White Space

via Verena Stummer featured @decor8(photography: Gregor Hofbauer)


When I was younger and I thought about my future home, I always thought about what I wanted to put IN my home.  I thought about what I didn’t have or what I wanted or  what I hoped for.  I thought about what I could create and what fun ideas I could come up with and interpret into our home.

Now that I’ve been doing this for 28 years (I’d say I started about 10 years-old with my Barbie houses, I was one of the lucky ones with the Barbie Dream House complete with the pink plastic canopy bed) I’ve learned that creating a beautiful meaningful home with stuff I love to be surrounded by isn’t just about what I put IN my home.

It’s just important to take things OUT of our homes.  What NOT to have.

Maybe more important.

Because if EVERYTHING has meaning then nothing is really meaningful.  Especially if I feel that I must keep and display it all.

If everything is beautiful and I can and must have it all, then it’s just a bunch of piled up beautiful things. And a bunch of things, beautiful or ugly, begins to look and act like a hoard.

If I’m keeping all the beauty piled up on the tables and in the corners and in the holding area, just in case, then the Stuff Manager rears her ugly, bossy head and gets mad because all she does is constantly care for these objects.

Sometimes I ask myself, what’s the least amount of stuff I can have in this space and still have it accomplish our homes purpose and goals? Having a meaningful, beautiful home is a goal of mine, so I consider that with the question, but sometimes I’m surprised at how little it takes to meet my goals and still look beautiful.


  1. Yes, a deep truth that applies not just to interiors but to life. I was talking with a friend about her living room and we came to the idea that we just needed to start taking things OUT until it felt right. Then the room would tell us what to bring IN. In the meantime OUT is going to be my focus. :-)

  2. “what’s the least amount of stuff I can have in this space and still have it accomplish our homes purpose and goals?” I like this. Great thinkers, Nesty.

  3. Yes! White space, margins, whatever we call it, we’ve gotta have it … in our heads as well as in our spaces, our homes, and our offices. And if one of those domains is jam-packed, the other will probably end up that way, too …

  4. Your post makes me think of the outdoors. How much “white space” — blue sky — is there compared to all the things nailed down to the earth? Open spaces make it easier to breathe. Good thoughts.

  5. When my mom would repaint our tiny little house, she didn’t let us slap up posters or pictures for several weeks. I get that now. Decluttered home space declutters head space.

  6. Wise, wise words! A great perspective to have regarding the physical things within the home, AND on your calendar (love that quote on the featured photo!!)

    Sharing with my FB peeps! :)

  7. I’m loving this series! So much of what you’re saying resonates with me.

  8. Brilliant. Not what can I add to make it better. What can I edit to make it more beautiful and more useful. Like a rest note in a symphony, or negative space in art – the power of quiet, of white., of empty. Thank you – wise words.

  9. I like this a lot. Actually, I love it. By hoarding less, the focus goes back onto what you DO in the space then, instead of just what you see. Deep.

  10. I’ve been reading for sometime, but always get nervous about commenting; not sure why! Your post yesterday and today’s has been thinking about our home and resonates with what we’ve been doing with our home over the past few months. My sister, at the end of the summer, moved in with us, (She graduated with her two masters degree and is searching for her first gig as an architect.) so we had do some some rearranging to give her a bedroom space, that she’d also be able to use as her office space. Our home is quaint- 3 bedrooms and 2 baths; oh, and we have three boys under the age of four, too. I would of already described myself as more of a minimalist for our home, so I didn’t think we had any extra white space in our home and was worried how this was going to work for all of us. The funny thing is that it is working for all of us and there is enough space for all of us (our boys share a room). Her move-in has forced us to go through our home and find more white space. We’ve been giving away things we weren’t using or don’t need. Why save for “someday”? It’s so freeing! I have less stuff to manage, too! Each day, I find myself looking at the spaces in our home and how we can have more white space. Thanks for encouraging me to have a home that is beautiful! (That also doesn’t have to be perfect!)

  11. Now, I remember why I get nervous when commenting; sometimes I make mistakes in my writing. (even after I proofread!) :)

  12. Great thoughts! We’ve been in our house since Dec 2011 and I’ve yet to hang a thing on the walls except black out curtains for my son’s room. I am ready to put stuff up, but have been scrutinizing the decor I had in our last home. A lot of it isn’t stuff I love – that’s probably why I couldn’t put it back up. Out it goes!!

    The quote in your picture at the top caught my eye. Yesterday, I wrote about doing nothing in my 31 Day series on Order. It’s my first time to join and am enjoying the process. Thanks for the challenge. http://www.ahouseandyard.com/2012/10/think-ill-just-sit-spell.html

  13. Oh that question I am going to go hang up on my bathroom mirror: “Sometimes I ask myself, what’s the least amount of stuff I can have in this space and still have it accomplish our homes purpose and goals? ”
    I have been craving white space for a while, but after purging for two years, felt like I was at a stand still. But instead of asking myself if we use or love something, I’m going to ask “can we possibly make do without this?” Because we MIGHT only use it, because it’s there!

  14. Sometimes when I feel like a space is working I take things out.. you’re right, it works. It can feel really refreshing!

  15. “Because if EVERYTHING has meaning then nothing is really meaningful.” So true! But such a struggle for this girl who forms a sentimental attachment to everything. I see it in my kids as well and that makes for a cluttered and bursting house. We have been working on it for a little over a year and we all feel so much lighter and are enjoying our home more each day. Wonderful post, just what I needed to hear!

  16. “What’s the least amount of stuff I can have in this space and still have it accomplish our homes purpose and goals?”

    is going right up at the top of my list of daily affirmations with

    “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”

    You have no idea how that first simple statement has freed me from the anxiety of trying to get it all exactly right. This new one is going to help me in my new quest to clear out the buildup of ‘things’ I’ve been keeping watch over for far too long.

    Loving this 31 days series. Really good stuff!

    Cassandra from Renaissance Women

  17. My bedroom while growing up was COVERED with “memories.” And you know what? I absolutely loved it. I had bandaids from that time when, pictures strung up everywhere, knick knacks I received as gifts lined up or grouped on my desk, balloons that lost all their air pinned to the leftover white spaces….I go on.. and on… and on…

    Now that I finally have my own home and family I am learning exactly what you just said! If I keep every single baby outfit from my first born, none of them will be special. But if I keep one or two and put them in his box of memorabilia that he gets to have when he gets older, those outfits are remembered for the special day or the pictures he wore them in.

    It’s still hard for me to want to keep EVERYTHING. So piece by piece, I am learning to part.

  18. Yep. I need that space in every room of my home, – in some way, shape or form. Otherwise I don’t ever feel I can truly exhale.

  19. Great post. I agree, white space is calming.

  20. Great post! That is a lesson I learned last year and I am still wondering how I could translate it into my own home. Not easy at all because I am a quilter and I need a selection of fabrics which makes for a full closet but I am slowing letting go off all the other things that I don’t really need and which just make my home more cluttered and not let me breath.

  21. I really dislike our master bedroom because it has become a storage room and office. I know if I will follow the advice to keep only what is necessary now that I would like this room better. Clutter makes me grumpy!

  22. So, you had the barbie dream house? I’d have thought you were rich! :)

    Anyway, I’m really enjoying this series. I finally feel like I’m starting to get it but I still have a long way to go. It is encouraging to hear what others like youself have to say. You remind me alot of myself (introvert anyone?) and I love reading your take on things.

  23. These are great posts…I know I’ve got too much stuff…after 38 years of marriage…it sure does accumulate. So, when I’m in the mood, I purge. Good for the soul! And, sometimes you actually discover a hidden gem you might have forgotten about! ;)

  24. I enjoyed reading this, as a matter of fact I told someone else about it. The pictures were worth a thousand words.

  25. When I had to “stage” our house for moving in the spring, I got really used to having less stuff around. I’ve realized that I like it better that way. I started to “decorate” the new windowsill above the kitchen sink with tchotchkes. I had to stop myself and realize that having only one little plant is all it needed. It didn’t need a bunch of different items to clutter it up.
    I love your blog so much!!!

  26. I love this…you know what else? I like to have things to look forward to…maybe it’s the adventurer in me? When I’m tempted to complete a room really fast {likely by blowing a budget}, I try to remind myself that filling/finishing our home, slow and over time, is a beautiful part of the nesting process. :)

  27. I love, love, love this website. I enjoy watching rooms transform and wish that I had eye for this and could do the same for my very chaotic home. I have three teenagers (18,17,15) and 5 year old. This is a yours, mine and ours family with our 5-year old that connects us all. Not to sound stupid but what exactly is this “white space” that you refer too?

  28. 820 sq ft. 5 people (girl, boy, boy 13, 10, 8, plus us grownups:) ) . 2 bedrooms (yes they share) one living room. one kitchen/dining space. one bathroom. one everything else room. theoretically it would have just been a laundry room, but we needed a mudroom, and office, etc. etc. etc. i counted 13 different uses of this room. real often uses. its 7 ft. by 15 ft. “Ok,” i said to myself, “you are actually doing pretty good with the space….considering, maybe the Nester has some outside insight that might be helpful.” came to the blog today and read this:
    “for when your house is too small and you need more ideas on where to put your stuff.” and then this:
    “what’s the least amount of stuff I can have in this space and still have it accomplish our homes purpose and goals?”
    great starting point! thank you thank you thank you!

Speak Your Mind

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.