Kazuko opens the doors to the utility shed next to her home and pulls out a clear garbage bag. It's stuffed with random plastic waste like wrappers, empty tofu containers and grocery bags. All of the items are conscientiously rinsed, dried and stored.

It's recyclable garbage day on Shiraishi Island and my next-door neighbor is doing what she has done every third Tuesday morning of the month since I've known her.

Waste paper has been folded neatly and arranged horizontally inside an already-bulging oblong paper shopping bag. Another smaller bag holds stacks of Styrofoam trays, the kind that meat and fish are sold on. Also at the ready are neat bundles of throw-away clothing tied up with the kind of plastic packing tape deemed most appropriate for binding fabric, as well as newspapers and magazines. She's so skilled at parting with stuff, she'd make Marie Kondo proud, although when I ask Kazuko, she says she's never heard of the organizing guru.