How to Ring in the New Year – Japanese Style

When living in Japan, one of my favorite end of year customs was “oosouji,” the “big cleaning” that takes place between mid-December and the New Year’s holiday. Rooted in Shinto concepts of purification and the belief that gods of fortune won’t visit dirty houses, it’s also practical: New Year’s is when the family gathers, and it’s better to welcome them somewhere clean, and to not have to take time from visiting with loved ones for chores. Schools, offices, and homes are cleaned top-to-bottom, and everyone is expected to get involved: students at school, bosses at work, and even children at home pitch in to care for their shared space.

The benefits of this are mental and physical. Many chores like cleaning curtains or gutters live in the back of our mind as vague irritations; we know we should do them, but unlike dishes or laundry, we rarely have to tackle them at a particular moment. An end-of-year cleaning puts the pressure on to get around to everything that’s been ignored, and you can leave the niggling thoughts of what you should be doing in the old year, coming into the new year with a clear mindset.

Tips for making the most of end-of-year cleaning:

  • Make a schedule to divide up larger chores rather than trying to tackle everything on one day or weekend.
  • Take advantage of holiday sales to replace things that are broken and stained.
  • Clean out your closets, and take unnecessary winter items in good condition to local homeless shelters and other charities. Coats and gloves are in demand in many locations.
  • Get creative with what counts as cleaning. Are you someone whose mail bubble has a frighteningly high number of unread messages? Getting to inbox zero is another form of clearing out what you don’t want to take into the new year. Going to be moving abroad in the next year? Get your paperwork sorted now, so all you have left is to look forward to the adventure.

Happy holidays, and happy cleaning!


Written by Kate Havas, Content Manager