Let’s travel back in time for a moment.
After my daughter was born, I was running on no sleep, trying to manage a household, care for my sweet baby, and wrangle a career that often required 14-hour childcare stints with only a few hours of notice. I’d been a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants girl before that, but holy moly—suddenly I needed bigger guns.
So of course I did the only logical thing: I stayed up too late, blearily reading books on getting organized, because that’s what literature majors DO even when we ought to be sleeping. I discovered that there are many worthy tomes out there on the topic.
Unfortunately, it turned out that most of them would only work for me if I had about 60 spare hours a week to devote to my organizational system.
Whereas I had exactly 30 seconds a day to spend on everything, and usually I spent it cleaning up splatters of baby food.
I started and abandoned approximately 87,000 organizational systems before my daughter was two.
Most of the fine organizational experts who wrote those books must have had a full-time homemaker and assistant on staff they forgot to mention. I can’t tell you how many times I dutifully mapped out my whole week according to some new and complicated system and then went, WAIT but what about the groceries and the house cleaning and the children?!?!?! Those things were apparently supposed to take care of themselves. Invisibly. However, the only angel in my house was me, and I was really damn cranky.
I Needed A Blank Space, Baby
I bumbled along with my color-coded lists and my three-tiered prioritization systems and my daily routines that fell apart each day by 6:42am and then, one day, I had an epiphany.
Thank all that is holy.
I was walking by an art gallery.
I didn’t go in and actually look at the paintings, of course—heavens no, I was walking briskly to my next meeting with only seconds to spare—but those white walls with beautiful colors blooming on them made my heart ache with longing.
It suddenly occurred to me that it couldn’t be an accident that 95% of the wall space in art galleries and museums all around the world is BLANK. Just empty white walls.
I understood, with a huge jolt, that if you filled every inch of that gallery’s walls with paintings (even beautiful paintings!) the overall effect would be chaotic and off-putting. I realized that the white space was what allowed the art to breathe and be enjoyed.
I craved beauty, and yet what I needed to create in order to have beauty was actually white space.
At the time, I had NO white space in my life. I lived in a small Tokyo apartment, so every inch was crammed full of THINGS. There was no white space in my schedule, either; every minute was accounted for, and it left me feeling like I couldn’t breathe. What this meant was that anxiety and chaos reigned in my mind and spirit. I felt panicky and defeated all the damn time. I was working SO hard but I always seemed to be perpetually behind!
Have you ever gone to the store, seen something that was absolutely gorgeous, and splurged on it because you were certain that its magnificent specialness was going to transform your room? And then you brought it home and set it on the mantelpiece next to your greatniece’s play-doh candlesticks and the curling Christmas cards and—and—it didn’t look amazing at all?
This is the reason why art galleries have white walls and little else.
Feng shui practitioners talk about this in a spiritual sense, too; they say that you need to open up space in your life if you want to call in something new. Julia Cameron says that the universe abhors a vacuum. In any case, the most powerful way I know to create beauty is to first clear a space in which it can bloom.
It’s been a wonderful year crammed full of big things. It’s been amazing. And it’s been a LOT.
The holiday season is SO wonderful. But it’s also a WHOLE LOTTA LOTNESS.
I know that what I personally am craving right now is a deep breath. A clean slate. A fresh start. A blank space so I have room to create something new.
I’m going to be doing this deliberately as we count down to the new year– putting away holiday decorations, organizing drawers, hauling loads of things to a donation center. I’m tucking away pretty and even beloved things to make a little spot of fresh air with just one vase of white tulips.
Want to join me? I made a brand-new video series in my new home to help you clear things out so you can start off 2017 with a sense of clarity, possibility, and lots of big deep breaths. It’s totally free and you can even binge-watch all three videos if you sign up right now at http://declaredominion.com/freshstart/ It goes away soon though, so don’t wait!