The Only Space That Matters

A few weeks ago, there was a little kerfuffle in a new WhatsApp group a friend had set up. The group was for a small circle of friends, all trying to grow their businesses. Some had begun doing regular Monday check-ins for accountability, others wanted to use the group more casually, and others still wanted to move to Slack. I was in the second camp.

One morning, I woke up and, for the first hour of the day, debated what to do. Should I just skip the voice-note check-ins? Could I? Would I have to formally “sign off?” Did it even matter? Could I just do what I wanted, and everyone would be fine with it? Finally, I resolved myself to “waiting and seeing” because, most likely, none of the other members thought as much about this as I did — if at all.

I glanced at my calendar as I was about to leave the house, and in an instant, all fruitless mental gymnastics stopped: It was my mom’s birthday. Holy cow! The day my mother was born, and I had to look at my calendar to remember it. That made me sad.

I’m good with birthdays. For close friends and family, I usually remember right after waking up. It’s a useful ability, but what’s more, I like being someone who remembers important people’s birthdays without having to check their phone. It’s important to me. Needing an external reminder could only mean one thing: My brain was too full.

I like minimalism because it increases the chances you’ll have the mental space you need to tackle the important questions in your life. It does not, however, guarantee your brain won’t be full. You can fill your mind with ideas, tasks, worry, rumination, nostalgia, and daydreams just as easily, perhaps even more quickly, than with needless documents piling up on your desk or dusty memorabilia hogging your shelves. Unlike decluttering, defending your inner territory against these invisible culprits is a daily duty that never ends.

Whether you curate a house full of possessions or travel light wherever you go, remember that your most important battles will not be fought on the plane of material existence. The space in your mind is the only space that matters. Protect it.