Guest Post: Sandy Carter on Bonsai, Simplicity, and Joy

Marie Kondo writes of love, joy and the beauty of simplicity in a manner that inspired me to utilize her principles in a recent downsizing experience, which changed my life. For years, I have intuitively created space I felt appreciative of, but our recent move presented challenges we hadn’t faced before as we reduced our living space by seventy-five percent.

Bonsai Tree

Our house was filled with possessions we had collected over many years from travels; heirlooms passed onto us by family members and childhood mementos from our children’s growing up years. We felt attached to most everything, and knew what displayed beautifully in our present home would clutter our new space and over stimulate us and we had to make a huge change.


Using Ms. Kondo’s book as a reference, we let go of our things in layers over time and succeeded in choosing what we needed to accompany us as we opened a new life chapter. With her philosophy guiding us, we now live in beautiful and joyous space. The process was not easy, but well worth the effort.


My life has personally changed because I’m been more mindful of the choices I’m making. Surrounded only by things I love has helped me embody wellbeing in more depth. Another gift related to experiencing joy is co-writing a blog with Dave on the topic. Because of this, I’ve trained myself to be aware of joy’s presence again and again. As I’ve focused my attention, I’ve engaged with more subtle experiences of joy in others and myself.


One such joyous occasion occurred with a recent experience between my father and me. Dad told me he was going to buy himself a birthday present. I listened half amused and half curious, wondering what my 88-year-old father had in mind. My father is an example of graceful aging. He is continually appreciative of life’s blessings and surprises my siblings and me all the time, as he lives his life with zeal, seeking new opportunities to learn and grow. Unpredictable as ever, when Dad declared he was going to purchase a Bonsai Tree I was stunned, and asked him if I could go along. I had no idea Dad was interested in this ancient Chinese art form and thought sharing this experience with him would be worthwhile. An idea I am grateful I had, as there are times when I’m too caught up in my world to take advantage of such gifts.


Although the word Bonsai is Japanese, the practice originated in China. In 600 AD the Chinese started using special techniques to grow dwarf trees and they eventually became very valuable and were offered as luxurious gifts throughout China. Later, Japan adopted the Chinese tradition basing the art on Zen Buddhism influence and referred to the practice as Bonsai. Not long ago, the idea spread beyond Asian culture and into other countries. My Dad researched possibilities for a Bonsai Tree purchase in his area, and we headed to a retail establishment called the Bonsai House.


The Bonsai House is a small house transformed into a retail shop for the sale of Bonsai trees. The space is filled with hundreds of Bonsai trees of various shapes, sizes and varieties. A Chinese couple owns the business and the woman not only has a passion for Bonsai trees, but a vast knowledge regarding them. While Dad and I looked at the Bonsai’s, she educated us on the history, types and care of these ancient and beautiful trees. What we discovered is that Bonsai trees can live for several generations, and caring for them can be a deeply satisfying personal experience. Dad insisted we choose a tree together. Although, we did not speak of it in so many words, we knew the tree’s care could be passed onto me and possibly outlive both of us. We had no idea Bonsai shopping would bring us face to face with our mortality. This could have been a depressing thought, but instead it had the opposite effect as we decided on the tree that needed to go home with us.


After our purchase, we left to drive back to the retirement community. As my Dad and I sat side by side in the car we shared a joyous silence reveling in our good fortune of being together and sharing this experience. Later, we put into words what we’d both been feeling. We agreed, no matter what hardships have passed or what may come, having these precious times together brings us much joy and happiness!

Choose Joy

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