6 ways to invite the Japanese spirit of mottainai into your home care routine

The Japanese word mottainai expresses regret over the wasted value of something not used or appreciated to its full potential. In Japanese culture, taking care not to waste things, even a single grain of rice in the bowl, is a way to show gratitude toward nature and each other and acknowledge our interdependence. The sentiment of mottainai can apply to opportunities or experiences as well as needlessly discarded material objects.

There are countless ways to bring your attention to the sense of mottainai as you care for your home. Here are some ideas to get you started. Eventually, mottainai can change the way you approach every aspect of your life.

1. Honor the value of your space

When you allow too many unnecessary items to clutter your home, your space cannot express its full potential to welcome and hold you and your loved ones. Decluttering may seem like an intimidating process, but you can start small. For example, you could designate a single counter or shelf as a clutter-free zone and practice keeping it as clear as possible.

2. Honor the value of your cleaning time

Cleaning should be much more than a chore to dread, rush through, and be done with. It would be mottainai to treat your cleaning time that way. Even if you don’t feel like cleaning at all—in fact, especially when you are busy, stressed, or exhausted—your home care routine is an opportunity to slow down and pay attention to your senses.

Scents are a powerful way to make the most of your cleaning time. They can be calming like lavender, invigorating like mint and tea tree, or simply fun and unique. Also, your sense of smell is strongly connected to your memory, allowing specific aromas to transport you to a place or season. Whether you return to a favorite scent each time you clean or mix it up, you can transform your home care routine into an enjoyable act of self-care.

3. Use up cleaning products completely

Discarding things prematurely is both mottainai and detrimental to the planet. Many Japanese people take pride in their frugality, and they have come up with plenty of clever ideas to use that last drop, scrap, or piece of just about anything.

For example, a piece of bar soap that has gotten too small to hold comfortably can still be used if pushed into a sponge with a cut on its side. You could also moisten and attach the scrap of soap to a new bar or use it to make a foaming kitchen cleaner. For the latter, simply microwave the soap on a microwave-safe dish for one minute to soften it. (Because microwave ovens vary in power, you may need to adjust the time. Watch for the soap to expand several times in size.) Mash the warm soap, add hot water to dissolve, and add about a teaspoon of baking soda. The result will be a creamy cleanser that can be used to scrub the bottom of pots and pans or cut through stubborn kitchen grease.

4. Take care of your belongings when you clean

Another way to avoid mottainai is to pay attention to how your cleaning habits and products affect your belongings and their lifespans. Harsh or inappropriate chemicals and tools can damage surfaces and textiles, either gradually or in a single unfortunate incident. To avoid this, take time to research products prior to purchase, read labels before use, and spot test.

It’s important to note that natural, safe, and gentle all mean different things. For example, vinegar, while often touted as a safe, natural cleaning all-star, can destroy wax, damage wood and stone, and compromise the protective coating on many electronics. Vinegar also happens to be ineffective against grease, egg, and many microbes, including the virus that causes COVID-19.

5. Make thoughtful, informed purchases

When you buy something that doesn’t suit your needs and preferences, you’re more likely to end up neglecting it or throwing it away without benefitting fully from it. Here are some factors to take into account when selecting home care products:

  •  Use: Check the intended use of the product and make sure it matches your needs. Note what types of surfaces are compatible and what results you can expect.
  •  Health: You and your family may be regularly exposed to ingredients in the cleaning products you use.  You can learn about safe and unsafe ingredients using consumer guides like those offered by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) at https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/.
  • Packaging: Are the package size and dispenser convenient?
  • Scent: If you need a fragrance-free product, make sure your selection is labeled as such. Otherwise, refer to descriptions as well as ingredients to find a product with a natural scent you think you’ll like. Consider purchasing smaller quantities while experimenting, particularly if you are sensitive to scents.

6. Try versatile products

You can save time and space and minimize waste by buying fewer products that serve more functions rather than a separate product for each need.

Castile soap is an excellent example of a multi-purpose cleanser. Safe and non-toxic, it can be diluted as needed and used to effectively cleanse hands, body, water-safe surfaces, dishes, floors, laundry, and even vehicles. Having a few bottles on hand can give you peace of mind that your cleaning needs are broadly met.


At haruhome, the spirit of mottainai is inseparable from our commitment to your satisfaction.  The care we put into our products is an expression of gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of your home and family. We aspire to be a company you can trust and recommend for consistent quality products that you and others will use and enjoy to the fullest.

We hope that mottainai inspires you and enriches your home and life as much as it does ours.

by Eri Pinto - August 27, 2020

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