Saturday, September 20, 2008

Why Is It Called 'White Space Life' ... ?



Flip through any glossy lifestyle or home improvement magazine, and look at the images used in adverts, usually depicting some impossibly good-looking young couple in a tidy, roomy lounge in a modern apartment, full of light and space, with no clutter, no mess.

Now look at your own room, flat or house. Quite a difference, eh?
You'd imagine that the advertising image of that perfect environment is an unattainable goal - but it's really not.

The Nightmare
Frankly, we buy far too much unnecessary stuff. Then we buy more stuff to maintain and store and clean the other stuff and all it's accessories. Then we barely use it, we forget about it, it gathers dust. And then we throw it in a landfill.

We buy this stuff not because we need it, but because we want it, just at that particular fleeting moment when we see it, because purchasing makes us feel good - it's a form of therapy.

We buy a small flat, fill it with rubbish, decide that we then need a bigger house, trade up, enjoy the extra space for a week... before proceeding to fill it up again with the same old crap.

The Dream

It's difficult, ridding ourselves of this addiction, especially with a family, but the benefits are astounding. And - this is important - it's not necessarily about frugality: you can buy less, and you can save a lot of money, but you also have the choice of buying 'less-but-better': I know a guy who has 23 shirts, all pretty cheap, while I have 5, all hand made, which probably cost about the same to buy.

With 'White Space Living' you can have better stuff, but most importantly, you have less to store, tidy, clean, maintain, insure and protect. And by the way, as a by-product, you use resources less, have less to recycle, you can make ethically-based buying decisions, and raise a finger to the big evil corporations!

White Space In Graphics

The phrase 'White Space' is also used in graphic design to refer to the, well, space, usually (but not always) white, around an text or graphic element, which highlights the item itself, on it's own, on the page. In the same way, less stuff in real life simply means that the stuff you do have becomes more precious, you get more pleasure and enjoyment from it, you tend to use it more, and keep it for longer.

My Personal Experience

When I moved a few years ago, most of my mountain of stuff was in boxes. With being too busy and having no time to unpack, I fell into a routine of living out of two or three boxes for a while, only retrieving stuff I needed, when I needed it.

And a year later, most of those boxes were still sealed. So I had the mother of all clear outs, and I put the brakes on spending. Pretty soon, I'd whittled my possessions down to a bare minimum.

Since then, I've been a passionate believer in, and practitioner of, minimalism. This has further inspired me to address other aspects of society, and get involved in anti-consumerism, environmentalism, recycling, local politics and various other causes.

My life now revolves around things that are far more important: experiences, travel, activism, relationships.

I don't miss the stuff at all.