"What are you going to do with that corner when it all goes to the charity shop?," my friend Emily asked me. I've been using a corner of my living room near my front door as a glorified outbox. There are towers of stuff there. "Perhaps," I told her, "I'll just leave it empty."
Maybe it's because I've been cooped up in the house since November, but empty is looking just fine to me right now. I'm feeling eager for large swathes of space: a living room with just a few pieces, a bedroom with not much more than a bed, some lamps and two night tables. Space in my closet, bare shelves in the pantry, a zen arrangement to my refrigerator; there's something appealing about living, if not quite austerely, then minimally. I've always dreamed of living in a big loft space with a couch in the center and room to roller skate all around. Maybe that's why I love the idea of moving so much: packing up your stuff encourages you to examine everything. Those butterfly shaped plates seemed so necessary at the time you bought them — now they just seem frivolous.
Of course, I feel a little odd confessing this. There's so much pull to acquire stuff and then to get stuff to put the stuff into. It's odd when I remember that I moved into my apartment with just a suitcase and a mattress. Everything fit into my brother's convertible VW bug. Now, it would take a truck to move me out of here. A big truck.
There's a whole belief system built around the idea of space. Feng Shui practitioners suggest, ironically, leaving some space to encourage more to come into your life: by making room, you make room for things to grow, for new things to take root. Holes in your bookshelves encourage new knowledge; in the wardrobe and dresser of people who are single, they bring in love; in your wallet, space encourages your money to expand. I don't know about any of that. What I do know is that there's something very calming about empty walls, a few well chosen pieces of furniture... and that's it.
I'm sure that corner will get filled up soon enough, and without too much effort on my part. It's almost impossible for it not to. Maybe that's why we're so fascinated by shows about hoarding. Like birds, we build nests. Chairs and vases and bikes and socks, we gather things around us. To keep us safe? To ground us? A friend of mine went to Africa recently, and encountered a group that only rarely has contact with modern civilization. Even they were eager for every pretty, shiny item he had on him. Which leads me to believe it's not just a Western or twenty-first century trait. Maybe it's just a part of being human and being alive.
But in the meantime, I'm going to keep that space by the door empty.
(Image: Abigail Stone)