Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Discovering Empty Spaces

A new empty space in our house where once there stood a bookcase. 

There's a quote from the movie Field of Dreams which says "If you build it, he will come." In the movie the protagonist builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield and his deceased father magically appears.   There is a similar quote about minimalism which follows "If you build it, you will fill it."  And it is similarly magical as stuff just seemingly appears out of nowhere. This has been my discovery over the past week.  I, like many people, thought that if I just had the right shelves, boxes, hooks, what have you, my house would be organized.  Have you ever felt this way?  You are handed that get out of jail free card to shop even more in the pursuit of organization.  This idea avoids the difficult questions like why do we have so many belongings in the first place.  There is no blame or guilt about the mountains of possessions we own.  There is only promised enlightenment that the right organization system has yet to be found.

This feeling of getting the "right" system is why I believe stores like Ikea are so wildly popular.  Sure, they sell great design for low prices, but what they mainly sell you is a dream.  The dream that if you purchase their completely customizable storage system for your media, clothing, or home office you will finally achieve the happiness that only comes from having a truly organized home.  Of course it's complete hogwash.  The dream is so compelling though that we're pretty easily tricked into believing it.  We simply don't want to do the work of figuring out why we purchase so many things, feel we need so many things from the start.  I equate it to people who take anti-depressants without doing any counseling.  Sure the anti-depressants will help, but they are not an instant happy pill that make all your problems or issues go away.  I am speaking here from experience, there is no quick way.  You simply have to do the work.

While looking around my home as I slowly chip away at our belongings for items we no longer need, I realized the fallacy of this organizational dream.  I see the extra wall shelves I purchased for our bedroom that I was sure were essential to curtail our clutter are now cluttered with even more stuff.  The shelves in our living room that would keep our piano clear of belongings simply filled up while the clutter remained in place.  Our many belongings were the issue not our lack of storage space.  I was treating a symptom and not the real problem.  It's similar to when I was dissatisfied with how our living and dining room were decorated.  The walls really needed repainting, but instead of tackling this large project I thought maybe if I simply purchased some new curtains and throw pillows that would be enough to spruce things up.  Shopping was my quick fix.  Of course it didn't fix things for long as now we have even more things to manage, but it gave me a feeling of progress however false.  And, yes those walls still need repainting.

The wall shelves in our bedroom have now been removed along with everything that was cluttering up the tops of our dressers.  I take a deep breath and admire the empty space.  Now I have somewhere to fold clothes without hurting my back by hunching over a bed or getting dog hair over everything while sitting on the floor.  A new space is discovered.  By previously clearing out my wardrobe our closet can now house the laundry hamper that was wedged in the corner between our dressers and the wall.  More breathing space found.  Honestly, when I heard people talking about how having empty spaces allows you more breathing room I had no idea what they meant.  I knew I wanted less stuff, but I never realized the difference an empty space makes until I made some for myself.  There's still a long way to go to having an empty basement, but I am now encouraged by rediscovering these new, albeit small, empty spaces in our home.

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