The Luxury of Empty Space

I’ve started decluttering again.

I know, right? It’s like I do it all the time now. And I have to say, it does get kind of addictive. Especially once you’ve slowed down the inward flow of crap.

My latest aim is to get rid of a set of drawers in our bedroom. They’re really kind of cool, vintage metal office furniture. A bit rusty. And a haven for all kinds of unnecessary things. Plus, once they’re gone, I will have quite the sweep of space for doing yoga at home.

I think what I’m really enjoying about this is the opening up of unfettered space in my house. It’s really a minor shift in thinking, but it changes my whole approach.

When Alan and I were newlyweds, we bought our first house. It was modest, but still bigger than we needed. And we thought we were supposed to use every inch of it and fill it with furniture. So we did. Furniture and accessories and hobby supplies…

It’s the way most people round here do it. We buy the biggest house we can afford, feel weird about the empty spaces, fill them and then start to feel claustrophobic. So we move to bigger digs. Which, because we’ve gotten used to the clutter, we feel weird about and so repeat the process.

It gets expensive and stressful and time-consuming. And it’s not actually necessary. Wide open spaces are right under our noses. They’re just buried in extra furniture, kitchen equipment and more clothes than we will ever wear.

As I uncover more bits of emptiness in my home, my heart feels lighter and my life gets easier.

We really let the place fall to pieces over the last couple of weeks. We took a staycation and refused to spend any of it cleaning. So when we invited a friend round for dinner, I started to panic a bit because the whole place needed cleaning and we didn’t want her to see how we really live. It took about an hour. Luxury.

In this process, I notice strange bits of resistance. In myself and in friends who see what I’m doing, want to do the same, but think they can’t because…

Because that’s not how we’re supposed to live. Because we’re afraid of what others will think of us. That even though we may not particularly like the way the Jones’s live, we still have to keep up with them. That we will miss the crap we’re getting rid of.

I have an answer for that last one, at least. A new way of looking at it, anyway. Instead of “what if I miss this thing I’m giving up?” I’m going to start asking “what if I miss the space it’s taking up?”. I mean I know I’d really miss my yoga corner if it got filled in with something. There’s room there for two people to lie side by side in the ‘legs up the wall’ pose. Which freaks the dog out a little. So he comes over to sniff our heads. Which makes me giggle. And then I give him a standing belly rub…

There’s no way I value a set of metal drawers more than that moment.

We don’t have room for spontaneous dancing in our living room and we do make regular use of all the seating that’s there. But I’m sure there are ways we could make more space in here.

And, of course, realizing that less stuff means less cleaning, which opens up space in my schedule makes me wonder what else I could off-load from there. Right now I’m just in the questioning and considering phase. I ask of my commitments, “do you add as much value as the time you take up in my life? More?” Right now they seem to. But just as a treasured set of drawers can lose its appeal over time, the commitments that fill me up today may not do so next year.

There are already open spaces on my calendar and I feel rich beyond compare when I see them. And, just as I can feel a bit weird about the open spaces in my home, I can feel like I’m not doing enough with my time. Because too busy and completely stressed out is what we believe we should strive for and just busy enough equates, according to the voices in my head, at least, to lazy.

But maybe, as I get used to the empty spaces in my house, I’ll grow more comfortable with the empty spaces in my calendar. I think it’s worth a try, anyway.

How about you? Have you added some space to your life lately? Are you thinking of giving it a try?

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