Sunday, September 19, 2010

Adding White Space to Our Lives

Apple's web site, iPad page - lots of white space

No, this isn't a post about the iPad. But Apple's web site provides a good example of how the judicious use of white space makes a site effective - as Henry Jones points out.

But just today I've been reading a number of web sites that talk about the need for white space in our lives, too. I'll quote briefly from these various sites; you can follow the links to read the full articles. It started with Terry Barber's The White Space of Life (PDF) where he writes:
I get home, and as I’m hanging up my suit and tie, I notice my crammed-full closet, and I think to myself, Wow! This is a picture of my life. For a man, I have way too many shoes. Shoes sitting on top of each other. Shoes still in the boxes. Shoes for running, shoes for tennis. Golf shoes and walking shoes. I look to the right and I see neatly arranged dress shirts—blues, whites, and others — all packed in very tightly. They could use a little breathing room. So could I.

Just before I go to bed, I look at my calendar for tomorrow. ... It’s crowded. ...

When you love what you do, white space quickly becomes a rare commodity. But without it, even that thing you love to do can become burdensome.
And that was followed, just a few hours later, with these thoughts from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits:
I’m not a designer, but I’ve always been in love with the design concept of white space. It’s the space in a design that isn’t filled with things. ...

But white space can be used in the design of our lives as well. ...

White space can give clarity to the things in our lives — whether they’re possessions, projects, tasks, or just things that occupy our time and attention. A nice piece of furniture is more beautiful when it’s not surrounded by clutter. ...

In theory, achieving white space isn’t difficult: you remove non-essential items from your life, your workday, your surroundings, your possessions, and leave the essential items with space around them.

But of course in practice it’s a bit different, and requires experimentation, learning, practice.
And then I found this article by Tara on the Ode Magazine web site, which begins with this:
Recently, I’ve been canceling a lot of things from my calendar. Just canceling. It feels quite rebellious. My life, like yours, is full of projects, work, family, errands, all kinds of lovely people, closet organizing aspirations….I could go on and on. I filled up the calendar with all that good stuff and found myself feeling bummed out by it, anxious and resentful. I wanted white space – not a zoo of text – on the calendar page.
Note: The quote above had a typo on the original site, which I've corrected.

Does this concept resonate with anyone? Do you feel the need to add white space to some parts of your life? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


Struggler said...

It was wonderful to chat with you yesterday, thank you.
Regarding white space, the web design article is an excellent reference. In real life, I've always needed white space to 'catch my breath' and recharge. Being at home purely for bed and breakfast is not my style - I cherish little bits of empty time.

Anonymous said...

Great article Jeri! I talk about white space in my book too, it's a great concept.

My white space includes silence and pockets of empty in my storage. White space can be hard to achieve but is great to always have as a consideration.

Jeri Dansky said...

Struggler, I really enjoyed the time, too.

Lissanne, glad you enjoyed the post! (The "blog" login threw me, but following the link told me who was behind that comment.) You made me think about how I especially need "white space" time at a conference, which can be totally overwhelming without such time.

I got a comment by e-mail from a reader who noted how art galleries need to provide the proper amount of white space to properly display the various works of art.

I thought about how that same concept can apply in our homes (and offices) when it comes to decorative pieces; we appreciate them more if they have enough white space around them.

MarySees said...

What an interesting topic!

We artists call it negative space. What's amazing is that you can define the positive space by drawing your negative space first. It's a different approach that can be very creative and freeing.

Thanks, Jeri! :)

izzie said...

Thanks for leading me to this article, Jeri. I am not putting thoughts and recommendations for a start up business plan to paper and want to ensure that all aspects of the operation include "white space." this article was a wonderful reminder.

Jeri Dansky said...

MarySees and Izzie, I'm so glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks for adding your perspectives!

Julie Bestry said...

I definitely need to maintain white space in my life. As a professional organizer, my tangible space is pretty set, but time is a careful balance. I'm amazed at people who get pop up in the morning and be surrounding by people and activities all day without needed white space/time to recharge batteries.

I purposely schedule no clients on Mondays (AdminMondays) so I can have the serenity I need to write my blog. It's not that scheduling other tasks or client sessions would reduce the available time, per se, but it would reduce that serene "alone time" with my thoughts to get my brain where it needs to be. I'm a social butterfly, but even butterflies have to alight and settle for a bit, eh?

Rachel said...

Hi Jeri,
This article really does resonate, especially as I've been getting our home and lives ready for our new baby. I know it will be a challenge to maintain that white space once she arrives, but I'm up for the challenge! Any other parents to be, I highly recommend the book The Peaceful Nursery - great advice on creating "white space."

Mary N. said...

Thank you for this article! I never knew what to name my style, I would just say I'm a "minimalist" and yet, the concept of white space is perfect!

Lazara said...

What a great way to express a need we all have! Few of us fail to include that white space (God called it "Sabbath") even though it may be the most important thing we can do to keep ourselves "charged" for all the other wonderful opportunities in our lives.