The piles grow larger and larger the closer to the end of the year it gets. Mounds of burnable garbage, bundles of cardboard, stacks of old clothes bound with twine, old furniture broken down into pieces, sandwich bags full of old batteries—just about anything you can imagine, really, and the volume increases strikingly as December’s days run out and the new year approaches.
There is a customary end-of-year deep cleaning that, while not universal, seems to be an annual habit of many Japanese households. It is called Oo-souji, written 大掃除, with the 大 meaning big and 掃除 meaning cleaning. And while the term doesn’t actually indicate any particular time of year, late December is usual.1
From among the many reasons one might undertake deep cleaning at the end of the year, to me the most compelling is being able to start the new year fresh, with everything clean and all belongings in their place.
In years past, I haven’t been very good about it. I’ve never fully committed to it, though this year it’s an inescapable necessity. I have begun daily cleaning sessions, and am seeing some progress, but there is a long way to go. Two years of pandemic living and related depression have left my home in a less-than-ideal state of radical disorganization.
It isn’t fun to live that way and isn’t good for you, either. And I don’t know about you, but, especially as the plague at hand is still far from over, I’m ready for a fresh start in any and every way I can possibly manage, despite the circumstances.
For many of us, depression and clutter commonly overlap2 and feed into each other, multiplying the psychological burden overall. Cleaning serves to help us shed at least some of the accumulated physical and psychological burden. This is true regardless of the severity of either.
Sometimes you begin to feel better, and the clutter starts resolving, seemingly of its own accord. This is neither reliable nor predictable, though, so it’s important sometimes to attempt to address the mess proactively.
Of course, depression is thankfully far from a universal factor, and you may not have to deal with it. If not, be thankful. But in my own life, it is, and this is certainly a time for putting things in order.
In the coming weeks, the closets will be cleaned out, the stove hood wiped clean. The floors will be scrubbed and waxed, and every cluttered surface will be cleared. Excess potted plants will be given away, and a substantial amount of stuff that has been clogging up my life will be discarded.
I think we’re all hoping for a fresh start and a better new year. And for you part of preparing for that may be cleaning house. Or maybe it’s something else. Regardless, it’s time to get ready. Let’s make this next year as good as we can.
Related reading:O-souji: The Big Pre-New Year Cleaning Ritual in Japan on jpninfo.com ↩︎