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Space Hog

It takes some self-awareness to realize when you are taking up more than your fair share of space. We all know a few people that are “larger than life,” which can be a lot of fun but can also wear on your nerves after awhile. Alternatively, a person may not take up too much psychic space, but hoards more than his fair share of physical space. If you think you might be experiencing a space hogging moment and your life feels a bit out of control, read on.

I first began thinking about sharing space when I worked with a woman who wanted to find a romantic partner. My immediate (unspoken) thought was, “Where would he put anything?”

I was studying feng shui at the time. Feng shui is the ancient Chinese art of balancing the energy of a space for the optimal health, success and happiness of the inhabitants. According to what I had learned, something new cannot flow into a space where there is no room. This woman had every surface, closet, drawer and shelf filled with her own things. When we cleared space in a guest bedroom and bathroom and made space in the front hall coat closet, her romantic life began blooming like crazy.

Consciously creating some space to bring in a new relationship is key. Even friendships require space. If your schedule is jam-packed but you want to spend time with friends, something’s got to give. Leave some time for long lunches or coffee dates or early morning walks. Over-scheduling can be a way of avoiding intimacy, so check in with yourself and think about whether that’s true for you.

Space sharing issues come up constantly when I work for couples, especially newlyweds. It’s not often that the blending of tastes and possessions is effortless, and when it happens that way, I can’t help but think the pair is unusually mature, well-matched and will live happily ever after.

I have a San Francisco client who has a lot of hot pink in her super-chic décor. No duck decoys or SF Giants bobble-heads in sight (or out of sight either). Her handsome and successful husband, who must be extremely self-confident, is happy to let her have her way with aesthetic decisions. Needless to say, all of her girlfriends want dibs on him should anything happen to her.

Nature abhors a vacuum and it is very tempting to hold on to things if you have the space. But every possession has psychic weight and requires at least some care or upkeep. Often there is also a financial cost, as rent for storage units or, in the case of a person with more than one vehicle, DMV and maintenance fees. Lightening up creates space for relationships, more money, more creativity, more freedom to travel, less time cleaning and more time enjoying.

Sometimes it’s not our own stuff that gets in the way of the life we want but things that belonged to someone who is no longer around: parents, an ex- or deceased spouse, a child that moved out on his own long ago, a roommate who said she’d pick up her items right away five years ago.

Everyone has his or her own emotional time line for parting with things left by another person, but life goes on. In the case of the ex-romantic partner or roommate, if they don’t care about the stuff enough to pick it up in a timely manner, why do you feel you need to hold on to it? It can be a tough call, but I advise clients to give the offender a firm deadline and if they still don’t pick it up, donate it. The only thing worse than being a space hog is being hostage to a space hog who lives somewhere else!