Got blank space?
I know how one of my teens would respond to that question, and if you do, too, then you’re welcome for the earworm.
But the kind of blank space I’m thinking about today is related to the basement flooding this past weekend and the fact that we are currently living with the charming white noise of 10 huge fans and two industrial strength dehumidifiers vibrating under our feet.
I could have gone abroad last summer, either to China with my husband and son or to Europe with my daughter, but hey—how fortunate is it that instead I stayed home and decluttered the entire house and decided that it would be a good idea to put all those cardboard boxes of childhood books and memorabilia in the basement up on the plastic bins? [Pats self on back.]
Being fairly unattached to “stuff,” the decluttering was very gratifying for me, and of course the fact that nobody was there to pull faces certainly helped. No, really, if we’ve moved those two by fours from Colorado to Chicago to LA to Ann Arbor, I promise you are not likely to need them in the foreseeable future….
Even more satisfying, though, was the sense of space, the “unbearable lightness of being” that arose from the purge. Compared to most families I know, we “travel” fairly light—moving five times in 10 years will do that—but seven years in one place had turned what was almost an embarrassment of closet space into, well, a lived-in feel.
The concept of white space is important in art and design, and on a more spiritual plane plays a vital role in Taoism and Zen Buddhism. In terms of the house, removing the clutter and creating some “margin” really brought into focus what really is important and what can (and should) have been released.
It turns out that “mental blank space” is vital to our physical and emotional well-being as well.
Have you noticed recently how often the reply to “How are you?” is “I’m sooo busy!!!” and to “How much sleep do you get?” is “Never enough?” It seems as though there are no other answers, particularly if you ask women who work full time and have family obligations (spouse, children, older parents, siblings with special needs, etc.) in addition to their career. We have a to-do list a mile long, we start it way before anyone’s up and keep at it long after everyone else is in bed…and it still doesn’t get done.
Call it burnout, chronic fatigue, adrenal insufficiency, or anything else: the truth is we are overcommitted, overscheduled, and overtired. And more often than not, there comes a day when after handling it all, absorbing it all, and feeling that we’re-managing-our-stress-just-fine-thanks, we find ourselves pulled over by the side of the interstate in the middle of a panic attack and actually entertaining the idea that maybe, just maybe, we could pull back into traffic and…keep driving, just disappear. Because we just. can’t. do. it. any. more. Nope. not. even. one. more. day.
I’m a podcast junkie, and one of my recent finds has been “Not Your Mother’s Menopause.” (Yup, I did just say that word.) If anything I’ve said in this post resonates with you, listen to episode #38. In it, Dr. Lovely makes a statement that I love: if she asks a patient how she handles stress and the answer is “just fine,” then she knows that her patient has “accepted the intensity of activity in her life and all that comes with that for so long that she believes that to be normal….”
But “normal,” in this case, should really be “common.” Stress has its upsides, but chronic stress is not normal.
How in the world does one get out of a chronically stressful life (other than emptying the-bank-account-that-is-never-full-enough and disappearing down the road)?
Well, says Dr. Lovely as if it’s simple, by immediately removing 25% of what is on your plate. Even better—50%!
Right, well you can’t get through the basics on your list, much less take time to declutter and to take better care of yourself, so that will never happen. Or will it?
If you are the one breathing into a paper bag and contemplating (or actively planning) your exit strategy or if you’re starting to feel that you are headed in that direction, I invite you to join me and Holly Southerland of the Traveling Organizer for the month of March, which we are re-christening the Month of Margin.
On three Sunday afternoons in March, we’ll explore the value of margin in your home and to your health. You’ll put together a personalized toolkit of strategies for decluttering, organizing, and maintaining the white space in your house and in your mind so that you can start thriving instead of just surviving.
The sessions will build on each other, so we encourage you to attend all three—and if you do, you’ll be entered in a raffle to win a fun prize, which includes:
- A 2-hour pantry makeover blitz in your home for you + 5 girlfriends
- A 1:1 integrative health consultation
- A copy of Fl!p Your K!tchen, which will help you stock your new and improved pantry with whole foods you can use to cook from scratch on a regular basis
Questions? Feel free to reach out to me or to firstname.lastname@example.org.