to my perspective of life, it has opened up a new way of thinking that is unencumbered by the expectations I put on myself. It has allowed me to realize that the most important things in life are not things: they are people, the people I choose to share life with and make memories with. The people who will carry my memories after I am gone and whose memories others will carry after they are long gone. We will all be gone one day and that is okay. In the meanwhile, we do our best to spread love and kindness so that our time here is well passed.
This we manifest.