Making Space

Posted | 8 comments

Making Space

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” ~ Lao Tzu

My daughter finally chose her dress for prom. A lovely black and gold number that I’m sure she’ll look stunning wearing. As she finalized the order, she realized she would need new shoes. She has a pair of strappy, silver heels, but they would clash with her dress.

It occurred to me that I might have exactly what she needed. Excitedly, I hurried to my closet and pulled two plastic shoe boxes down from the top shelf. Each box held one pair of shoes. These were my fancy shoes. Since we wear the same shoe size, one or the other should be perfect.

As she tried on the beautiful, beaded sandals, I had to agree, they would clash with her gown. She dubbed the black pointy-toed pumps “ugly,” She was right. They were ugly and not in the style of the minute.

Shoe shopping trip planned, I placed my fancy shoes back in their plastic boxes and tucked them neatly on the top shelf of my closet. Over the next few days, even though they were out of site, I couldn’t keep them out of mind. I questioned myself as to why I was holding onto these two pairs of shoes.

I couldn’t honestly remember the last time I had worn either pair, and even after careful thought, I had no idea where I had bought them or how long I had owned them. I tried on both pairs again and teetered around the house to my husband’s amusement. Neither pair was the least bit comfortable.

Since they were in good repair and I have the space to store them, I argued (with myself) that I should hold onto them just in case something comes up. Every girl needs a pair or two of fancy shoes, right? Finally, I had to admit that in reality if something did come up, I would probably go out and just buy a new pair of shoes.

I’m a professional organizer, and while I’m sentimental, I’ve never even come close to being a hoarder. I throw things that are damaged or stained in the trash. I happily give away items that others can use. I’m on a first name basis with the employees at my favorite donation center. I encourage my clients to do the same.

In the past six months, I’ve redone every closet in my house, my pantry, and the garage carefully scrutinizing every item in each of these places. Tools, hardware, linens, kitchen ware, clothes, pictures, and decor were sorted through and those items we no longer needed were donated, sold, or trashed.

So, as I contemplated my fancy shoes, the ones that made the cut just a few months before, I had to ask myself why I held onto them. Even though they were in perfect shape and even though I had space, there really was no reason.

Then, it occurred to me that if I let them go, I would have extra space in my closet. An entire eight inches of emptiness. Excited, I racked my brain trying to think of what I could put there in place of the shoes, but nothing came to mind.

I realized that I would have to leave the space empty and that is when a deep, deep discomfort swept over my entire body and a knot slowly began to form in my stomach.

I know that in order to bring new, better, and right into your life you have to let go of old, lessor, and wrong. My mantra for the past five years has been “letting go…embracing change.” Yet, here I was with a death grip on two pairs of fancy shoes terrified of the eight measly inches of empty space on the top shelf of my closet that I couldn’t/wouldn’t be able to immediately fill.

I breathed deep. I settled into the discomfort. I stayed with it until it passed.

The next day, I tried on each pair of shoes one last time to confirm that they were indeed uncomfortable and out of date. Then I walked them to the dining room table and placed them there to donate.

I wondered what other things I had overlooked in my recent purge. As I poked through closets and cupboards, more and more items were added. The nearly new red shoes that I promise are filled with invisible razors and make me cry in pain at the very thought of even putting them on for one second, the plastic cup from the car dealership that nobody in my family will ever use, and several pillow cases, their mates lost long ago.

As I pulled each unneeded item, I made an empty space, and each time I felt the discomfort rise in my body, I breathed through it.

I keep going because I know that it is only in the empty space, in the quiet silent moments, in the free fall that begins the minute we let go of old things, old feelings, old thoughts, and old ideas that change can happen.

I’m making space and holding the emptiness sacred and waiting patiently for the change.


  1. Love this post on so many levels, Denise. I especially love the making space metaphor you so beautifully illustrate here. I just completed a big project. I also closed the door on an old program to make room for something new. And, I have been feeling the same deep, deep discomfort that always plagues me when I create the spaciousness I work so hard to create. Yes, breathing deeply, here. Thank you for the reminder.

  2. Denise you are amazing! I love what you bring to the world and what you create, the nothingness of it all. (a.k.a. Space!) Pun intended. 🙂

  3. I love these two lines:

    I keep going because I know that it is only in the empty space, in the quiet silent moments, in the free fall that begins the minute we let go of old things, old feelings, old thoughts, and old ideas that change can happen.
    I’m making space and holding the emptiness sacred and waiting patiently for the change.

    There is so much to all you’ve written. I am good at purging things and living simply so there’s not much clutter (well it’s getting a bit crazy with all of Sabrina’s toys and art projects) but I can relate to the angst of letting go. I still have some clothing from 20 years ago! Not sure why, but now that I’ve read this, I am going to explore and sit with what comes up.

    I purged many books a year ago, and lost many favorites due to flooding. That was a hard loss, one I’ve been sitting with for a while. But I’ve put it into perspective and have slowly let go of them mentally.

    Empty spaces…I’m learning how important they are to experience something new.

    • I’m so sorry about your books, Tracey. Losing something you loved is never an easy thing. Mourning is required. I’m glad you’re starting to find peace around it.

      Even in the midst of this latest purge, there are things I know I’ll need to hold onto. If we love it and it’s not causing us stress; we keep it. If it makes us happy or we know it’ll be put to good use in the near future; we keep it. And if we’re just not quite sure what to do with it and we need a bit more time to mull it over, we keep it.

      Now is a good time to start teaching Sabrina to cull through her own possessions. For paper, I have one plastic bin (it’s actually the “sweater bin” from the Container Store) for each of my children. Any art or schoolwork they want to keep (or in some cases things I wanted), is put in it. It has always fit neatly on a closet shelf. If something didn’t fit or the bin got too full, we would purge a few things. For toys, suggest she throw away anything broken and donate items. You can always suggest toys you notice she hasn’t played with in awhile. A good time to do it is before her birthday or holidays, so she can make room for the new gifts.

      Empty space is good. We both have a lot of “new” to look forward to.

  4. Thank you, Denise! I think I have a few razor filled shoes I need to purge. And probably a few other things as well, though I’ve been doing pretty well with it lately. Except for my art supplies which I believe are beginning to multiply on their own!

    • I know you’ve been working on this for awhile Holly. I remember the big closet purge. Wasn’t that the fall of 2013? The lesson for me is that we just have to keep noticing what’s not bringing joy into our lives and let it go. It’s a process.

  5. Denise, your thought that every space needs to be filled or we feel uncomfortable made me want to conduct an inner inventory asap. I do rather well letting go of material things, but it’s those mental closets and drawers that stay cluttered or hold outdated things. Such keen insight. Thank you.

    • I’m discovering a whole host of mental closets and drawers myself. It’s all connected.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *