Things to Get Rid of for a Fresh Start, Based on a Japanese Cleaning Practice

Out with the old, in with the new.

Photography: UNSPLASH/Dan Gold

The first quarter of the year is one of the best times to get rid of past stale energy, and what better way to get started than to let go of things that you don't anymore need. 

In Japan, there is a practice called oosouji, which literally means "big cleaning." Usually done shortly after Christmas, it's a way to remove old negativities and welcome good vibes. As you probably know, cleanliness and order is a huge part of Japanese culture: there's even such a thing as soujidou, which is "the way of cleaning."

"People can only truly change through action,” explained Japan Cleaning Association head Satoru Imamura in an interview with The Japan Times. “We believe the programming of a brain changes when someone takes positive action and moves their hands, mouth, and feet. [Soujidou] is a type of training that helps define you as a person.”

The logic is pretty simple—if you maintain a clean environment, your mind is also clear, and when your mind is clear, you can focus better and be more efficient. Moreover, less clutter also means less stress, which is  everyone's goal at the beginning of the year.


While there are certain rituals that govern actual oosouji that you probably won't do (cleaning clockwise from and back to the main door, and the like), you can still get a bit of inspiration to do your own deep cleaning not just at the start of the year, but anytime you need a spotless slate.

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Here are things you need dust, sweep, and wipe off your life for a total reset:

Dirt, grime, dust, and stains

Old stains are said to "remind you of the past in a negative way" so remove them if you can. If an item is far too stained and makes you crinkle your nose every time you look at it, consider replacing it with something new.

An oosouji tip is to clean everything from top to bottom. That means starting from your overhead lamps, going through cabinet shelves, and finally doing the floor. It does make sense, as you'll only have to clean the dirt and the dust that have accumulated on the ground at one go.  


Items that do not give you joy anymore

That broken mug, that laspag hand towel, or even that love letter from your ex—they're all disposable if you want them to be, and it's not even a heartless concept if you understand that they've all served their purpose.

This is basically what Marie Kondo's KonMari method espouses: any item that you feel doesn't "spark joy" should be removed from your home. Remember that you're not just cleaning up; you're trying to be better. As she writes in her blog, "The tidying process is not about decluttering your house or making it look neat on the spur of the moment for visitors. You are about to tidy up in a way that will spark joy in your life and change it forever."

Items that you know will give others joy

Items that don't give you joy but are still very much usable need not be chucked in the can. Collect everything in a box and donate them. You can also opt to sell them, but unless you know that you'll be able to move them fast, you'll just end up keeping them in a box somewhere and they become less usable as time goes by.


Give away pre-loved items when you know someone out there can still make the most out of them.

Negative and destructive habits

You can also go oosouji on yourself. Start practicing self-awareness (you can try journaling to help you with it), and list down which habits are actually making you unhappy. While changing oneself is a long and ardous process, making the decision to do so is a huge leap towards the right direction.


Negative and destructive people

There are probably people in your life who, at times, causes you to seriously ask "Why are we even friends?" Those aren't empty questions. There must be deep, valid reasons why you're unsure about your relationship with them, and if your circle doesn't make you comfortable enough to be fully yourself or worse, makes you feel unhappy, then you may want to slowly wean yourself from them.

It's okay to let go of friendships that you know aren't working anymore—people change and eventually walk their paths separately. Learn to acknowledge that reality, as well as yourself and what you feel, and you'll find a tribe that can match you and the life you choose for yourself.

TIP: Want something more symbolic? Clean up your friends lists in all your social media accounts. Trust us, you'll feel so much lighter after.


At the end of the day, you want to say that you have no regrets, but the truth is there will always be a few things in your life that you wish you did differently. It's fine. It's normal. While these memories may not "spark joy," they can actually help you create happier experiences moving forward; that is, if you're willing to leave the negativity behind. The key to rebooting your life is to actually focus on joy, and letting go the heaviness that ties you to the past is a good way to start.


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*Minor edits have been made by editors

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