Do you need white space?

How many items do you have on your to-do list? How about goals? Do you have more than a few that you’d like to achieve? If you’re looking to simplify your life, likely that’s because your list is filled to the brim with goals, interests, activities, passions, people, and work.

It gets especially sticky taking action and completing anything on your master project list after you become a parent.

Since my daughter was born almost four years ago, I’ve had to adjust and reframe how I reach and set big goals in my life. It used to be so easy! But now, with a toddler in tow, a job managing someone else’s online business, a husband who needs my attention, too, writing for my own blog, writing my first book, and the myriad mommy duties, I need time and space to actually reach all those goals—and finish anything.

If your life is bursting at the seams, like mine, then you might like to know these three things I’ve learned to make space in your life, so you can actually get down to the business of getting things done.

1. You’re not lazy. You just need space.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got lots of things you want to do. But life also happens, work tires you out, you just want lean back, take a break… and do nothing. Then what happens? You’re at the end of your week or weekend, and you regret not doing what you wanted to do.

Laziness isn’t your problem—setting priorities is.

Ask yourself if you’ve been putting something off because, as you say, you may actually be lazy. Then, decide if the issue is whether it’s actually a priority. You’ll feel empowered when you actually say it out loud. Either it is a priority, or it isn’t. You decide. Once you make this decision, you’ll feel a burst of energy.

2. Make some space to get some space.

I know, this kind of sounds like the chicken and the egg scenario, but hear me out. If you need space in one area of your life, look for easy ways to clear the clutter in another area.

Recently, someone close to me expressed her emotional stress over a relationship. She then spent the weekend cleaning out the closets in her house. By the end of the weekend, she could see the relationship more clearly, and her initial stress dissipated.

Since the closets posed no emotional stress to her, she was able to work on that space, and in some odd way, it cleared just that bit of mental room to re-evaluate what was going on in her relationship.

Do you have an area of your life that’s overwhelming you? Turn your attention to an area that doesn’t completely stress you out—and clean it up. Focusing on an area that gives you no stress, no worry, and no emotional overwhelm is often a secret back door to clearing the extra room in your life you need.

Try it. Is your body or weight making you depressed and obsessed with the scale? Spend the weekend cleaning up your receipts and paperwork, or fill your weekend with activities for you and your family. Money stressing you out? Go for a long run or hike.

3. Lose the Cs.

Photo by Koalazy Monkey

Create a master project list—dump everything from your brain onto a piece of paper. Mark the most important items with an A, the you-want-to-do-them-but-not-now with a B, and the ones you’ve been holding onto but really don’t need to do at all with C.

Cross off the Cs. Find a way to completely lose them from your list.

Even if you are never planning to do them, letting them sit on your list is weighing you down and taking up space. Just cross them off.

When you intentionally make more white space in your life, you’ll notice more mental clarity, more energy, and an increased sense of well-being.

Note from Tsh: Anne wants to give ten Simple Mom readers a copy of her new e-book, The White Space Solution! To enter the giveaway, simply leave any comment on this post. The giveaway will end Tuesday evening (tomorrow), October 25. I hope you win!

This giveaway is now closed. Check back soon for the winners!

top photo source

Anne is a mom, project manager for LKR and the author the e-book, The White Space Solution: Make Room For Your Best Life & Work.

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  1. I’ve never thought about it before, but the “make some space to get some space” is totally what I do! It’s amazing how much better I’ll feel about stressful work situations or family situations after a weekend spent cleaning closets or gleaning through books.

    I think I may have to try the crossing C items off my list thing…there are a few house projects that have been lurking on my list for months, and it’d be so relieving to get rid of them!

    • You’ll be surprised how often you can do and re-do these 3 things to relieve any feelings of overwhelm. Crossing off my C’s is an ongoing practice that helps me let go of goals or just “things” that take up room in my head.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. I also clear other spaces to make room in my head for pressing (yet overwhelming) issues. And I always thought of this as procrastinating! I love the ABC list and will give it a try.

  3. I needed to read this as I’m sitting in the middle of a time consuming and tedious project that doesn’t give me the reward or excitement it once did. I am in serious need of some white space and need to sort out those things on my list and in my mind that are not critical at this already stressful season of my life. I wake up overwhelmed by all the things I think I need to do, but many come from my perfectionistic, ideal thinking and aren’t necessarily realistic expectations for each day. better start crossing off and prioritizing.

    • Jen – you just made me think of something I heard this past weekend at a conference. Destruction often has to happen in order to create and innovate. Think about losing those projects that have been holding you hostage (maybe not so dramatic, but hopefully you get my meaning), letting them go, and allowing your passionate pursuits to sprout!

  4. I love the concept of white space!

  5. Thanks for this post-made me feel better and made sense to me.

  6. Are yall watching my life and then blogging about me? I needed this post. Would love to win the book!

  7. I love white space too. It feels so refreshing and relaxing. I have the hardest time creating it (think about this a lot with my scrapbook pages, as a concrete example) but love to be in it and around it.

  8. I like the idea of labeling the ‘to do’ list with A B C. Thanks for a new way of looking at my ever growing list…

  9. This is just what indeed to read. I have feen feeling so overwhelmed by my list lately. Great solutions!

  10. “If you need space in one area of your life, look for easy ways to clear the clutter in another area.” I haven’t heard of this before, I will have to give it a try. Great post.

  11. Some days I could use a little more white space. Thanks for the post.

  12. I find it so helpful to dump everything from my brain onto paper. I’m going to give the A, B, C idea a try. Great post!

  13. I could DEFINITELY benefit from some “white space”….sounds like just what I need!

  14. I find myself torn between finding things to fill my time, and trying to find enough time to get things done. I’ve recently started my own piano and voice studio, so while adding that to being a stay-at-home mom is daunting, I don’t have many students yet so I’m not *that* busy. Still, would be good to implement this advice before I do get busier…

    • Karen,
      I had the same experience when I started teaching pilates in my home during my daughter’s nap….I did the same thing. My advice is decide what the max number of students you can serve every week. The number will increase as you get more comfortable balancing everything! Best of luck!

  15. Loving the “dump the Cs” idea! We’re all about space around here…physical clearing happens on a weekly basis, now to make mental white space more of a habit…

  16. Reading you from Spain I realize that the situation of mums-workers-wifes-women is more a less the same:). And I undertood why it relaxs me to fix up the closeds!! Start working in my ABC list. Thanks!!

    • Love it – we as women take on so many roles universally – and it’s nice to hear that the post resonated with you even though we are from different areas of the world!

  17. Thanks for a great post…I can almost feel my head clearing as I read through it! I have a lot of trouble with feeling overwhelmed by all the jobs staring at me all day, and find I do anything else but the jobs because I don’t know where to start. An ABC list should help get that one sorted!

    • Maudie,
      You hit on something really important here! Sometimes just taking a moment and being aware of how you’re feeling will alleviate overwhelm and feeling of pressure! It’s kinda sneaky, but when you spend 5 minutes becoming aware of your surroundings, your thoughts, how you feel…you’ll notice that you can gain clarity and feel lighter without doing anything else!
      Thanks so much for your comment!

  18. I love this idea–and as I read it can think of times when it was true in my life as well. I would love to read this ebook!

  19. I am making my list and think the idea of crossing off the C’s is brilliant. Thanks for the tip. My garden area could use some decluttering – and maybe doing that will clear my head…

  20. Wow! What great insights. These words really resonated with me.

  21. I’d love to win this book.

  22. This is great! I just sat down with my to do list in front of me while reading this blog. I love the concept of doing something else (cleaning out closets) to get perspective on another area of your life. I might try it with a writing project I can’t seem to get started on today!

  23. Thanks for some good ideas about creating space!

  24. I really like the idea of de-cluttering a space that you are not emotionally attached to to gain clarity on another part of your life. What a great idea! I definitely will have to try this one 🙂

  25. This sounds like something I definitely need to read right now.

  26. Great post. I have a lot of “C’s” on my list that I need to cross off!

  27. Some great tips! Thanks! 🙂

  28. I need to clear space by decluttering, managing my time better and organizing what’s in my head. Priorities is the answer and ABC is the way to get it done! Thanks for a great way to start the week! Hope I get a lot more done!

  29. Oh my goodness–I needed this post today! I have a love-hate relationship with lists so this is welcome help. Thanks.

  30. I think part of the porblem is that we try to fit more into a day than is physically possible. Stopping ourselves from overscheduling is key to creating time and space. I like to use an old fashioned style school timetable. I always put the most important things in first (including breaks!!!). Then, once it is full I can’t put anything else in. So if I want to add something in, something has to drop out. Works a treat.

    • Ali,
      I think what you suggest is so crucial – do those important things first! Building time for breaks is another thing we all forget to do and is actually more important than we think for maintaining mental clarity throughout the day.
      Thank you so much for sharing your insights !

  31. I love your idea to “lose the c’s.” Why do I even have those things on my list to begin with” Great advice.

  32. I’d love to win this book!

  33. What a helpful and encouraging post!

  34. This is just what I needed to read after writing a very long blog post yesterday about how I never have or make time to do the thing I really love to do. Sometimes things really do fall into place. Thank you 🙂

  35. What great ideas! I’d live to get my hands on that book!

  36. I really appreciated the timeliness of this post. Just last night I tossed and turned in bed thinking of all the things I did not accomplish this past weekend – budgeting, vacuuming, grading, getting the coffee ready – rather than focusing on all I did accomplish – grocery shopping, laundry, playing with my daughter, running a 5K…I hate the guilt and unbalance I seem to constantly feel. This post is such a great life reminder!

    • The before you fall asleep chatter is the worst! I know about that and sometimes I seriously can’t turn it off! One thing that seems to work over and over again – learned this from Josh Pais of Committed Impulse – is to try to get back in the moment. When you let those thoughts take over, you aren’t HERE. 3 simple things I do: breathe, feel the weight of my body in the bed, look around the room and notice my surroundings, and when I start hearing those thoughts…bring it back to the breathing and say “i’m back” to myself. I think the breathing alone is probably what gets me to sleep, but it sounds like you may need to get yourself out of the flood of thoughts.
      Thanks so much Nicole for sharing 🙂

  37. What a great concept that works on many levels! My fall is getting a bit cluttered–literally and figuratively–and I definitely need to purposefully give myself some breathing room (er, white space). And to clear out the real and mental clutter!

    • Anne,
      Had to reply since your name is Anne too!
      I’ll admit that I’ve been avoiding this reality until now – fall is getting a big cluttered! There is so much going on and before you know it – boom Thanksgiving, Christmas… It is kind of crazy, right?

      We can all use the reminder of staying aware, paring down the to-do list to the most important, remembering our priorities and saying NO whenever something doesn’t fit.

      Thanks so much for leaving a comment!

  38. I need white space!

  39. Thank you so much for this post. I would love to win a copy of her ebook, because I definitely need more white space in my life. I’m at the point where I’m ready to make some needed changes (turning 39 and having buried both of your parents gives you lots to think about). Would love a little direction from someone further along the path:)

  40. I love making lists. I’m going to cross off the Cs! Thanks for the great ideas.

  41. When you’re ready to learn the teacher will show up. This post showed up at the right time. Now I see why I like to clean when I’ve had a bad day, clearing the clutter in one way helps it clear it in others. Would love to read more about creating more white space.

  42. I totally can relate to your friend. Whenever I’m emotionally stressed I suddenly can’t handle clutter that I have been overlooking for months. When my mom called to say my brother had 3 blood clots in his brain, I instantly cleaned the hall closet. Brother still had clots, but I was much more capable of processing that news. My husband kinda thought I was strange- it’s nice to see that others handle stress in a similar way!

  43. That ABC list is genius. I would add to this asking myself if I really need to run all over town running errands or if I could click a few buttons and complete them online. I find that days spent out are so tiring for me and I really need quiet mornings at home as often as possible.

  44. making space is a wonderful plan… as we move into winter it seems both physical and mental space is squeezed tighter and tighter as we hide from the cold and dark. time to focus on that white space!

  45. I love the idea of white space in my life. Especially on weekends as family time is so precious.

  46. I am desperately needing some white space in my life right now!

  47. This makes me think twice about all those “cute things I could do” that I keep adding to Pinterest!

  48. With help, I just cleaned my closet. It really is nice to see white space in there!

  49. Amen!

  50. Kimberly Fasolino says:

    Sounds so freeing to cross off the C’s.

  51. Sounds like a book I could use!

  52. The whole “white space” idea is invigorating. I can picture it…and I love clean, organized things to look at. 🙂

    Thanks for the contest!

  53. Love these tips! Never even occurred to me to ‘cross off Cs.’ So simple, yet so profound.

  54. Bonnie Jean says:

    Wow… do I need white space. I need it in my house… on my counters… in my closets… in my life and on my calendar pages most of all. What a simple concept, yet so profound. It sort of solves all of the “riddles” of my life right now. It would give me the time to seek the peace I so crave and the space to do it in… and it would create the atmosphere … how freeing. I really, really needed to see this today.

  55. Loved this post! And boy do I need some white space!

  56. Thanks for sharing. I love the visual of white space in my life!

  57. Jennifer Bostwick says:

    I have a terrible habit of “holding onto” everything! I have recently begun to let go of things slowwwwwly and it’s amazing how good it feels when whatever “it” is that I’m holding onto is no longer around. Thanks for the opportunity to win.

  58. This makes so much sense and gives me a sense of relief. I always try to get everything done at once and wind up failing woefully at most everything I’ve tried to do. This method gives me a chance to put that which is tormenting me at rest for a while, allow it to smooth itself out while I get something done that needed to be done which, in turn, makes me feel better. Love it, can’t wait to get the book.

  59. I like the idea of crossing off the C’s!

  60. Not lazy? Just need white space? Happy Day! Thank You for this article! This is one book I probably need to read:)

  61. I was just talking to my hubby last night about how I have not felt like making decisions on anything because I have just felt overwhelmed in many areas – that I just needed some “space on my chalkboard” to be able to think creatively, plan, organize, etc. But most of the “chalkboard” (in my mind) is filled with things I think I “need to” or “should” do.
    I definitely can use some more white space today!! 🙂


  62. The concept of needing down time is one that I struggle with regularly. It is hard to allow yourself down time when those A’s, B’s, and C’s, are plaguing you 🙂

  63. I love white space – this is a great post and I already feel a little more freedom!!! =)

  64. I’m the most productive when I do as you suggest – a brain dump onto a list. But when it’s life as a whole we’re talking about instead of just a client project, I struggle to prioritize. I can do A, B and C – especially if you’re telling me I can just throw out the Cs!

    Thank you : )

  65. Amanda Dunne says:

    Omg! This makes so much sense. The song, ‘I can see clearly now’ is running through my head. I can’t wait to try these strategies out.

  66. I love the closet solution. I’m wondering if there’s a left brain/right brain issue at work too – as your left brain cleans and organizes, your right brain gets a chance to work on the relationship issues which can be complex and tricky. Hmmmm …. maybe I should clean more when I have writer’s block? 🙂

  67. Oh, white space. How wonderful an idea!!

  68. Lose the Cs… that concept!!

  69. I have felt that way before, like I’m lazy but I just can’t get motivated to do what I need to do. 🙂

  70. Great idea!

  71. I don’t think I’m lazy but I know I have too much on my list. I love the idea of getting rid of the C’s first. Today’s new list will certainly have a designated letter in front of it! Thanks so much!

  72. Wise words, Anne! You’ve just sparked an insight for me. I’m a student right now, and I often find I’m stressed about an assignment, but niggling at the back of my mind are all the other assignments I need to do in the course of the term. So, I often will stop working on the assignment that’s due in the short term to put in some research or write down ideas for the ones that are upcoming. This frees up some ‘white space’ and I can go back to the more pressing assignment with a better frame of mind. I didn’t realize I was doing exactly what you are talking about in this post, but there it is. Thanks for helping me see things a bit more clearly!

    • I love it! I do the same thing. It’s like you’re relieving pressure on those to-dos that might be preventing you from doing the more short term assignment!


  73. How wonderful to allow the freedom of white space! I’d love a copy of the book. 🙂

  74. Your white space analogy really struck home with me. I have a masters in rhetoric; my thesis was on visual rhetoric and its ability to persuade. The concept of white space, the empty space that helps us make sense of the occupied space, applied to life is really inspired! Thank you!

  75. I’d love to read Anne’s book! My mom taught her kids about leaving “margin” in our lives, relationships, time, etc. On days when I have packed too much in, I remind myself of the concept of margins–white space!–to get back on track.

  76. I love the “lose the Cs idea. Lord knows I have plenty of those in my life.

  77. This was really needed in my life! I’m trying very hard to simplify things, but this gave me a lot of good ideas of where to start. I love the idea of giving yourself space by doing something non-stressful. It is much more attractive than the idea of doing nothing until you figure it out ( my obsession-based method 🙂 ) If this e-book has more of the same, I definitely could use it!

  78. Oh my, I certainly need some whitespace in my life! I would love to read this book! Thank you for posting!

  79. I’ve never thought of it in that way, but I definitely tackle easier ‘decluttering’ jobs when I have something overwhelming going on…I always figured I was just procrastinating on the big job, but maybe I was doing something positive! I would love to read this book!

  80. I definitely need some white space in my life!!! Would love to win the e-book!

  81. I love the idea of white space 🙂 and I’m sure this book would be a valuable resource for this stressed out, overwhelmed mom & wife. Thanks for sharing!

  82. Thank you for sharing these practical tips and reminders! And for the giveaway, too.

  83. I love the concept of white space. I need more of it. I particularly appreciate the idea of doing something less stressful that declutters my life. Thanks for the input!

  84. Having just moved to a new town/state this is a good opportunity for me to assess my life. Love the tips!! And hope I win!!!

  85. faith/emuna says:

    interesting idea. need to think about it. just subscribed to your site. would be happy to win the ebook.

  86. What’s terrifying to me is that we’re desperate for white space in our lives, and we haven’t even had kids yet! Ack!

  87. If ever I find myself with a heavy heart and a chaotic brain, the only thing that brings me peace and clarity is to declutter! It’s getting harder and harder to do this as I downsize. Eventually I will have to find a new activity to replace the decluttering. Another thing to add to my to-do list. 😉

  88. Great post! I especially like the ABC list idea. I think I will work on that today. I always seem to have a hundred projects that I mean to get to, but really not all of them are realistic. Thanks!

  89. Great read. I totally relate to all of this… And here I was feeling so guilty and thinking I was just plain lazy lol. On the contrary, I am just overwhelmed with “the list” of stuff. Now I can really prioritize and give myself some space and let the guilt be lifted!

  90. I loved this post, both for its simplicity and its depth. Definitely going to work on dropping the Cs from my to-do list, and I suspect this will greatly simplify my goals and organize my brain. I also really appreciate the message of prioritization over laziness. I often label myself as lazy, but I think I’m actually just not that interested in tedious projects that hold no meaning for me. What a weight that will be lifted off my shoulders — because of this post! Thanks!!

  91. Love this post! sooo true! Thanks for the chance to win!

  92. Love it! Totally makes sense — now I’ve just gotta do it! 🙂

  93. I love the idea of writing down the to-to list and then crossing off the “C” items! Such a simple idea, yet I can see where it would free up so much energy that is wasted on items that we do not have control over or shouldn’t be worrying about anyway!

  94. This is totally me right now! Trying to balance it all and manage my ever growing to do list. Thanks for this post!

  95. Some new thoughts that make a lot of sense!

  96. I loved all three points…..they spoke exactly to where I am right now. I am excited to check out your book. Thanks for a wonderful post.

  97. How wonderfully motivating! I am going to go cross some C’s off my list.

  98. I could really use some white space in my life!

  99. Great post. I need to go through my list and get those C’s off of there!

  100. I am so deeply in need of space….Space to work, space to breathe, space to figure out what needs to be done…to have the idea that I can use a blank slate to get things done is refreshing.