Negative space and Marie Kondo

Post Christmas and New Year celebrations bring about the natural desire for order. This pull is strong and happens every year. Each year I get the itch, to clean out closets, get rid of extra plastic cups, small appliances and other things that have the tendency to clutter up my space. I do try to maintain this through the year so that it’s not quite a marathon come pre-spring, but inevitably there are some tasks that just need to be handled. 

I have tried different methods through the years, Fly Lady, Stephen Covey, and KonMari, and each have their pluses. As a young mom, the hourly emails from Fly Lady would help me remember oh yes, I do need to move the wash to the dryer. Or I better defrost some meat now at 11am, or we will eat nothing tonight or we bust the budget for take-out.

Stephen Covey helped me plan out my day in 15-minute increments. Man I still love this honestly. It looks like SO MUCH TIME when there are all these empty blocks on my page. Even if I write Laundry in 4 blocks in a row, it just looks so much more impressive.

Marie Kondo wrote her book a couple years ago and is seeing renewed success now that she has her own TV show. Tidying Up allows her to enter someone’s home and she gives them assignments to get rid of the clutter, organize what remains and bring a sense of peace back into their lives.

I watched an episode recently while folding my own laundry and was struck by how sad I felt for the couple. Only married about 5 years with two small children, they were in a state of overwhelm and a growing sense of distance from each other because of the burden of their clutter. They really didn’t even realize that the reason they were growing apart had to do with the stuff around them, but as they removed items, involved their children in folding and putting away laundry, and found things they had forgotten like mementos from their wedding day, they discovered that indeed they still cared deeply for each other and wanted to be happy in their home together.

So I admit it, I cried. I felt emotional watching, because I remember what it’s like when the kids are young. You are just trying to keep up. The laundry never ends, someone always needs to eat, and a good night’s sleep is just a dream. My heart hurt because they had no system in place to deal with life and the negative effect it was having on their family.

One of the basic principles of design involves the idea of negative space. Not filling every nook and cranny or square inch of wall space with stuff. We do this in our homes by bringing in too much stuff, and not removing the things we no longer need.

A good rule to follow is for every item you bring in, you must remove one back out. Keeping up with this ensures that you stay on top of the clutter monsters that threaten to make life miserable.