Making Space

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Every garden needs to be pruned now and then. And Lisa Thomson has learned that shedding unnecessary objects can improve the feel of a home, too.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. As far as I’m concerned, any time of the year is just as good as any other to start or break a habit. Yet like millions across the nation, this January I was swept up in the tide of “tidying”.

Ten years ago, when I moved from a studio apartment into my 900 square feet condo, I couldn’t believe how much space I had. There were whole rooms with nothing in them!

Over time, I bought furniture and rugs, and filled the linen closet with sheets and blankets. As I brought new things into my home, there was no need to get rid of the old ones. I had space for everything! I stashed my old VCR, even older vacuum, and surprisingly large scarf collection in the hallway closet, and then moved on to the guest room, where I packed in stacks of books I would never read again alongside a broken stereo and a monitor with missing cables.

This went on until the day when—searching for a spot to store some extra dog food—I realized how much stuff I had collected. How many lone socks I’d held on to, how many pairs of shoes I hadn’t worn in years. And in that moment, I felt the weight of it pressing down on my shoulders. All that stuff was making me claustrophobic.


So I pulled everything out of my closets, drawers, and cupboards and started the deeply therapeutic process of deciding what to keep, what to get rid of, and what to give away.

As I worked, I was reminded of an important lesson: Just because you have room for something doesn’t mean you should keep it. And just because you have money for something doesn’t mean you should buy it.

Some items were easy, others more challenging, and although I can’t say that I found much pleasure in sorting through old bills and bank statements, I did enjoy rearranging my sock drawer a little more than I’d like to admit.

While I am pleased with my now neatly organized belongings, I feel an even greater sense of joy brought on by the empty spaces around them. Spaces not waiting to be filled, but simply existing.

With a Perspective, I’m Lisa Thomson.

Lisa Thomson is a marketer and writer. She lives in Oakland.