New Year’s In The New Normal

Happy 2022 Everyone!

By Hilary Keyes
December 31, 2021
In Season, Lifestyle

How to sort out the last of 2021 to give 2022 a fresh start.

It’s nearly the end of 2021, the second year of the global pandemic, and (at the time of writing), Japan has just locked down over fears of the Omicron variant. I’m not going to sugarcoat things: these have been a rough two years. Things have looked up for a while, then been bad again, then okay-ish. Everyone needs to look out for themselves and their loved ones more than ever, which is why I’ve put together a few tips to help you wrap up 2021 and hopefully start 2022 on a positive, upward trend.

Loving Your Space

New Year's In The New Normal

Oosoji, or the big home clean-up done at the end of the year is meant to be cleansing in all ways. 

Oosoji is said to have started during the Heian period and was mainly done at the Imperial Palace to remove any dust or soot that had built up over the year (known in old Japanese as 煤掃き susuhaki). Over the centuries temples and shrines joined in, and by the Edo period it was a staple of the pre-New Year’s season.

Back in the Edo era, oosoji was completely on the 13th of December, but nowadays most companies and families tend to dedicate December 28th or 29th to the big clean-up instead. The main goal is to have absolutely everything done before the 31st.

For some, this is the only time in that year they’ll clean certain parts of their home (like my neighbors and their balcony), so making sure every surface is spic and span is key. That being said, there’s only so much scrubbing you can do when you live in a tiny Japanese apartment. 

New Year's In The New Normal

That’s where seiri (整理) or reorganizing, decluttering and otherwise downsizing whatever you don’t need comes into play. “Out with the old, in with the new” as the expression goes, this year more so than the last people have been getting rid of their old, unwanted but still useful items. According to several morning shows across Japanese cable, recycling your old goods is trendy now, and thrifting is in.

Old books, CDs, DVDs, video games, electronics, toys and housewares can go to places like Book Off, Hard Off and Hobby Off, and may even net you a small profit if they’re resellable. Old but in extremely good condition furniture, electronics, antiques, etc can go to places like Treasure Factory, which also takes brand goods (up to 5 years out of date), while old clothes in good shape can go to 2nd Street, GU or to H&M.

Once you have your space cleaned and cleared to suit your needs, why not try rearranging it a little? Even just moving a bookshelf from one wall to another can make a space feel new and after spending so many more hours at home these past two years, that change could be exactly what you need.

Relationship Care

New Year's In The New Normal

Corona-inspired break-ups and divorces, falling out with friends, ghosting people… It’s not been the best of times for human interactions. While every relationship is different, the main, most important aspect that will determine its overall success is how the parties involved communicate with one another. Or don’t, as is often the case.

With more people working from home or people, in general, being stuck indoors together for long periods of time, there’s bound to be a strain on even the most perfect of relationships.

That being said, it’s not a foregone conclusion that a relationship is going to fail because of the ongoing pandemic. Friendships can be maintained through online chats, virtual tours of places and generally making time to talk to one another, even if it’s a single message or meme sent a day. Making plans for the future (figurative ones, not booking tickets just yet) is also a fun way to bolster a friendship.

be understanding of one another

The same can be said for romantic couples as well, especially those who do not live together. Making plans, talking about things you’d like to do is a good way of keeping the spark alive. You can also go on outdoor, socially distanced dates too. Despite Japan having surprisingly low numbers at the moment, it’s still a good idea to be wary, after all.

The pandemic has changed relationships for cohabiting couples too. Couples of all ages, orientations and ethnicities have shared three key points that have helped them surmount the pandemic and its related issues thus far.

The first sounds like an obvious answer but it’s hard to remember: be understanding of one another. This is a new experience for everyone and people are trying to make it as best as they can–and sometimes that means miscommunications or flare-ups may happen. The key is to know the difference between someone having an off day and a red flag. If you aren’t sure what the difference between those two is, you may want to talk to a trusted friend or family member or have a look at some of these Ask Hilary articles.

Second, try something different together. Maybe play a video game you both liked in your childhood, order each other a book to read that you loved as a young adult, learn a new recipe, start growing a herb gardenfind an activity you’re both interested in and give it a shot. At worst you’ll discover this new thing doesn’t suit one or both of you but at the best, you might find something that you both love and are excited to experience as a couple. Trying something new doesn’t have to cost money eitheryou can use scrap paper or old flyers to start learning origami at home for example.

Trying something new doesn’t have to cost money

Third, remember to keep the romance alive. Being stuck working from home with someone shows you an entirely different side of said person. You could be married to someone who speaks in business jargon that drives you up the wall but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still the person you fell in love with.

More than a few people have said that learning to flirt with their partner again has really helped them both get through the pandemic. At the very least, remembering to be affectionate towards one another is key. Rubbing their back or bringing them a cup of tea, sounds like small gestures but it’s those small things that really add up over time.

Looking After You

Rescue Your Dry Winter Skin© Photo by iStock

Possibly one of the most important things on this list, taking care of yourself mentally and physically is a must in this day and age. Taking care of yourself physically can also improve your mental health, so it’s a win-win situation for you as a whole.

As it’s the winter and apparently going to be a really cold one at that, keeping yourself hydrated is really important. Running your heater or kotatsu is good but you need to keep moisture in the air to keep your hair and skin healthy as well. A humidifier is a useful tool for the winter months and one that can cost as little as ¥2000 if you bargain shop or check out those secondhand stores from earlier. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water too, as heaters can leave you feeling parched, especially if you sleep with one on overnight.

To get the most out of your winter body care routine, you may want to take a step approach. Dry flaky winter skin can be worsened by not exfoliating and moisturizing properly. Using the Japanese approach of a shower then soaking in the bath as a basis may help you to refresh and reduce the irritation of dry skin throughout the winter.

New Year's In The New Normal

Exfoliate/wash in the shower first, then soak in a tub with a bath product that includes moisturizing agents, then when your skin is still damp from the bath, apply your lotion. That’s all you need to do in order to help your skin feel at its best this winter.

To get the full Japanese experience of a bath, you might want to especially try this with yuzu. A yuzuyu or yuzu bath is a winter solstice tradition (December 21st, 2021), but can be enjoyed throughout the winter if you like. Just put a whole yuzu in your bath or put a cut one in a cheesecloth or linen bag in the water and hop in. Or if you can’t find a real yuzu, bath salts or powder are okay too. Yuzu baths not only smell fantastic but they are believed to prevent colds, treat rough skin as well as help you to fully relax those aching muscles.

New Year's In The New Normal

Plus baths are a great way of emotionally unwinding as well. Most people can’t take their phone into the bath with them unless they put it in a special case first, which means they’re not so-called doom-scrolling or staring at other people’s seemingly perfect lives on social media. In fact, a great number of people have taken to deleting their accounts on major social media sites strictly because viewing them is harmful to their mental health.

If you find that you feel numb or worse about yourself after being on social media, you may want to consider taking a break from it or quitting altogether. When you’re away from it though, you may find yourself struggling to cope or in need of new ways to fill the time. Don’t ignore how you feel, but don’t let it overwhelm you either. Acknowledge your feelings as being valid then take steps to help yourself–remembering that if you need help, you can always reach out for it.

New Year's In The New Normal

Watching your favorite movies or TV shows, binging comedies or ridiculously cute animal videos are all good ways of immediately uplifting your spirits. Sometimes laughing until you cry is the best thing you can do for yourself. Laughter has been shown to lower stress hormones, increase your HDL cholesterol levels and reduce tension among other positive benefits. It even helps to boost your immune system, which is an added bonus during a pandemic, right?

Just like with couples, sometimes starting a new hobby or habit can help you feel emotionally better as well. Start a diary, take up painting or do coloring books, learn calligraphyin fact, a friend took up calligraphy recently and has become proficient at writing swear words in kanji now.

If something sounds interesting but you’ve been hesitant to try it because you’re not sure you’ll be good at it, don’t worry about your skill level. Everyone was a beginner at one point in time and the only way to improve is by doing.

The most important thing to keep in mind through the end of the year is that, eventually, things will get better. It might take some time, but it will change. Just keep going. Have a Happy 2022 everyone!

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