In Pursuit of Space

Finding balance with mental and physical room

Words by Dara Zycherman

I’ve been fascinated by the tiny home movement, as it has captured an audience through inspiring TV shows and provided a more practical and affordable approach to home ownership. Tiny houses tend to be financially responsible, environmentally conscious solutions that lead to a simpler life. Though this movement may be the right avenue for some, it is not for everyone. After all, minimizing home square footage isn’t the point of minimalism.

Minimalism isn’t about less space; it’s about making space.

Space is both physical and mental. As with all things minimalism, it’s particular to the individual. I ask my clients: What is the least amount you need to accomplish the most? What is weighing you down rather than freeing you up? Each answer is different.

For me, space and freedom are the ultimate payoffs of minimalism. The look and feel of those two goals is always based on my current lifestyle and needs, and they don’t always look the same.

I lived in a 400 sq. ft. studio apartment for three years. Before that, another similarly sized studio. It saved me money while containing all I needed to maximize my life. Because I’m a minimalist, I had the flexibility to do this. If I wanted to, I could have made this space continue to work for me or even move into a tiny home.

Living in a studio was never the ultimate point. It was simply the tool I needed at that time.

When I saw my needs and desires evolve, I paid attention. Mindful awareness is a key component of minimalism. Not only does a minimalist practice help us design our current lives, it also keeps us keen on changes as they arise which we can then monitor and evaluate.

Filming videos and taking more photos for my business led to a need for better-designed and larger indoor space. I needed easy access to my media equipment and more room to set it up. I sought an aesthetic that was more calming, with more common spaces accessible in my apartment building to further expand. I wanted to enjoy food preparation in a more functional kitchen with easier cleanup as my schedule became more full. I wanted enough cabinet space that didn’t require me to get out my step stool many times a day. I felt a desire for a separate bedroom space and a small, dedicated area for yoga and meditation, and a bathroom where I wouldn’t hit my head on the towel rack due to it being cramped would be a plus. All of these features relate to more physical space, and they offer mental and emotional space in the form of time, ease, room to try different things, and general openness.

I no longer wanted to feel cozy; I wanted to feel expansive. There are times where the comfort of cocooning in our homes give us the texture of space we seek. Other times, it is stifling to our spirit.

Adding space can counteract the pursuit of minimalism. A bigger space could mean more furniture and more stuff because now there are shelves and drawers that can easily be filled. With mindful awareness, you can keep your space as just that—space. Protect the thing you love.

Now in my 700-square-feet, one-bedroom apartment, I have all the functionality and aesthetic I desire. Everything is easier. I spend less time on minutiae. I have just the space I need to breathe, grow, feel expansive, and create. It’s right for me at this time, but my awareness can never take a vacation. If later I need a difference in space, I will adjust.

Minimalism looks different for everyone. It is easy to confuse the perceived aesthetic of minimalism with the point of minimalism. Whether you live in a tiny house or a 1,500-square-feet home, the main question is whether you have everything you need, both in terms of material objects and space. If you do, you have just the perfect size, and the gift of freedom.

Dara Zycherman

Dara Zycherman, owner of Less Equals More, made minimalism her profession so she could teach others how to live with freedom, sustainability, and simplicity. She makes videos about minimalism and offers Minimalist Lifestyle Coaching services.

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