Minimalism's Other Side: What to do When You Struggle with Open Spaces


In my minimalist journey, I have wrestled through countless obstacles. It's been a literally messy journey through donating 560+ bags to charity, almost 2/3rds of everything gone. In my years of sojourning through, a side of minimalism that I rarely hear discussed is the grief that may come when an item has been eliminated from the home. The true confession is that I deeply struggled with the open space once items were donated. Maybe you have felt this same twinge of grief on some level and asked yourself that haunting question, "What do I do now?"

Perhaps your open space may look different from than mine or those online photos that inspired great minimalism. My open spaces come in several different places and ways in my life. One open space that I wrestled with for years is on top of the kitchen cabinets in my little log home. I tried everything to fill the gap as all interior designers preached. Random canning jars, collections, and even dishes all looked terrible; I tried everything the Pintrest experts said.

They were wrong. It looked awkward because the ceilings are plank and low, so today the cabinet tops remain happily empty.

This brought me to 3 Lessons learned with dealing with open spaces brought by minimalism.

Lesson #1 Don't listen to the popular wisdom. We live in a materialist culture, which I believe, has rotted at its core. It has nothing good to say about open space and scorns those who crave and wrestle with it. Instead, I learned to decide for myself and "own" that decision. 

The next open space that recently struck my heart is in the bedroom. I recently decided to sell both our bed frame (minimalist platform bed that I adore) and my vintage wardrobe (thrift store score of the century). It was time for both to go, even though they worked perfectly fine. They simply weren't needed and my home worked better without them. 

Lesson #2 Seasons change and it's alright to create open space even by eliminating useful items. Each item that I have removed was useful in some capacity. It's reason for leaving was NOT it's usefulness. It left because it was simply not useful enough TO ME. The item has left an empty space, but I didn't rush to fill it. I often felt a twinge of sadness at the changing seasons in our home. Yet in that moment, I realized that I can be in charge of that empty space and either grieve or embrace the passing of time.

I choose to embrace the good in openness. 

I think maybe it's been dealing with a hoarder situation in our real estate business or perhaps it's been the stress of a teething toddler or homeschooling six children while running two businesses that has driven me to crave more open space. My father died this Spring and there's a huge empty space in our lives from the loss of his commanding presence. All of this combined has created a deep drive in me to wrestle with openness and emptiness. 

Lesson #3 Open space comes in all forms and intertwines with souls and stuff.

These days, long runs in evening-tide soothe the knots of anxiety in my shoulders. Long walks down our wooded lane melt away the press of day. The delicious heat of fresh-cut hay fields in July and wide-open Ohio skies are healing balm to me. Empty, extra closet shelves make me smile. Open spaces often bring unexpected healing in ways I cannot completely name.

God knows we need open space, even if it sometimes makes us uncomfortable, especially if it makes us different from the insanity of our materialistic culture. Always, He knows we need open spaces to lead us to wrestle and embrace Him in our journey. 

Blessings for your open spaces,