Fighting the Impulse to Fill Space

One of the first comments I hear when I tell people that Trevor and I have donated more things, and that we’ve almost got the amount of stuff we own to our goal, the first thing I hear is something along the lines of “pretty soon you won’t have anything left!” I’m not sure where the idea of filling a home with stuff came from, but I wanted to talk about this subject for those of you that are struggling on your quest to live with less.

How it Happens

Media Influence

If you aren’t one that usually checks out interior design publications, I highly encourage you (no, Pinterest doesn’t count). Just head to your local book store and flip through a few publications. Take note of what you see. What do coffee tables look like? How about book shelves? Night stands and side tables? Chances are you’ll encounter this: every surface will have books, magazines, knick-knacks, signs, photos, and the like.

Granted, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with displaying the things you like in your home, but a problems arises when there are a lot of items out: when the mantle is loaded with objects that you don’t know where to look, or there isn’t a space for a drink on the coffee table, or if you have to push items aside to lay your phone down on the nightstand, or when you have to shove small appliances to the side in order to prepare a meal. Even worse, when you don’t actually love all the items that are displayed in your home.

Interiors publications and television shows have continuously emphasized the displaying of items to “make a space feel more inviting,” or “help a space seem lived in,” and countless other reasons. The reality is, these things are irrelevant. Magazines don’t have to litter your coffee table and you don’t need a book shelf full of things in order to make your space more “lived in” (whatever that means?!) and “inviting.” A well-designed home and space will do this naturally on its own.


Every season there’s new colors, textures, and styles that are “in” for the current year and we all rush out to buy a few things in order to update our space and keep up with the times. This doesn’t only occur with decorations, but with clothing, dinnerware, and textiles.  Bright pastels and greens in the spring, bright pops of color for summer, muted and jeweled tones for fall, and icy whites and blues for winter. This year natural materials are in, but this winter you should accent with metals…

Again, all of this is frivolous and the effect of continuous marketing. Companies have been saying the same things for years now, that most of us have fallen into line and bought into their consumer ideals. I’ve been there before and it’s a difficult habit to walk away from, but it’s truly earth-shattering to understand that you don’t need half the stuff you’re told you do. The amount of time and money you save is immeasurable.

Benefits of Not Filling Space

Spending Less Money and Time

This benefit is really an obvious one, but finances are too important to gloss over. If you aren’t filling all the space in your home and buying decorative items, then you’ll be saving that money for places you actually want to spend it in.

As for time, if you’ve got more open space, cleaning is a breeze. Hours can be wasted dusting, moving furniture and vacuuming. Cleaning and maintaining belongings takes less of your valuable time when there are fewer things to look after.

There’s So Much More Room For Activities

If you aren’t filling the space of your home with stuff, there is more empty space in your home. This often makes a space feel open and airy, which translates to “relaxed.”

Having open space means floor room for workouts, dancing, sprawling, playing, and creating. Open space means light doesn’t get obstructed. It means you have the freedom to make your home versatile and malleable depending on what your needs are.

Don’t Play the Game

Find Minimalist Inspiration

A great way to get started resisting the urge to fill space is to seek out interiors that practice what I’m preaching to strive to achieve in your own home, or remind you to fight the urge to fill space.Make sure the interiors you’re finding don’t have a high concentration of clutter, or decoration; it’s possible for a space to look welcoming and put-together without having objects strewn about. Feel free to check out my Pinterest if you’re having trouble finding a good diving point.

Remove Temptation

Resisting the media and advertising isn’t an easy task, as their influence is everywhere you go, but it can be done. One of the biggest ways we removed influence was by not having television. Why would I pay for a service that’s mostly advertisements? I personally find TV ads to be the most aggressive ads out there and have seen a tremendous effect on my mood and wallet by limiting my exposure. Now, when I come in contact with TV at the doctor’s office, a relative’s, or while out to eat, I can take a step back and be highly judgmental of the ads I encounter.

Another great way to limit your exposure is to end any magazine subscriptions, or email subscriptions you have. Magazines these days are at minimum 50% ads, so I think twice about spending the money to subscribe to them. Then there’s email subscriptions, a.k.a. you’re digital junk mail. I highly encourage you to take the time to unsubscribe from those that send you sales notifications, or multiple emails a day. You definitely don’t have the time for that kind of harassment. Plus, the temptation to check out a sale won’t be there if the reminder never comes to your inbox.

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