The spaces where nothing exists but space itself, that’s what I call negative space. It’s the zero, nothing, empty, free, only-love-exists-here space. The negative spaces are home to the positive life.
Do you have that kind of space in your home? In your life?
I didn’t for a long time. Empty counter space filled with gadgets, contraptions, cookbooks, small appliances, and fruit bowls. Shelf space filled with decades old books, picture frames, knick knacks, souvenirs, and trinkets of every kind. In some homes, empty rooms become “storage” or “craft rooms”; rooms that house our fantasy selves instead of our passion pursuits.
Our minds are constantly engaged in anything but our own thoughts and feelings. Ear buds, TV and movies available on every device, cell phones used not to talk with people but for social media, photography, and email. It seems the only negative space in our lives is found in the shower or when we finally turn off the blue glow of the screen and fall into our beds.
It’s counter culture to create negative space in our calendars and daily routines. Ask anyone you sit down to coffee with about how their week is and they will detail the busyness of their life and how worn out they are. We’ve learned to equate nothing to do as nothing to offer. Our self worth defined by what we do rather than who we are.
Maybe self worth is not defined by how we fill our space and time but by the fact that we don’t have to.
If there is anything that has made me proud as an adult it’s that I often receive compliments on my home. I’m not a designer or nor do I have a great eye for home décor, but I’ve always decorated in a way that many guests have said is very welcoming and ‘homey’. I like that my home makes others feel at home.
I feel pride that my things and the way I organized them in a room would speak to my friends and family of comfort and ease. And over the years I would exchange one thing for another, but mostly I would add new things to the mix. I relied on the beautiful things around me to speak of hospitality instead of just being hospitable.
As we created more negative space in our home and in our lives I realized that the beauty of my life isn’t the presentation of my possessions. It isn’t even in the activities I attend or the information I consume.
The beauty of my life, and yours, is where we create negative space to inspire positive outpourings of ourselves.
Here are a few ways I invited positive change into my life by creative negative spaces:
1. The voices of the world around me were quieted.
The choice to minimize, simplify, or live with intention is a choice to change the song we live by. The voices that compelled me to compare, to compromise, and to compete were silenced. When simple is all that matters you instantly become aware of how complicated it is to fit in.
2. I considered it a blessing to be an introvert, not a curse.
Introverts thrive in negative spaces! In fact, we need it. We can’t live without negative spaces and yet many of us try to conform to the extrovert need of fullness. By decluttering and quieting the chatter around me, I discovered that I could embrace who I am with love, grace, humility, and more love.
Breaking the curses we speak over ourselves that rejects our essence is the single most important positive change we can make.
3. I got help.
I like to joke that minimalism sent me to therapy. Minimalism will not solve all of your problems. In fact, in my experience it exposed the problems. Busyness, retail therapy, distracted living, and selfishness serve as a paper thin layer of protection from dealing with real issues. Minimalism pours truth over us and dissolves our so-called protection and can expose real problems.
That doesn’t sound positive or inviting for the aspiring minimalist, but I encourage you to explore the idea that facing our fears is life-giving and running from them is life-draining. Not everyone needs therapy, I realize, but for me it has been helpful.
Therapy sheds nonjudgmental light on the dark places. It’s hard, but knowing that my life is simple and my home welcomes me with the negative spaces I thrive in, I am no longer scared of hard.
4. My joys are joyful again.
You know how we get overwhelmed with life that even the things that make us happy don’t? Like your hobbies, or your talents, or your kids?
I gained my joy back. I didn’t write for twelve years because I lost my ability to find the joy in it. I lived under my own curse of “not good enough” that even spending time with my family was exhausting.
Negative spaces puts the light back in our eyes when we feel our heart’s joy inviting us in.
5. I grew spiritually.
If I were to pick my favorite thing minimalism has given me up to this point, it would be the freedom to explore my heart, listen to my soul, and seek beyond the borders of what I’ve always been taught. I’m speaking in spiritual terms, but this is true in non-spiritual things as well.
Simplicity calls us to question our why’s about everything. As we discover the answers to these questions we grow and expand our territories. I’m thankful for minimalism teaching me to quiet the outside noise so that I can nurture the voice within; personally, creatively, and spiritually.
The negative spaces in our homes and lives create adventure, hospitality, altruism, spiritual growth, inner healing, and relationship. We gain room to breathe, peaceful rest, and appreciation for the things in life that can’t be shelved or hung or boxed.
It is the empty and quiet that fills and speaks to us the most. It’s the negative spaces where a positive life thrives.