Open Space Is Not Empty

I took 2 years of high school Latin, but I only recently learned the expression horror vacui. It literally means “horror of a vacuum,” but one more commonly uses it to mean “a fear or dislike of leaving empty spaces, especially in an artistic composition.” We run into a lot of clients who seem to have fear of open space and I find it to be counterproductive to sustainable organizing systems. Here are five important clear spaces that demonstrate why.

1. storage room floor space

This might be the most common violation of empty space. Whether it’s a closet, an attic, or self storage unit, it always make sense to reserve at least an area of floor, in which you can stand and turn around, to access and view what you have.

2. clear surfaces

Your number one organizing tool is a clear work surface, for processing. All too often, work surfaces are squandered on storage. When you lose your open work surfaces, you lose your ability to spread out a project, prioritize, and process it away. In short, you lose your ability to STAY organized. Always seek storage options other than work surfaces.

3. room for growth

Perhaps the place where I witness horror vacui the most is in boxes. Surely, if you are filling a box, you have to fill it ALL the way, right? Wrong! When a box is chock full of items, you have no room to go, if you need to add a new item. I know, there’s the “sacred” organizing rule of one in, one out, but I think an organizing system is more realistically sustainable, when you give yourself a little leeway. So leave some small room for growth.

4. shelf space

Storage shelves may seem like the one place where it makes sense to pack it all in, but when you pack the daylights out of your shelf space, it can be hard to see what you have. It can also be hard to access items, if you can’t even fit your hand in! It also makes sense to leave some open space on display shelves. Have you ever seen a completely cluttered display shelf (of anything) that looks good? Carefully worked out spaces in between items, make your display look more purposeful.

5. wall space

The allowance for open wall space, follows along the same lines as allowance for display-shelf space. Covering your wall with an assortment of stuff is visually overwhelming. The choices appear more passive than purposeful. And when your environment looks this way, it can have an effect on the way that you feel. Just to be clear, I am not advocating completely clear walls. That’s depressing. I’m just saying that your choices of what goes on your walls should be purposeful. That includes choices of what areas to leave clear.

Just because there is nothing in an open space, does not mean it is empty. That open space is full of value. That empty space is full of accessibility, find-ability, process-ability, and rest-ability. Just as lungs function better when they are clear, so too does a house breathe better, when there is space for energy to flow.