Monthly Archives: December 2018

When does the foreign become familiar?

We’ve stayed in a residential hotel in Boston for the past week — visiting family and being on vacation — and it’s felt like home.  We’ve enjoyed “American” food, (is there really such a thing? We had Italian, Mexican, Canadian, and Diner, etc.) driving, laundry, and shopping in much the same way we would have in other American cities where we’ve actually lived in the past. I’ve appreciated the comfort and familiarity of it all.  I’ve visited this city before and I’ve always felt like a tourist until this visit.

We’re now heading back to our home in Japan where that sense of familiarity is still much more heavily tinted with the new and foreign — some of it excitingly foreign (produce!) and some of it painfully new (mail delivery?!). I wonder, as I embark on this year-long assignment how quickly I will adapt. When will this new foreign destination feel familiar?

I’ll keep you posted.

I Should be a Minimalist — in Japan

Part of my semi-minimalist journey has been to focus more on what I want out of life.  (I think this is one of the greatest benefits to the minimalist movement — the ability to really hone in on one’s actual desires, preferences, and passions.)  As I started to remove those belongings that had become burdens, I started to get a vision for a new adventure.

Why not?  Our children are now grown, my husband is a freelancer and my company is global.  Could we somehow manage to secure an assignment in a foreign country?  So that became our focus.  I made it known that I wanted to relocate and continued to do my best work.  The reward came in this year — with an assignment to Japan!

We are now settling into our new apartment and I’m reflecting on how my semi-minimalist journey has influenced and aided this journey:

  1. Housing here is smaller.  We eliminated 2/3rds of our belongings when we sold our four-bedroom house and moved into a two-bedroom apartment two years ago.  But that apartment was still almost 1400 sq ft.  Our new apartment is half that size — just 750 sq ft.
    • The bedrooms are tiny — no room for a dresser.
    • The living/dining/kitchen combo fits a couch and a small round dining table.
    • And the closets? Less than half the size of our last apartment.
    • Thankfully there are many built-in shoe closets (in Japan and shoes are not worn past the entry hall so many homes have built-ins for shoes in the entry hall).
  2. Artificial limits have prepared me for real limits.  Over the years, I’ve embraced the idea of establishing artificial space limitations on my stuff … kind of my definition of what is “enough” of any given thing.  (I’m not minimalist by nature, so this is how I help my rebel-self adhere to my internal expectations.)  This practice has helped me embrace the smaller spaces as a goal, not a restriction.
  3. Knowing what I love helped me determine what to bring.  Ever since the last downsizing, we had continually evaluated our stuff based on whether it would “make the cut” for an international move.  When the time came, we knew there were very few things we were bringing with us.  For the functional items, it became a question of whether to buy new or bring.  For this, we weighed the extra consumption against the extra fuel to ship items overseas.  Lighter items came (like towels) but heavier items (like dishes) we will buy in Japan.  (I love my Fiestaware, but the idea of paying to ship that to Japan and then back to the states makes me cringe — it’s so heavy.)