Learn how this concept can give you peace and independence in all aspects of your life such as time management, organization, and even relationships. Begin valuing boundaries, being honest with yourself in regards to your limitations and resources, and learn how to prioritize what matters most.
When I was in college, I have a vivid memory of our Head of Department giving an impassioned lecture about the concept of “Living Within the Margins”. She had just had a discussion about it with her women’s bible study group and thought we would appreciate the knowledge she had gained. Basically, the concept is to live within your means and dedicated space, but leave a little bit of extra breathing room. Much like when writing on a notebook paper, you have the margins to contain your thoughts, but sometimes your sentences spill over or you get a last minute idea that you need to jot down. When we don’t live within the margins, we have no room for the moments when our thoughts spill over or run off the page. We run out of space. Our pages become crowded. This can also be applied to our everyday lives, when we don’t allow space for surprises, setbacks, schedule changes, and we run out of space, shut down, or burn out.
As a stressed, anxious, and overworked 19 year old, this struck such a chord with me. I was over-scheduled and overwhelmed. When I thought I was doing the “right thing” by being “productive” and planning my days by the minute. I had no margins. I had no margins for when I hit traffic in my should-be fifteen minute commute and was then late for work. I had no margins for when my best friend got a promotion and wanted to celebrate over the weekend because I had already pre-scheduled work, projects, and obligations that had strict deadlines. I had no margins for when I became ill or when I needed a mental health day. As someone with an all work and no play attitude, it was a hard concept to grasp and allowing myself these margins was incredibly difficult. It took small baby steps, like making sure I scheduled a lunch hour into my school schedule the next semester (I can eat in class right?!). Or giving myself “extra” time to drive to work and school. Gifting myself rest days and play days. Realizing that just because you can doesn't mean you should and just because you can right now, doesn’t mean it is sustainable. My late 20’s self now is extremely grateful to young adult Aileen for learning about the valuable lesson of boundaries and priorities.
I know you might be thinking, isn’t this an organizing blog? These same principles can be applied to “stuff” and “things”. You should not fill every area of your home to the brim, because then you have no room to grow. You have no room to shift. Your life becomes gridlocked and you get stuck. I liken that feeling to those little plastic tile picture games we had as kids. There needed to be one tile missing to have room to shift the others to create the final image. If areas of your home are starting to fill, it's time to reassess and redraw some new margins. If you get a new item and there is not a place for it, you should consider removing something else that doesn’t serve you anymore. This might lead to difficult feelings about what you value and what you want. When confronted with choice, sometimes we shut down. I empower you to work through these emotions because when you prioritize and only keep items you truly want and have space for, you value your space more. You are more grateful for the items that fit. Your space becomes a truer representation of your values, ideas, and personality because you are only keeping items you want and chose to keep, not just items that take up space because you had the extra room.
Once you start grasping this concept, you can apply it to all aspects of your life. Time management, organization, and even relationships. I wish you the same peace and independence I discovered when I started living within my own margins.
How are you going to draw margins for yourself today, this week, and this year?