Our current way of life devours space and regurgitates commodities. We’re producing and consuming more, working more, absorbing more information, being productive all the time. We’re filling every available space with something that can have a price tag put on it.
Even public spaces like parks and town squares are gobbled up by private corporations who can impose regulations and ultimately turn a profit.
We need some space back.
Since reducing my possessions and buying less, I’ve noticed little spaces pop up around me. An empty drawer. Empty wall space. Clear surfaces. Empty pockets. Storage boxes now surplus to requirements. I love these empty spaces.
I’m quite a sad person so I often open drawers I know are empty just to admire that sexy space. I enjoy slipping my hands into pockets that aren’t filled with a phone or bulky wallet (usually my own pockets, by the way). I rest my eyes on bare walls and run my hand along empty shelves. These spaces have a calming effect and provide relief from the near-constant flow of information that must be processed.
Strolling through a park provides respite from the chaotic noise of a city. As does the quiet of a library or art gallery. Or sitting in a town square to watch the world go by. Or craning one’s neck to admire a clear blue sky or the expansive cosmos.
We can create some of these spaces ourselves by simplifying our stuff and opting out of the race for abundance. More importantly, we can appreciate the spaces that already exist, say “hello” and “thank you” to them, and protect them fiercely when necessary.
Our time is also commodified. When we’re not working for hourly wages and paying the bills, we work for Facebook by scrolling through ad-ridden newsfeeds. Or we attempt to maintain social lives over fleeting weekends, between checking work emails and online shopping. Truly free and relaxing time is hard to come by.
But we can give ourselves less to do. By prioritising time over money and stuff, and actually cutting expenses to a more manageable level, it might be possible to work less and feel happier.
And we can say no to things. If you don’t fancy doing something, don’t feel bad for giving it a miss. A day of doing absolutely nothing is something to treasure and strive for. They’re my favourite days.
Our minds can be equally cluttered. Carving out moments to sit and do nothing can calm our busy brains and actually make us more creative.
Spaces in time and mind can contribute to a simpler life, just as physical spaces do. Creating them is possible and fully inhabiting them when they crop up, although not easy, is a skill worth practising.