Someplace, Keep an Empty Shelf

White notebook paper with "someplace, keep an empty shelf" written on it.

From Further Secrets of Adulthood: Someplace, keep an empty shelf.

Now, what’s so great about an empty shelf? An empty shelf shows that I have room to expand—I’m not crowded in by my stuff, I have order and space.

For most people—to a somewhat surprising degree—outer order contributes to inner calm, a subject that I explore at some length in Happier at Home and also in Better Than Before.  For most people, outer order helps them stick to their good habits.

We can all agree that in the context of a happy life, something like a crowded coat closet is trivial, yet over and over, I find that getting control of the stuff of my life makes me feel more in control of my life generally. And if that’s an illusion, it’s a helpful illusion.

A friend told me, “I finally cleaned out my fridge, and now I know I can switch careers.” I understand exactly how that feels.

Some people say, “Gretchen, do you really have an empty shelf?” I really do (though I have to protect it against my husband, who never sees an empty shelf without wanting to stick something on it—is this related to the fact that I’m a Finisher and he’s an Opener?). If you want to see my empty shelf, watch here at minute 6:41.

The opposite of a profound truth is also true, however, so someplace, I also keep a junk drawer.

How about you? Do you have an empty shelf, a junk drawer, or both?



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