The Blessing of Limitations

He brought me out to a spacious place;
He rescued me because He delighted in me.

Psalm 18:19


Whether you live in a tiny apartment or a 10-bedroom home, your space is limited.

We all have “limited space”—and that can be such a good thing!

As a society, we have a tendency to collect, and a propensity toward wanting more. We tend to accumulate (and accumulate) until we’re seeking new and better ways to store our stuff.

And I love new and better ways to store stuff—I am an organizing author after all!  I love my collections of books, games, and craft supplies. I love giving and receiving gifts. I’m definitely not a typical minimalist.

A minimalist will tell you that you need to get rid of anything and everything extraneous. That works for lots of people, but it doesn’t work for me. Once I resist letting something good go in the name of minimalism, I find myself resisting getting rid of anything. And I just don’t see the need to pare down, as long as I need and love what I have… and as long as I have room for it.

We do need to live within our limitations. The natural limits of our cupboards, drawers, and shelving inside our non-expanding homes can help us to let go of excess with happy hearts.

Your home has its own natural limitations, limitations with which God has blessed you. You can only fit so much into a drawer before it’s hard to close, or a cupboard before the door is cracked open. Rather than cluttering your spirit with frustration, you and your whole family can choose to embrace those limits!


Here’s how to use your space limitations for your benefit:


  • Natural space limitations give you a clear goal for letting go. If you’re having a hard time, it helps to tell yourself, “Well, this is all the space I have, right here, so I have to let go of some of these things.”


  • Discussing available space with your spouse can help take the sting out of those “You won’t get rid of anything!” discussions. For example, “These are the shelves we have for your books, but your books are starting to pile up on the floor. Let’s take out the books you’ll never read again to make room for the books you’ll use.”


  • Natural space limitations can help you to realize that you don’t need everything you have. If your sock drawer is overflowing, it’s probably time to let go of some socks! How many pairs of socks do you need between laundry days, anyway? Drawers, cabinets, and cupboards remind us that we don’t need to keep it all, just the things we need and love.


  • Natural space limitations help you to discover what you really do need and love. Perhaps you have very limited closet space for your wardrobe. Take all of your clothing out. Instead of trying to make yourself toss things, choose your very favorites to put in first, the things you wear all the time, and stop just before the space start to feel tight. Then what’s left over can go—you don’t really wear that stuff anyway!


  • You can choose your own natural space limitations. For example, if your kids are accumulating too many toys, use limits to help them. Instead of a buying more shelves and bins, decide exactly how much space toys are allowed to have in your house. Perhaps all of your daughter’s toys need to fit in her bedroom closet. Great, then that’s her limit. Help her make wise choices to fill the space with what she needs and loves.


In fact, you may want to take it one step further. In my second book, Building Your House, I talk about my 80% rule. (No, this isn’t the statistic about using 20% of your stuff 80% of the time.) My 80% rule is that you should look at how much space you have, and determine to keep it only 80% full.

Not minimally full, and not stuffed to the gills, but at 80% capacity. 80% full means 20% empty.  It means you’ll have pockets of air to breathe, that your things will be easy to find and replace, and that you’ll have a little room if you need to store more for a short period of time.

Best of all, living at 80% capacity gives you the opportunity to feel truly content. You can chose what you’re keeping, and you can be peaceful about it! God has truly placed you in a wide open space.


Take the challenge:

Think of one full-to-overflowing space. Take a moment to accept the natural limitation of that space. Now, do you really need and love everything you have stuffed in there? Empty the space; refill it to 80% capacity.  Then take a deep breath of satisfaction with your new wide open space!


Find out more:

Check out these articles about organizing with a spouse and helping kids sort through toys. And for much more help with family organization and clearing the clutter our of your home and spirit, check out my second book, Building Your House.


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