Green was all I could see as I drove the windy backroads I hadn’t driven on in almost twenty years. The roads were familiar as friends, but the green—that deep, spring lush of Washington in early June hung like the essence of a dream that I couldn’t quite remember.
I gently hugged each curve in the enviable forest green Jeep my parents bought when I was sixteen, still as cool as ever, and I could hardly take my eyes off the life of color all around me. How had I forgotten this? How did I grow up with this vibrant scene every spring and never notice the explosion of green and growth?
I was in my hometown, alone without my husband and kids, for the first time since my oldest was born and this green spectacular that Washington State is famous for—that and the rain—overwhelmed me from the inside out. I could hardly keep my eyes on the road.
The energetic nature that passed by as I shifted from third gear to fourth, then cruising in fifth gear until the next curve forced a down shift back to third—it was all together mystifying and clarifying.
I felt the fog lift for a tender moment, alone, a space where the tension of visiting family during crisis and the life waiting for me in California dissipated. For a twenty-minute drive, the green farmland and copious Evergreens became a much needed white space.
From the outside, some might assume the white space of the minimalist life is a literal term—white walls and empty space to contrast the black tee-shirt uniform, potted succulent on the window sill, and a single metal chair.
But white space is much more than a color palette or furniture preference. White space is the wide open places in our day that gives clarity, rest, creativity, and soul restoration. It’s the space we cultivate from our schedules and circumstance so our insides match the minimalist outsides we aspire to.
Minimalism isn’t about your stuff; it’s about your soul—the “you” underneath all of the stuff.
That day on the back roads of my hometown the color of my white space was not lost on me. It was the color of life! The sprouting, flourishing of abundant life all around me filled a dry and barren place inside and I discovered the rebirth of my soul right there, in that appropriately colored green Jeep.
White space is a daily reawakening—it’s the gap between being and doing.
Coloring Your Life with White Space
Not every white space is the same; it can come in many colors and shades. White space is where the magic happens, and it often doesn’t happen by accident. In case your white space is more invisible than vibrant, the five W’s of white space are useful to outline a new vision for the canvas of your life.
1. Who (needs white space)?
You. Me. Everyone. There is no one too busy, too important, or too powerful for scheduled white space and the freedom of nothing to do. There is no overwhelmed mother, misunderstood teenager, lonely empty nester, or insecure businessman who isn’t worth the selfless act of filling their soul with their own kind of joy.
We all need white space to color the world beautiful.
2. What (is white space)?
Whatever you want it to be. However, it could be defined as whatever allows you to clear your mind, clear your physical space, or fill you with a restorative energy in order to participate and contribute to your life and those around you.
A walk or drive through a scenic landscape (like my green white space) or a break during your workday simply by closing your office door, turning off the phone and email, and closing your eyes for twenty minutes.
The water is beautifully restorative. A time to sit on a bench near a lake or river, lunch at the beach, or even a peaceful fountain bubbling in the background of a mediation session can all be a white space. Clearing the clutter from your home creates physical and tangible white space which calms your mind and heart.
White space is finding yourself underneath the busyness, the clutter, the errands, and the noise of distractions.
3. When (can white space happen)?
Now, perhaps? Or later. Schedule it. Plan your day around the white space instead of trying to fit it into the chaos.
4. Where (are the white spaces)?
Everywhere. Early morning bird watching on the porch, in the parking lot between business meetings, on the couch during the baby’s nap time, on a mountainside hike—white spaces are everywhere when we look for them.
5. Why (white space)?
For the beauty of it.
There is a story from Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett of a man whose one purpose in life is to build a beautiful cathedral to God. He spends all his money, all but destroys his family, and spends his entire life to realize this dream.
One day he finally meets someone with the ability to help him construct this cathedral and they ask him a simple question, why?
His answer, “Because it will be beautiful”—and that is reason enough.