Real-life white space


I understand that thing about different strokes; I do. (Although that thing about Diff'rent Strokes eludes me entirely.)

But I don't get clutter.

I mean, I get how it gets like that, and have read enough to understand that it gets like that for psychological reasons (depression and anxiety, mostly) as well as physical ones (insufficient trips to the Storage Solutions area of IKEA). I get it because from time to time, I move from "messy" (i.e., too busy to deal, too tired/sick to care) to "clutter-y", usually, some combo platter of depression and anxiety. (As this article points out, clutter can also be an external manifestation of ADD or OCD, which freaks me out because you'd think if you had one of those conditions, you'd lean much more to Felix Unger than Oscar Madison.)

And for the past few years, examining my own resistance to dealing with certain types of clutter, electronic file organization, for example, and money stuff, has been wildy instructive to me. I'm being reasonably nice about it all, taking FlyLady-advocated baby steps in QuickBooks and enlisting the help of really nice, supportive people, but it's an arduous and embarrassing and deeply humbling journey anyway.

This week's little lesson comes to me courtesy of my beloveds, The BF and Arno, the former of whom is out of town and the latter of which requires human companionship, as well as someone with thumbs to refill the water dish and open the kibble bin. I'm happy to stay here in My Country House, as it is large, sun-filled and blissfully noise- and smoke-free; this economy has been hell on occupant density, and several of the new additions smoke like Korean hipster chimneys, so my poor, sweet, little rent-controlled haven sounds and smells a lot like an old "L" train circa 1984. Not good.

Things are better along those lines over here. There is the occasional car or bus rumbling by, more so at certain times of day, and Arno does like to exercise his barking cords whenever a service person dressed in uniform drops by, but overall, it is awfully peaceful, especially with my No Audio rule enforced for the duration. I even have my own little spot carved out here in the corner of the sunny dining-room-cum-office, with 10 luxuriously square feet of me-space for me-things like computers, peripherals, and the beverages I seem to be so good at spilling all over them.

There's just one thing: not enough white space.

When designers try to explain white space to civilians, the response is generally some nodding, vigorous or otherwise, followed by a query: "But if there's room on the page, there, why can't you add another picture/500 words of copy/pony?" Like nature herself, clients abhor a vacuum, and see white space as an opportunity to add more stuff.

Designers, on the other hand, see white space as the thing that allows the rest of the stuff to be there, and to be useful. Without adequate white space, you cannot as comfortably and easily take in the information. (Also, it looks better, but let's put that aside for now.)

The BF and I have a joke about how he views horizontal space as a place to put something. And somehow, the house seems to help him out. It's as though every flat surface was a great, smooth sheet of magnet, and all the stuff so much iron shavings. To be fair, I do my share of "temporary" dumping, too, both here and Chez Communicatrix. My threshold of tolerance is much, much lower, though, and periodically, I'll have a mini-freakout and swirl through the joint clearing surfaces and returning things to their rightful place. Surely, that's the secret to some of this: more rightful places. At some point, you either need to let go of your attachment to bare vertical spaces and give in to the BILLY bookcase, or let go of the crap you would otherwise have stowed in them. Maybe some combination of both. My week here has reminded me that I have plenty of work to do in both the Letting Go Of  and Getting Organized department myself; I've easily hauled over a carload of gear, and am feverishly plotting my next run tonight, on the way back from an event.

I know there are other issues on my part; hell, my issues are legion, and well-catalogued on this website. I procrastinate, I avoid. I feel better in familiar spaces. I feel better in small, well-lit spaces. I've been hungrily eyeing a room in the back of My Country House, wondering if I could set up shop back there, where there is even more light of a particular quality, and a tiny, warm bathroom attached, and it is even more ghostly quiet than it is up front. Maybe that is it. Or maybe it would help.

In my (apparently) Big Book way, though, I'm electing to change what I can for now, and letting go of the rest. Or trying to, or at least observing carefully what it is I'm so bloody invested in, I must clutch at it like a fencepost in a snowstorm.

I see myself afraid of letting go of something, clinging to something else. Avoiding. Shrinking, not expanding.

So I'll have to pull out some feelings and thoughts and activities and inspect them. Then, most likely, they'll go out in the rubbish or at least sit for a bit in the recycle bin.

That's the way back to balance. Which is, in turn, the way to growth.

One bit of clutter at a time...


Image by littledan77 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.