There's a new notion floating around. Perhaps you've heard of it: Danshari. Its three kanji characters signify, respectively, refusal, disposal and separation. Prosaically it means cleaning or tidying up, but there are psychological and religious dimensions, deriving in part from yoga, which suggest the disposal of mental, along with physical, junk.

Books on the subject are best-sellers, and seminars about it are well attended. Evidently there's a need felt for liberation from the swelling detritus of an overproductive culture — an interesting counterpoint to the frantic calls for yet more production to brace the buckling economy.

Hideko Yamashita, a popular writer and speaker on danshari, boils it down for Spa! magazine to this stark question: What's more important, my life or my things? "Things" are not necessarily inimical to "life" — or are they, when they're not life-enhancing? Ask yourself this, she says: "Does my present self need my present possessions?" If not, why can't I ditch the possessions, all that stuff accumulated over years and still accumulating? What binds me to them? Is it that "things" have the upper hand over "life"?