Last week I shared an idea that’s been developing in my mind over the last couple of years, an idea that finally came to fruition through an art analogy. Here’s a quick summary: in any work of art, and I think, in any life, there is filled space and white space.
Filled space is what draws the eye; it’s the focus, the color, and the life of a piece of art. In my life, I want my filled space to be made up of activities and action that align to my deepest values.
White space is space that’s left intentionally blank; it is shaped by and serves to highlight the filled space. Just as important as the things I do and prioritize and value are the things I actively choose not to do in order to make room for what I want to be about. The white space allows me to focus on on my top-priority actions and gives me space to rest and breathe.
These are just a few of the things that make up the white space in my life.
- I don’t organize. I try to keep my possessions minimal so I don’t have to spend hours and hours cleaning, sorting, and organizing, just to have it all get messy and need to be organized again two weeks later. By keeping my home simple, I can straighten up in a pinch and not feel swallowed by stuff.
- I don’t clean as often as I “should.” As I’ve said in this space before, I keep a tidy home and I clean as I go because this helps me feel comfortable and relaxed in my home day to day. But I don’t deep clean all that often, because a dirty bathroom doesn’t bother me the way unfolded laundry or a sink full of dishes does.
- I don’t garden. And if you come over and hang out in my backyard, you’ll probably notice that there are way more weeds than there “should” be. It really doesn’t bother me. I know some people love gardening, and I think that’s wonderful. Pulling weeds and watering plants brings me no joy, so I skip it in favor of other hobbies.
- I don’t clip coupons, buy in bulk, or scour ads for deals. I’m a one-stop-shop kind of girl. I go to the local grocery store that has the best prices on produce, and sometimes I’ll make a monthly trip to Aldi, but I just don’t have the patience for visiting multiple stores in a week, clipping and saving coupons, and paying a fee to buy in bulk. Though I’ll admit, I do keep a stash of Bed Bath and Beyond coupons in my glove compartment.
- I don’t do DIY projects. I do enjoy saving money, and I don’t like paying full price for new things. But I’m not a DIY-lover, I don’t enjoy garage-sale shopping, and I’m not particularly gifted at painting, reupholstering, or repurposing. (My friend Daisy recently posted about this tension, and it spoke straight to my soul.) I do think of myself as a home “curator” in that I rarely buy home-related things, but when I do add something to my house, it’s a piece I’ve thought long and hard about, so I usually find that it’s worth the money.
- I don’t go to all the events. Some people love going to all the events and seeing all the people and being really busy. I’m not one of them. I’ve found that my “sweet spot” is one or two sets of plans for the weekend, and anything more than that feels overwhelming and leaves me depleted by Monday morning. I choose these plans carefully, and I generally skip big events where I wouldn’t add much value (for example, events where I’m not on the “home team” of the host—see below for more about this).
- I don’t bring work home. I’m so grateful to finally be in a job where I don’t feel the pressure to take work home with me. I made the choice to leave education in search of a more sustainable job for that very reason, so I can give my non-working hours to my family and not to more work.
- I don’t go shopping (recreationally). I go to the grocery store once or twice a week, and I go to Target or Aldi once a month or so to resupply my essentials. Other than that, I don’t spend time at the mall or go shopping just for fun. I go shopping only when I’m on a mission to find specific items (like maternity jeans, a gift, or shoes for a wedding).
- I don’t regularly spend time with people who are not on my “home team.” There’s an excellent chapter about this in Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. Basically, you define your core group of family and friends, and you give them the best of your time and energy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy spending time with people outside of this group or that I never do it, but I do so carefully. If I’m maxed out, I don’t stretch myself thin for these people, because I can trust that they have their own home team taking care of them.
- I don’t spend time with people who drain me. And generally, these people are not on my home team. If a person constantly brings me down, makes me feel less than adequate, or makes me feel uncomfortable when we’re together, I don’t prioritize time with her.
Avoiding each of these is a small choice, but taken together, this white space frees me up to prioritize my deepest values: faith, love, simplicity, health, and connection.Choosing what NOT to do helps us prioritize what matters. What are some things you don't do? Click To Tweet