I have always been attracted to empty, clean, uncluttered spaces. The kind of spaces that make a lot of people go “Oh, it’s so empty, it’s so bare, it needs something!”. Many years before I even learned of the existence of minimalism as a design philosophy (way before it was applied to to other arenas), I felt very much at ease in stark, streamlined places. Just the clean lines and the lack of adornment made me feel at peace and relaxed. It was like a natural stress reliever. I didn’t know why I felt this way, but at some point I became aware of this feeling every time I was around a place that was clutter-free. I felt like I could actually breathe and be at peace.
I’ve always admired John Pawson, and what he calls “the excitement of empty space”. Of course, at first I thought minimalism was all about white walls and no furniture, and even though I did like that, I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted to live around. I couldn’t see myself living in a stark white environment. Too sterile, I thought. Too antiseptic, lifeless even.
I’ve been in houses where every nook and cranny has been filled with “something”. Sadly, most items are cheap trinkets with no intrinsic value. Everything is important, therefore nothing is important. No space is left unadorned, no horizontal area has been left uncovered by a figurine or a souvenir or a coaster. Why? What is the fascination with clutter? I can almost hear Alanis Morissette singing “Why are you so petrified of silence?” Why are they so scared of empty spaces? I’ll tell you why: because empty spaces force us to focus and they make us think. We’re not distracted by the chaos of colors and shapes and textures; our brains are forced to engage with the here and now. And that scares many people. You can see them fidgeting and almost squirming. Why not just BE? Why not just surrender to the emptiness and breathe? I wish I could help more people see the beauty and feel the peacefulness of empty spaces.
Of course, emptiness is a concept that can be applied to our schedules, our relationships, our careers, almost anything. Having a clear plate is a beautiful thing. I am always pursuing what I call this “zen state of nothingness”, and I shall continue learning along the way.
In the meantime, I will keep loving empty spaces, even if all my friends think I’m crazy. And you know what? I think they’re right. I’m crazy about “nothing”! 🙂