13 ways to simplify your life with Japanese minimalism

Take back the time you never knew you'd lost.

Simplify your life a day of zen
Photo by Leo Manjarrez on Unsplash

Living a simple life means different things to different people. For some people, it may mean drastically altering every aspect of their lives, but for others, it may mean changing a few nonessential steps to straighten out their morning routine. I’m going to lean towards the latter of the two as it can be adapted for many different people and is a great way to dip your feet in the world of minimalism.

So, let’s dive right in.

Here are 13 small ideas you can try to simplify your life with Japanese minimalism and take back the time you never even knew you’d lost:


‘Tidy house, tidy mind’ A simple saying, and one we can use for all corners of our life! Declutter, purge, clean, and donate your way to less stuff. The less you have, the simpler and less stressful your days will be. The less you have to worry about your immediate surroundings, the more you can focus on what matters and increase your productivity exponentially. A tidier life is a simpler one. Simple!

When you’re scrolling down through this list and putting these ideas into practice, I want you to consider the following question: “Does this spark joy?” This is a question conceived by Japanese Tidying consultant Marie Kondo. This simple but powerful saying can really help you in those “I don’t know…” moments!

1. Your inbox

Okay so I might be on the extreme scale of this but when I started simplifying my life I have over 68,000 unopened emails. Yes, you’re right, it’s completely ridiculous but it’s also way easier done than you might think. Obviously, something like this is and was quite a daunting task so I needed some outside help. I would recommend cleanfox.io because as well as automatically cleaning your inbox it also tells you how much Co2 you’ve saved and plants trees!

2. Your phone

This means your apps, photos, and messages. Try to be ruthless because you probably don’t need that one app you’ve only used twice. This is a great mental affirmation for confirming that you have control over your technology, not the other way around.

3. Your computer

Start off with your personal computer, the one you use the most. This will include much of the same tasks as listed above like getting rid of software you don’t use, cleaning out your photos, and maybe even doing a fresh re-install. Then move on to any other computers you have whether they’re from work or the family desktop.

4. Your Bedroom

Tidy consultant Marie Kondo suggests tidying by category rather than by room, but to keep things as straightforward as possible we’ll start with the one room that should be as simple as possible and that’s your bedroom. I advise getting rid of any unessential electronics in the room, de-clutter your wardrobes and only keeping things that spark joy, and keeping things as minimal as possible to allow your bedroom to continue being the mindful place it should be.

5. Your house

Pretty much the same as above but with the rest of the house. Really try to understand the purpose of each room and stick to keeping it as close to that purpose as possible. For instance, if you have the space then it’ll be far more conducive to a simple life to work out of only a single room rather than in front of the tv or your bed. Your mind will begin associating different areas of your house with specific activities which will allow you to change your mindset more successfully.

I won’t lie, it’s going to take a long time to sort out your entire house but in the end, it will be worth it. It will simply allow all the tasks you do around your home to flow more easily and be more mentally conducive to a stress-free and productive lifestyle.

Organize and evaluate

6. Get a calendar (and use it!)

The less you have to remember, the more you can free up your mind and time with things more important. Getting a calendar will quite simply change the way you live and work forever.

But… you do actually have to use it.

It’s taken me many years to find a calendar that I get on with. I’ve tried offline calendars, inbuilt calendars, the google calendar, but none of them gripped me as Fantastical did.

I won’t go into it here, but Fantastical is the most beautifully designed and intuitive calendar for all my needs. I highly recommend checking it out!

7. Your time

Learn to evaluate your time and understand if it’s being used to its fullest potential.

Make a list of the top 5 most important things in your life at any one time and compare that to what your actual life looks like.

This will be especially easy to do if you’ve mapped out or time-blocked your activities on a calendar. If you see any discrepancies in your comparison, make a proactive effort to change it. See where the rest of your time is going and eliminate everything that doesn’t resonate with the life you want to lead.

8. Friends

Friends come and go at all periods in our life which is why it’s important to reflect on the people around us from time to time. Cut out toxic relationships as soon as you notice them, and make more time for the people that really matter to you.

9. Work

We all need to work to live, but sometimes there are better ways to go about it. If you’re working a job that you take home to your personal life every night, then you’re making things more difficult than they need to be. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of packing their bags and working however much they want and in any location they chose, but you should certainly explore your options.

Your goal here (If you want to simplify your life) is working to live. Making enough money to do the things you want to do, and being content and happy with it. That way you aren’t chasing that next bonus or promotion and can spend time doing the things you love with the people you care most about.

There is also another mid-way option. any way that you can learn some passive income ideas to start a side hustle for some extra cash?

10. Life

Take a broad look at your life as a whole.

Are there any areas where you can afford to cut down or restructure to make the best use of your time? Or is there maybe a specific part of your life that you want to devote more attention to but don’t know how?

Let’s use Marie Kondo’s method for tidying up for this one.

Take a piece of paper (I prefer paper to a computer as it’s more tactile and real, especially for an exercise like this) and split it into two columns.

The first will be titled ‘Joy’ and the next will be titled ‘No joy’

What I want you to do is write down any areas of your life that bring you joy. This could be time spent with your family, your hobbies, your current finances, your friendship group, the way the fridge is organized, etc. Literally, anything no matter how small or insignificant you think it is, write it down if it sparks joy.

Now do the same for areas that do not spark joy.

Once you have these two lists I want you to read through them in order and ask yourself why these parts of your life either do or do not give you joy and why that may be.

Now it’s time to take action with these results.

Maybe your friendship group does not bring you as much joy as it once did, and the way to fix that is to cut off any toxic friends that make your life less simple than it already is.

On the flip side, maybe spending time with your family brings you an immense amount of joy so you now need to find a way to incorporate even more of that each day.


Japanese minimalism
Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV from Pexels

We live in a world of constant information.

In some ways, this is a positive evolution of mankind with the ability to know any answer to any question almost immediately, but in other ways, it’s made us completely detached from the natural world

There is however a darker side to this.

This is something that can creep up on you without you becoming aware of it and can lead to addictions, anxieties, and worry. Three things that you really don’t need when you’re trying to cultivate a simple life…

11. News

Whilst it’s important to stay connected to the world and up to date with current events, you can very easily overload on news. This can affect you in a variety of ways including becoming mildly depressed to FOMO.

I would consider installing a singular news app and checking it only once a day. Time block it into your calendar if you have to. It’s very much the same as emails in the way that nothing is important enough to warrant checking more than once every twenty-four hours. It just doesn’t deserve your time as other things do.

Keep it simple. Install one news app, check it once a day at most, and close it.

12. Technology

This is a big one and something that lots of people could do with simplifying

It’s not uncommon for a person to have over 4 pieces of personal technology with 3 of them on their person at any one time.

We need to ask ourselves the question ‘Do we really need it?’

Who actually needs to be connected to the internet every moment of every day?

Whilst I do like the idea of a smartwatch, I don’t want to allow my time to be taken by it. I’m happy enough with a laptop and smartphone, so I would only consider an analog watch. The technology can wait until I decide I want to look at it, not the other way around.

13. Past and future thinking

I’m a dreamer. There are no two ways about it.

I LOVE thinking about how exciting my life could be in a few months or years’ time, but I imagine it so frequently and vividly that sometimes it takes precedence over the task at hand…

You might be like me, or you might be more inclined to stew over the past instead.

Either way, this needs to be limited.

Do your best to stay in the present moment for as long as possible and you’ll find your life becomes simpler for a whole host of reasons.

Do you simplify your life in any way that isn’t on the list? I’d love to hear it!

Jonny Gleason

Jonny is the founder of A Day of Zen and has an unhealthy obsession with Japan. In 2022 he moved to Japan on a mission to give his audience the best possible information. He's helped over 300,000 plan their trip so far, and is eager to make that number much bigger!

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