I spend some time every week thinking about refining my living space. I do this not because I'm hopelessly obsessive (well, maybe a little), but because I spend a lot of time in that space and it's important to feel comfortable in it and satisfied with it. I've traveled down a long and labor-intensive road to get it to a point that I'm largely, but not completely, happy with.
That being said, there are some things I'll never be really happy about that I have to accept because of the compromises I'm either forced to make or unwilling to consider. On the "forced" front is the small space situation and the lack of built-in storage. There's no getting around having a small place unless you're so wealthy that you don't mind tossing your money down the crapper for the sake of elegantly wasted space. I love a good barren minimalist landscape in a home as much as the next neurotic compulsive anal-retentive neat freak, but I'm not willing to work harder so I can throw money at having such a place.
The points which I'm unwilling to consider though not forced to accept are based on a lack of desire to sink money or materials into making things better. I have the money, but I'm not willing to replace something for aesthetics unless it is so painfully awful that it would embarrass me in front of open-minded people. When I say "open-minded", I mean people who don't think things that are worn-looking are "dirty" or unusable.
There's an obsession in Tokyo with replacing things that look old whether they have excellent utility or not and it's extremely wasteful. Tokyo has been my first experience with homes that last 25 or so years and get replaced. The concept of a disposable houses never occurred to me until I came here. I'm not sure if this is in line with an aesthetic which values what is new, novel and modern or simply related to keeping the construction industry going by having them use the cheapest materials so that places start to fall apart after a certain period of time. Honestly, I half expect the apartment building we currently live in to get replace in the next 10 years if the landlord can get permission to rebuild it with a third floor. I think this building is about 25 years old now.
Some people may not know it, but Japanese apartments get "gutted" between tenants. They strip out the walls, floors and often any installed cabinetry and plumbing. It's on a deeper level than what you tend to see in the U.S. where walls may be painted and carpets cleaned, but most of the fixtures are left in place. Since I've lived in the same place for so long, this stripping is long overdue for the cheap materials in it, but I'm not giving in to the urge to have the landlord replace things. He'd certainly do so if we asked.
My walls may be smog-stained and crumbly from humidity, but that makes them no less utilitarian. Also, let's face it, I can have the landlord strip the pathetic cheap covering from my walls and slap up pristine new ones but it's going to get covered in smog again in a year or less and humidity is going to make mold form behind cabinets during the first summer following the new installation. I know how much dust accumulates in my place and I'm unwilling to create piles of waste for the sake of temporarily "clean" walls. They are clean. I washed the damn things myself. They are just old and show it.
Still, I look around some times at the things that I hate like open shelving or the necessity of having part of the pantry on display because there simply is nowhere else to put things and think I should just give in to the urge to replace them with some sparkly new thing. I consider it a test of my ethics to not give in to superficial, materialistic urges such as these. If I'm going to say we shouldn't create unnecessary waste and live simple, frugal lives, I should damn well be prepared to live a life in tune with that.