Friday, January 6, 2012


I was talking with my husband tonight about making our new home better over time, both with cleaning effort and low-cost updates. He told me about kaizen, which is Japanese for small and gradual improvement and that’s how their successful companies work.

I actually got very excited by this as it's how I live my life, and there’s a name for it. How often does that happen? I don't really go for high-cost, high-maiintenance but enjoy finding the d.i.y. low-cost, creative route.

Because we are focused on paying our home loan off in a much shorter time than the standard 25 years, we have decided to wait and see what improvements we want to do that require serious capital input.

We also practice this with our shop. I see other retail stores that spend big dollars on a fancy fitout (and make me feel like we should do the same) but within a few years have closed down.

Everything we do in our business we ask ‘how many pairs of shoes do we have to sell to pay for this, and is it worth it?’ Of course we have to be professional, but there are many, many ways to waste money I have found.

And we want our shop to be around for a long time. Being fiscally responsible is one way to ensure that as much as possible.

I often think imagine if you had a camera set up that took time-lapse photos of your home. It would show from the date you moved in how much better it looked month on month and year on year.

I’m sure ‘kaizen’ isn’t a better known term (or maybe you’ve already heard of it) because it’s not as exciting as the ‘big reveal’ of a makeover programme where everything is changed in an instant and everything is brand-new.

Just like a diet, slow and steady brings gradual and permanent change. As others have wisely noted in the comments section, our tastes change over time too, so if you redecorate your home all at once (obviously having just won the lottery), mightn’t you get sick of it soon?

As with personal style, I think it’s better to grow into your home look.

Click here and here for Wikipedia entries on Kaizen.


  1. I am familiar with Kaizen for business but hadn't thought about applying it this way. What a great idea.

  2. First time I'd heard of Kaizen Fiona. I agree with you though. Whenever I've rushed out and thrown money at a problem, I have seldom been totally happy with the results. Nowadays, I just sit back and force myself to wait until I'm sure it's going to be money well-spent.I shudder when I think of the money I've wasted in the past.

  3. What a hoot! I watch the news on TV maybe 4-5 times a year and last night I happened to catch a report on the local Nissan car manufacturer's successful year. They used the word kaizen, but I didn't really follow. I remember studying Continuous Quality Improvement when I was in Utah. Great in principle, but I already had a full time job... However, I totally agree that small, gradual changes are the way to go. Any fool can throw money at a 'problem', but as you say this isn't necessarily the best way to go. It's far more satisfying to be creative and low key about things...sort of like my indoor gardening project I just wrote about.

  4. Fascinating. I have never heard of this word but it's is very fitting for how you live and also makes a lot of good sense. It's satisfying finishing small projects one at a time. It makes you appreciate the result no matter how small.

  5. I'm an older person, and this theory sounds like an old one I've tried to live by...upgrade slowly, as you buy new replacements, for home or wardrobe.

  6. Hi Fiona. Yes have heard of Kaizen but related to marketing (is is the same?). I think it was started/developed by an Australian too ;-)
    I know when I have moved into properties, the things you wish at the beginning for your home always changes the longer you live there. Someone gave me advice when I bought my first home, which was to just live in the space and feel the energy before doing any big refurbishments. And it's true, my vision always changes. Enjoy the process and take your time.

  7. I had never heard of this term before, but I think it's divine. I had to stop reading a lot of home blogs because after being here over 2 years, our home is still quite like it was when we moved it, we've been making gradual changes, adding things we love rather than rushing to overspend to fill our home with things just because.

  8. Happy New Year Fiona.

    I have heard of kaizen and I whole heartedly agree not to rush into making big changes too soon. We were advised not to take on any major renovations until we had lived in our bungalow for a year. I am so happy that we heeded this advice.

    The light, the seasons, and the function and how you choose to use the rooms really dictate what you decide to do with the spaces.

    Janet at the gardener's cottage has been redecorating her friend's home and it is most impressive. I'd be interested to hear what she says on the subject.

    Love that sweet posy of pinks and chartreuse!

    Take care,

  9. I love learning new stuff---and I like that word, kaizen and its meaning. My whole "look" in my home has come about after years of finding just the right thing (usually used, antique, hand me down, etc). I have never gone out and bought an entire bedroom set or living room set, etc. I guess I am too eclectic for that.

    By applying your business sense to your home living, you will be just fine. Everything will come together in time--enjoy the ride. ~~Bliss

  10. I am very familiar with kaizan! My husband worked for a Japanese company for 17 years and kaizan was very beneficial to the company and the employees. If an employee saw a way to make an improvement they would fill out a form and investigate how much money the one small change could save the company. If approved the employee would be rewarded with a check for a percentage of the savings. Kaizan helped with the down payment on our first house, paid for many wonderful vacations, and allowed the peace of mind brought from having that "cushion" in the bank. Kaizan is the embodiment of small changes creating big more ways than one.

  11. Dear Fiona,

    There is magic in everything you write.
    It is more than just sharing how you choose to live your life.
    I noticed that every time after reading your post I feel emotionally uplifted/lighter, calmer, happier and more optimistic…
    I would like to learn how to maintain an authentic positive vibration.
    There is something that makes me very sad sometimes. It is relationship dynamic with my parents. They were too busy living their own lives when I was growing up with grandparents. Now when I am almost 37 they need more space in my life than I am available to offer. It takes me to very dark place emotionally and has a negative effect on my productivity.

    How to start over and be happy regardless of what past was like?
    How to protect yourself emotionally from relatives that make you sad?
    How to build healthy boundaries while still remaining polite?
    Thank you.

  12. Thank you for the Kaizen explanation, I need to do the same for our house. We've been in our house 2.5 years and it didn't need any changes until now....the upstairs rooms need a painting revamp and I want to find some room accessories. I love finding those unique items which no one else has but I know it's a good idea not to do everything all at once, however tempting that is!

  13. Hi Juhli, I'm sure I haven't got kaizen exactly correct the way I am applying it but who cares right? I can be 'inspired' by the kaizen idea.

    Sulky kitten, yes I've wasted plenty of money in the past (and probably future!) too. It's hard to see at the time and then we beat ourselves up about it :(

    Shelley, how funny you just saw a news article about kaizen. Your garden is lovely too. Good for you.

    Stephanie, you are the queen of kaizen around the house and my home-owning inspiration.

    Anonymous, perfect! Thanks for your comment.

    Vanessa, I think all kaizen is related. We definitely have changed our mind on some things in the two short months we have lived here. Imagine the perspective shift after two years or longer.

    Kate, many home blogs don't inspire me, they make me unhappy and dissatisfied. Everything is brand new and constantly upgraded, the mother stays at home with the kids and I wonder how they afford it all!

    Hostess, the posy is actually one stem of hydrangea. I have some in a tub with us at our new place to plant when we landscape. They are one of the nicest cut flowers I think. I even had one form the basis of my bridal bouquet.

    Morisot, thank you for your wonderful thoughts on kaizen. How fascinating to see how it applies to people one-on-one.

    Anonymous, thank you for your lovely words, and also for sharing your problem. I'm no expert on family matters and no therapist, but I will do my best to address your questions in a future post. I will publish it within January.

    LR, I spent some time at the Salvation Army thrift store yesterday and bought a side table for $10 which is going to be painted. It definitely is unique! When I go into expensive and fancy furniture stores to breathe in that lovely new fabric/wood smell I want to buy everything at once (with what, I don't know, but don't ruin the daydream). I've also bought many other lovely things from thrift stores over time and would thoroughly recommend it.

  14. Fiona,
    I am a little late to the party, but I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your words-whether about animals, home-life, your shop, your new home, kaizen...

    Thank you.

  15. I haven't heard of Kaizen, but it makes sense. Good habits, whether health or financial, are sustainable when they are methodically introduced instead of radically implemented.

  16. Great post Fiona!
    I haven't visited for a bit and I just wrote a post about Madame Chic this week too. Just saw yours on it today. Love that.

    I always enjoy reading your space and I added it to my blogroll.
    Happy New Year!


  17. First time I've heard this term and I love the concept! What a great idea. and I realize that is what we have been doing (inadvertently) with our home... small and gradual updates. In a way I am glad we didn't just redecorate as soon as we moved in because my taste has evolved and I am only now just realizing what I like. Great post Fiona xo


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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