Your chance to break free of the chains of clut­ter

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By LIU JIE

The Chi­nese are con­sid­ered masters of stor­age. From odds and ends of sewing to used elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances, from pri­mary school and uni­ver­sity text­books, to New Year greet­ings cards— we do love to col­lect and then ef­fi­ciently squir­rel away ev­ery­thing re­lated to our lives.

Day af­ter day, year af­ter year, we have ex­pended huge amounts of en­ergy to make sure our pos­ses­sions are kept in per­fect or­der.

Many have be­come slaves to col­lect­ing, stor­ing and ar­rang­ing, avoid­ing throw­ing out any­thing at all costs.

But a new­gen­er­a­tion of con­sumers could be mov­ing away from this tra­di­tional at­ti­tude to­ward hoard­ing and pos­ses­sions.

They be­lieve less is more, and they have adopted a Ja­panese book as their mantra:

This de­clut­ter­ing man­i­festo not only teaches peo­ple to cast off un­wanted or un­needed pos­ses­sions, but also guides them on how to buy only things they re­ally love, no mat­ter the cost.

TheNewYork Times 2014 best­seller, writ­ten by Ja­panese tidy­ing gu­ruMarie Kondo, has been trans­lated into Chi­nese and has been sell­ing like moon­cakes.

A cur­rent gov­ern­ment pri­or­ity in China is to en­cour­age con­sumer spend­ing, to stim­u­late eco­nomic growth.

Busi­nesses are de­vel­op­ing and designing new­prod­ucts cater­ing to spe­cific do­mes­tic con­sumers. Dis­pos­able in­comes are in­creas­ing to keep up with de­mand.

It has be­come nat­u­ral to en­joy the abil­ity to have more phys­i­cal pos­ses­sions, of­ten far be­yond our needs.

Dur­ing the first three months of this year, re­tail sales of con­sumer goods reached 7.07 tril­lion yuan ($1.14 tril­lion), a year-on-year growth of 10.8 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Bureau of Statis­tics.

Be­tween 2006 and 2014, the av­er­age an­nual growth in re­tail sales re­mained above 14 per­cent an­nu­ally, and even higher in key cities such as Bei­jing, Shang­hai, Guangzhou and Shen­zhen.

How­ever, many have now started to ques­tion: “Are allmy pos­ses­sions nec­es­sary? Are we wast­ing nat­u­ral re­sources? Do more pos­ses­sions re­ally bring us more hap­pi­ness?”

This Chi­nese ob­ses­sion with stor­age is deep rooted. It’s based on the think­ing that “one day this will be needed”.

If we thre­w­away some­thing old and used, we were of­ten wracked with guilt.

But just imag­ine life, free of such angst.

If we find an um­brella, which has been stowed away for 20 years, de­spite its bro­ken han­dle— imag­ine not hav­ing to won­der whether we will ever use it again.

De­clut­ter­ing of un­needed pos­ses­sions is the so­lu­tion, sug­gests Kondo.

A life not only sim­pler, but one in which we can gen­uinely ap­pre­ci­ate the beauty of some of the things we own, if only be­cause we don’t have so many of them.

And there are im­pli­ca­tions for busi­ness.

This new at­ti­tude could en­cour­age com­pa­nies to gen­uinely con­sider a stricter set of ques­tions on which mar­ket­ing and pro­duc­tion de­ci­sions could be based. Ques­tions which bet­ter suit the chang­ing tastes of the mod­ern con­sumer.

• Is it green? They could fa­vor en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly prod­ucts, from food to clothes, from house ap­pli­ances to cars. Or­ganic food and hy­brid au­to­mo­biles would surely be­come the most popular items.

• Could it be con­sid­ered vin­tage? The ma­jor­ity of con­sumers to­day are into age-old style, com­bined with mod­ern qual­ity. They cher­ish nat­u­ral re­sources and love items made in the tra­di­tional way. Vin­tage mar­kets, sec­ond-hand stores and folk items are of­ten their fa­vorites, even though most items on dis­play are lowly priced.

• Is it niche? Mass brands are los­ing fa­vor with this new group of con­sumers, be­cause they yearn for in­di­vid­u­al­ism, prod­ucts which show off their own char­ac­ter­is­tics and per­son­al­i­ties. Mod­ern buy­ers fa­vor niche brands, cre­ative de­signs, of­ten tai­lored to suit the in­di­vid­ual. For ex­am­ple, home dec­o­ra­tions which have the au­then­tic look, but which might ac­tu­ally be new and ex­pen­sively priced.

It’s time for us to em­brace this newway of life, and be­come the masters of our pos­ses­sions, not the slaves of them. Con­tact the writer at li­u­jie@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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