Saturday, June 26, 2010

Empty space

One of the basic organizing principles that I really enjoy sharing with my clients in the concept that just because a space is empty, a shelf, a drawer, a section of a room, what have you, it doesn't have to be filled. I've blogged about this before, and lately I've really come to believe that it's a fundamental thing to understand about the spaces we inhabit.

Remember when you moved into your apartment or house, and there was nothing there when you walked in the door the first time? Remember how good it felt to see the new space as an clean slate, with nothing but hope and possibilities for the future inside?

Why do we promptly take all that nice, empty space, and fill it chock full with furniture, books, electronic equipment, clothing, knick knacks and art? Well, we need some of it to live our lives, earn our livings, be comfortable. I like to lie on my couch and read a book. We need pots and pans to feed ourselves. We have to wear clothes. Paintings and photographs make us think and remember. But so often the sense of hope and possibility fades as we move layer upon layer of stuff into the space and is replaced with feelings of oppression and anxiety.

We can do something about it. We can have less stuff. We can even have less furniture. I'm not advocating that a pallet and basin of water is all you need or the best way to live. But what about saving some room in your rooms for just empty space? That space is a monument to the idea that things don't rule your life, you do.

If you think it's impossible, just get up right now and walk to your front door. Go outside and come back in. Pretend you've never been there before. What do you see that strikes you as out of place, useless, or just plain ugly? Why is there a broken printer in the corner of the living room? Why are there three copies of the same book on the bookshelf above the TV? These are easy things to let go of. Start with those, and then keep going.

Creative Commons photo posted to flickr by aforero
Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email 

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