Have you ever noticed that the prettiest/most popular instagram accounts are very light in color? They have a lot of white space. And in fact, the photos themselves are quite simple - just one or two objects, framed with emptiness. Oftentimes they’re even a photo of someone’s home, which is quite sparse and lightly-colored itself.
Our eyes are not drawn to the dark, cluttered, or heavy photos. Much like why the country feels more relaxing than the city, we are naturally drawn to light and space. SPACE. If you’re a city-dweller like me, you know just how valuable this space is, and yet how hard it is to come by.
I’ve always strived for space. In my former life I had a 2-bedroom condo in Boulder, CO - a very spacious place indeed. I considered myself pretty minimalist, but when it came time to move out I realized I had a lot of STUFF, I was just really good at organizing it. In fact, it became one of my favorite pastimes to organize my things. I’d spend my weekends inside, finding new ways to fit and organize everything. I’d run to Target to get more stuff to help organize my stuff.
It made me feel good and in control in some way, organizing my things. But really it was a distraction. It kept me busy - god forbid I ever sit still. God forbid I wake up without a to-do list a mile long. I’ll never forget a friend of mine asking what I was so busy doing one weekend, only for me to draw a blank, “just stuff around the house,” I said. My things became my security blanket that kept me from exploring outside that comfort zone. And the more I organized, the more I reinforced my anxieties, the more I satiated that need to be in control.
I’ve had the luxury of an empty apartment for the last week and a half. As my old roomies moved out and my new roomies have yet to move in, I took the opportunity to clean the CRAP out of this place, and to get rid of anything I don’t really need. I’m reminded of just how good it feels to have that space - physically, visually, mentally, emotionally, etc… We need space.
I’ve always placed a lot of value in my home - that I get from my Mom. The place you begin and end each day, the place that’s supposed to be your sanctuary - this is your place to recharge. If your home makes you feel stressed, you’re barely giving yourself a chance at a stress-free day. Marie Kondo that shit! Seriously, get rid of what doesn't make you happy, or what you don't TRULY need. Stop saving stuff for "maybe someday." Stop saving stuff you never look at because you feel bad getting rid of it. If it brings you down, or serves no purpose at all, out it goes.
And this idea goes well beyond the home. In graphic design (and in professional instagram accounts), white space is not just empty. It serves a purpose because it helps to highlight the thing you want to highlight. Consider your calendar - do you have space? Or are you fully booked and double-booked all day every day? Are you able to show up fully to each event when you’re overbooked like that? Or can you leave some white space, allowing the most important things to be highlighted?
I used to think that scheduling things like hikes and time with friends was sufficient for my “downtime,” but what I’ve come to realize is that that can feel like just more things to do as well. My favorite thing nowadays is truly guilt-free wandering time. I spend my Mondays roaming around with my boyfriend, our only “task” is to eat when we’re hungry (which, for me, is kinda a lot). I love staying in bed and catching up on email or social media - part productive, part indulgent. And I LOVE when I’m out and about, after a class or something, and realize I don’t need to go home right away; I don’t need to go anywhere right away. And so I roam. I’ll sit in a park. Or get a latte and people watch. I still notice my tendency when time like this pops up - what can I cram in?! But I try to let go of that need to be productive, and leave space to breathe. Maybe I’ll get my nails done, maybe I’ll just sit and stare and the sky.
The space is where the real you comes out. It’s where creativity breeds. It’s where you can reset. Getting away for vacations, treating yourself to massages, and indulging in your favorite things is lovely, but you don’t need to wait for these special events to de-stress. You can build it into your home, into your day, into your mind. SPACE.