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More turning to the bare essentials of life

By Pan Mengqi | China Daily | Updated: 2019-03-15 08:44

Worthy things

Zhou Yiyan, a fan of the book, was inspired by it and has capitalized on many middle-class Chinese consumers' desire for minimalism.

In 2015, she launched a public account on WeChat called the No. 1 Organizing Platform, with the aim of introducing consumers to Japanese home organization techniques and to onsite consultants operating in China. Just 18 months later, her account has more than 200,000 followers.

Zhou said Chinese clients who hire a well-regarded professional home organizer will likely have to pay about 1,500 yuan for a five-hour consultation. As it generally takes five to eight sessions to organize a home, the cost of making a house less cluttered can sometimes exceed 10,000 yuan.

"Uncluttering and minimizing are part of the process of getting organized," Zhou said. "The main process in professional organizing is to edit and re-edit in order to fill your space with only worthy things. By minimizing, people are eliminating the things they don't love to create space for those they do."

Zhou, who describes herself as a "uncluttering consultant", predicts that China will be swept by the trend to rid living areas of homes in first-tier cities of too many possessions.

"There are three main reasons behind this. First, housing prices in first-tier cities - vast metropolitan areas such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou (capital of Guangdong province) - are rising rapidly. At the same time, a growing consumer class is spending more and more on products that, frankly, are junk," she said.

However, some of these people have caught on to the fact that often the most expensive, attractive aspect of the home is the property itself, Zhou said. "This actually shows that the newfound interest in the Japanese principles of paring down one's belongings and revealing space has come at exactly the right time," she said.

"Second, although increased consumer power coupled with the convenience of online shopping has encouraged a multitude of material possessions, for some people this trend has reached saturation point." Against the rising tide of cheap furniture, TVs and domestic appliances, the notion of practicing minimalism proves highly seductive.

"Third, the deeper concepts behind home organization attract educated, middle-class Chinese who are uninspired by the blind materialism of the country's predominant consumer culture," Zhou said.

Even though minimalism has always advocated reduced consumption, the concept has helped spawn many new business opportunities in China.

Yang Zhihua, who set up a "training camp" for minimalism in 2015, recruited thousands of people in China to practice living with fewer items; Carrie Yu and Joe Harvey opened a store in Beijing called the Bulk House to promote maximizing the use of existing items and a zero-waste lifestyle; while Lin Xun started a company to help simplify people's social networking and to unclutter their "emotional waste".

Zhou said, "I think Marie Kondo should now set her sights on China as her next market."

She added that the trend toward minimalism is attracting attention worldwide - and, in China at least, is diversifying into new and interesting forms likely to prove lucrative to more business for a long time to come.

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