Simplicity… minimalism… whatever you call it, it’s been a leading force in my life over the past decade. It started as a seed disguised as the recognition that I needed to unclutter my house of excess material things. At the time I just wanted more room in my closets, but I quickly understood how editing my possessions was connected to a larger world philosophy that was creeping into my consciousness. Clearing my mind of clutter: attachment, guilt, perfection, expectations. Clearing my life of clutter: obligations, commitments, wasted moments. This awareness and the connections that followed have taken a decade to develop, and I’m quite sure that it’s still the beginning. Getting rid of the clutter leaves space that allows me to discover my true needs and desires, and allows me the time and other resources to meet my needs and satisfy my desires. Oh, and it also gives me the time to learn how to be who I am.
When you clear the clutter and the excess, it leaves space for contemplation and peace. There was a time when this space was just a part of life. People sat on their porches and watched the world. Children lounged in trees and fields and watched the clouds move by. In some cultures around the world, there are still spaces in the day. The spaces are opportunities for unexpected ideas and discovery, and for movement and connections. A conversation with a neighbor or an unplanned swim or even just a quiet moment that leads to a nap. These things are life and they’re important. Not only do spaces provide rest, they breed creativity and productivity and awareness. When everything is scheduled and we’re rushing from one thing to the next, distracted by unending texts and alerts, and bombarded by negativity and stress, we lose sight of our intentions and our sense of self. And we lose the time to daydream.
How do you create more space in your life? Well, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to start by cleaning out your closets, but it can happen other ways, as well. These are just a few ways that I found space in my own life.
1. Leave unscheduled time in your day. This may be difficult. At first you may need to schedule “unscheduled” time, during lunch, after work, or before bed. The important part is that you don’t fill this time with things you “need” to do, or with mindless distraction from television or computers. Start this time by just sitting and letting your mind rest without distraction. It helps to remove yourself from your usual environment. Go sit on the grass in your yard or sit on a bench in a neighborhood you don’t know all that well. Notice the trees, the sun, and the architecture. Say hello to people you pass.
2. Stop committing to things that aren’t in line with your priorities. This will make leaving unscheduled time easier. Many of us have a hard time saying no. Think about your priorities and then review your commitments and choose one or two that are most in line with your priorities. Remove yourself from the rest.
3. Disconnect from electronic devices, including television. This action was by far the most difficult for me, but it also had the most impact. I appreciate technology and its positive contributions to my life, but my devices were wasting a huge amount of my time and adding stress to my days. Start by turning off notifications on your devices and only check email, social media, and apps at designated times of the day. There’s something immensely freeing about controlling when you connect rather than allowing your devices to constantly interrupt you. When you’re ready to take it a step further, turn everything off for a while on a regular basis. That’s when you’ll really begin to notice more space in your life.
4. Take breaks. Work regular breaks into your day, even if you don’t think you need them. I know too many people who work for 4, 6, or even 8 hours at a desk without getting up, and then when they finally take a break they spend it checking the updates on their phones. Whenever possible, take short breaks to walk around the office, around the parking lot, or to the corner and back. Look at the world, interact with people, and breathe the air. Personally, doing this has eliminated my reoccurring neck pain and the afternoon coma that I used to treat with some stiff coffee. Breaks have improved my productivity and my well-being.
5. Take a walk. Whether it’s part of your commute, during your lunch, or an aimless walk around your neighborhood after dinner, I strongly suggest a walk every day. This was difficult for me at first. All I could do was think about all the other things I should be doing during the time I was walking, but after a while I started to notice my surroundings, and eventually I was able to let my mind wander.
6. Purchase less. A lot of time is spent deciding what to purchase, purchasing items, and then caring for the things that we’ve purchased. If you cut back on the things you bring into your life, you cut back on the time spent maintaining your possessions, and then removing them from your life. There are people who are constantly removing possessions from their lives because they keep bringing possessions into their lives. It’s more efficient to eliminate the problem at the source.
7. End negative relationships. Spend time with people whom you enjoy spending time. Negativity sucks your time and energy.
8. Spend time at home. I found this surprising, but spending more time at home created a lot more space in my life. Try it. Stock your kitchen, turn off your phone, and spend the weekend at home. For those of us constantly on the go, this can be an eye-opening experience.
How do you leave space in your life? How has leaving space in your days benefited you?