Tag Archives: Space

Keep Your Space Free

13 Jul

I don’t know about you, but I have a problem with  empty spaces – I always try to fill them.

An empty corner in the house? I want to put a plant in it.

An empty wall? I want to hang a picture on it.

An empty hour in my week? I want to plan a meeting into it.

An empty week during the holidays? I want to fill it with activities.

In fact, my problem is that I always associate “space” with “empty”. But what if it wasn’t “empty”, what if it was…”free”?

FREE SPACE.

A free corner in the house, for light to fill it.

A free wall, for sun rays to dance on it.

A free hour in the day, to do what I like.

A free week, to rest and gather energy.

Let’s appreciate the free space we have in our lives by keeping it free!

Once In a Blue Moon

29 Feb

We all know that the expression “once in a Blue Moon” means “very rarely”, but where does this expression come from?

Contrary to popular belief, the expression does not refer to the moon’s colour, but to the moon’s cycle. According to the Christian ecclesiastical calendar, a “Blue Moon” is the third Full Moon in a season with four full moons. A more recent definition states that a “Blue Moon” is the second Full Moon in a calendar month. Hence, it is very unlikely that any month will contain two Full Moons, because, on average, the interval between Full Moons is approximately 29.5 days, whereas each month is made up of about 30.5 days. By the second definition, a Blue Moon will occur every two-and-a-half years.

The third definition of a Blue Moon is my personal favourite. I learned it at school at the age of nine and have never forgotten it since. According to my primary-school teacher, a “Blue Moon” is a Full Moon which occurs on the 29th of February.

This definition would mean that a Blue Moon occurs every 120 years, and, apparently, the next one will be in 2048.

I don’t know about you, but I’m marking the date in my diary. Wouldn’t miss a Blue Moon for the world!

Art of the Essential Part III

22 Nov

I couldn’t believe it when I saw that our neighbours, a young couple in their early twenties, were back for the tenth time to move out their possessions. During their move out of their one-bedroom into a two-bedroom flat they had already loaded a 7-seater four times, a moving van twice and their own car at least four times. Their main reason for moving was “the need for an extra room to fit in all of their things”.

Among the things that my neighbours were packing away were VHS tapes, games for consoles they no longer owned, furniture they never used, broken electric appliances and various items of home decoration that was mostly kept in drawers. It shocked me to see just how much energy and time they were wasting to move these useless things from one home to another. And to think that they would be paying extra rent for the sole purpose of storing these unused things!…and that they would now have a whole room just dedicated to junk!

I couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to have so many possessions – so many useless possessions, at that. I have been living with only the bare essentials for almost a year now. Last autumn, inspired by Dominique Loreau, I started sorting out all of my junk (because that is precisely what most of it was), trying to get it down to the essentials (see The Art of the Essential, The Art of the Essential Part II). During the first few rounds of sorting, I reduced the quantity of my possessions by about three-quarters. I then moved to a different country and have been living with about 3-4 suitcase-worth of things for the past ten months. And to me that is more than enough – I’m already worrying about all the books and magazines building up on my shelves!

I follow these few simple rules to ensure that I don’t end up storing unnecessary junk:

1) Don’t buy it. If I don’t need it or don’t love it, I don’t buy it. Even when I ‘treat’ myself, I still buy either something I need or love.

2) Use the library. Books take up a lot of space and weigh a lot. I usually only buy and keep books that I love and which I am sure to read more than once. If I can’t find them in the library, I buy them in second-hand shops and give them to charity once I’ve read them.

3) Sort as you go. As soon as I know that something isn’t serving me anymore, I put it up for sale or take it to charity immediately. That way, I avoid build-up of junk in my cupboards and basement, saving me space, time and energy.

4) Set a deadline. “If my chair doesn’t get sold on ebay after two months, I will give it to charity”. If we don’t set ourselves deadlines, we will keep holding on to our junk.

5) Rules for freebies. If someone, after having sorted out their own things, offers me free clothes, books, furniture etc., I ask myself “If this was on sale in a shop, would I buy it?”. Keep, if yes, give back, if no.

7) Make your own home decorations. Pen pots, candle holders, curtains, folders…there are so many things we can make ourselves using cardboard, paints, fabric and a bit of imagination. Once we’re bored with these things or need to move, we can just throw them away or recycle them.

What rules do you go by to avoid the build-up of superfluous possessions?

The Art of the Essential, Part II

12 Apr

For the past two months, I have been living with only a suitcase-worth of possessions. Three pairs of shoes, three pairs of trousers, a dozen tops, two jackets, three novels, two poetry books, a make-up bag, a laptop and a couple of notebooks. For the past two months I have been experiencing the art of the essential.

Living with fewer possessions has had some amazing effects on my life:

I have saved time: having a limited amount of clothes to choose from, I did not spend hours trying out different outfits for one outing.

I have been tidier: fewer things means less mess.

I have had more space: seeing as my possessions fit in one wardrobe and one cupboard, the rest of the space is free, for movement, for dance, for yoga…

I have had a lot of light in the apartment: fewer things means more open space, which means more light.

I have been calmer: in my previous home, I had around forty unread books and a wardrobe of unworn clothes. I would feel guilty about not reading the books and not wearing the clothes on which I had spent money. Now, seeing as I make use of everything in my possession, I do not experience a feeling of waste, greed or stress. Instead, I have a feeling of comfort and simplicity.

I have had more time to do the things I love: I spend less time tidying up and no time at all sorting my things out, which gives me more time to do things that I enjoy.

I have had more opportunities to be creative: rather than obsessing over the world inside my apartment, my thoughts open up to the world beyond my walls.

I have focused on the things I do, rather than on the things I own: in modern society, it is most often our possessions and not our actions that define us. Having little possessions, I have been able to concentrate more on defining myself through what I do, rather than through what I own.

I have seen others differently: now that I define myself through what I do, I also define other people by their actions, instead of their clothes, gadgets, cars, or accessories. This has given me a whole new vision of the world.

Living with fewer possessions has many positive effects on our lives. It does not mean that we should deprive ourselves, but that we should simply reduce our possessions to the essentials: what we need and what we love. Everything else has no place in our home, our mind and our body; everything else brings us negative energy.

April is a perfect time to do a spring clean, so why not take this opportunity to clear that clutter that blocks your energy?

A great book on this subject is Clear Your Clutter, which explains the negative energetic and psychological effects of hoarding and the positive ones of clearing.

Think Locally

18 Jan

We don’t necessarily need to move to a different city or different country in order to change our lifestyle: sometimes, all we need to do is change our current habits and a whole new world will open itself up. For those of us living in the city, one thing that could have a colossal effect on our lifestyle is simply choosing ‘to go local’.

In a cosmopolitan capital like London, we are constantly taught to think globally. We are encouraged to expand our vision of the world so widely that we are always aware of what is going on across the globe. Yet despite having such a good knowledge of the larger picture, Londoners  often don’t have a clue about what is happening in their own neighbourhood. We put so much importance on the big things, that the small things seem insignificant.

As a student, all of my activities took place in central London. I would go into town for lessons, for coffee with friends, for shopping, for a walk, for dance class, for language class, for bars and clubs and all evening events. The only time I spent in my area was to come back home to sleep! It seemed like central London contained the world, and I yearned to discover bigger things than my calm residential area could ever offer. Or so it seemed.

For the past four months I have, voluntarily but subconsciously, been keeping my movements very local. And I was amazed to recognise the effects of this choice. I am calmer and more sure of myself; I have discovered my natural routine, in which I have more free time than before; I have saved money and drastically reduced my consumption. Simply spending more time in a more peaceful area of the city has remarkably slowed down my pace of life, and this in turn has given my body time to rest, my mind silence to quieten and my soul space to breathe. I feel more stable, more comfortable, more together. Empty streets, calm movements and disengagement from time have helped me rediscover my individuality.

Regaining a sense of individuality is probably one of the best things that being actively present in the local community has given me. I no longer feel like just another face in a mass of people on the tube, just another employee on the way to work, just another consumer being carried in a crowd. I am an individual who makes a noticeable contribution to the things around her. Working in the bookshop I give honest recommendations, I can put a smile on someone’s face or engage in an interesting conversation. I have got to know the sales girls at the local food store by face, and our exchange is the warmer for our small acquaintance. I always share a joke and have a chat with the guys in the local wine shop. I often recognise the people who pass me on the street, from having met or known them at some point during my time in the neighbourhood.

In the capital we are always being encouraged to make a difference, to do something good for the world, to ‘think big’. But in order to have any grasp at all of the bigger picture, we must understand the small pieces that hold it together. It is by making a constant positive contribution to the things that are closest to us that we will be able to move on to bigger things. As the proverb goes: charity begins at home. If we learn to live lovingly and peacefully with the people and things in our vicinity, then the rest of the world won’t seem like such a big challenge. If we take notice and make a contribution to what is available locally, we will not only make positive changes to our own lives but touch the lives of many others far more deeply than if we were trying to save the entire world. Our most precious things are at our fingertips.