The Small Joy of an Empty Drawer

The universe is ever-expanding. Does the same inevitability follow with my stuff? Are all of us collectors? Not of important or significant items, but of general junk like books, sweaters, lamps, vases, baskets, throw pillows, and picture frames? If so, where does all the stuff go?

My first apartment was tiny, the upstairs of a Philadelphia rowhome with 3 shoebox rooms connected by a hallway. I ran across a photo of my old bedroom and felt claustrophobic just looking at how the furniture in my bedroom was fitted together like puzzle pieces, end-to-end, around the room. After trying to invent storage out of nooks and corners in smaller spaces, I might have had dreams like those that the readers of muse about: The dream of suddenly stumbling upon an empty room I forgot about, or even an empty closet would have helped. I think Uncle Paul will remember being beckoned to my apartment with his electric drill because there was a corner that was empty and I wanted shelves. An empty foot and a half of wall space was wasted! There were coffee mugs to store!

Now our apartment feels like such a luxury. There are empty drawers, empty corners. The dishes in our cabinets have room to breath! It's a wonder they lived through my previous apartments where they were precariously balanced on top of each other like pieces of a Jenga puzzle. (No criticism of Uncle Paul's shelving talents.)

I have to hold myself back from the impulse to fill each empty space. Even if there's nothing to put there. I was at one of my favorite places, The Container Store, and saw these handy under-bed storage containers: clear plastic, with little wheels and split top lids so that you don't even have to pull them all the way out to get to your sweaters or whatever. It was like the me of the past, resident of the tiny rowhouse apartment was telling me to buy them because she needed the storage space. Kind of like how people who lived through the depression hoard canned goods, I was hoarding storage goods. But I don't even have anything that needs to be stored under the bed!
Maintaining empty drawers and empty spaces is like a meditation. Breathe and appreciate it for being empty. That it's not filled with junk that you bought ages ago, haven't used in years and feel guilty about throwing out. It's satisfyingly empty and spacious.


Andra Sue said...

I, too, am fighting an unexplained carnal urge to fill every empty nook and cranny in my new house. After I spent years pining for more space, no less. As of today, I have three completely empty rooms and am trying to be Zen-like about them. As you said, appreciating the empty space for what it is, or maybe their inherent potential. It's a surprisingly hard thing to do!


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