One Key Element to an Ordered Space

Key Element to an Ordered Space as seen in a formal garden
Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

Does your space feel chaotic? Would you like it to feel more ordered? There are many ways to improve the function and appearance of a space. One key element that can help is the use of “borders.” I know this word can usher in a variety of emotions, especially in the context of nations and politics. However, when it comes to a room, closet, drawer, or shelf, borders can be a huge asset.

So, what do I mean by a border? A border is simply an established boundary between one space and another. Take a moment to look up and scan your space. What borders do you see? Here are a few of mine:

– A rim of black around my computer screen

– Frames around my window and my bulletin board

– Wooden trim between my wall and floor

– A fabric edge around my area rug

– A decorative line around the collar of my sweater

– Frames around the photos on my shelf

– Dividers in my desk drawer

These are examples of physical boundaries or borders. During the recent pandemic, we’ve become accustomed to another kind of “border,” namely the physical distance between ourselves and other people. In many aspects of life, this has been difficult. However, in some locations – for example, a busy restaurant – I’ve actually enjoyed the extra space between tables and diners.

Borders can also provide a transition from one type of space to another, such as the foothills between a mountain range and the valley below, or dunes between a beach and a residential area. In addition to providing functional benefits, these transitional zones help our minds adjust as we move from one situation to another. Wouldn’t it be weird if we crossed the street from a snowy field and were suddenly standing in a tropical rainforest? That would feel abrupt and wrong, and we would find ourselves trying to hastily change our clothes and adapt to the new climate.

This concept of borders and boundaries is very helpful to us when it comes to organizing and planning our space. To be organized, we want our belongings to rest in specific, predictable locations. When our possessions pile up, fall over, slosh into one another, or otherwise mix in with dissimilar items, odds are that they are “overflowing their borders.” Spaces end up feeling crowded and muddled, making it hard to find, process, and enjoy what we have. If you are struggling with a space that isn’t working, you may have insufficient and/or blurry borders.

So, what do borders look like? They appear in a variety of forms, such as:

Physical structures that hold items in place

  • Bins
  • Bags
  • Boxes
  • Shelf dividers
  • Drawer inserts
  • Towel bars
  • Garden beds

Lines of demarcation that provide visual appeal

  • Moldings and millwork
  • Cuffs and collars
  • Decorative lines/patterns in floors and patios
  • Trimmed edges in lawns and gardens
  • Mats and frames around photos and artwork
  • Curbs around a sidewalk

Structures and lines that have legal implications

  • Fences and gates
  • Stone walls
  • Hedges
  • Property lines

Open spaces that facilitate access and enjoyment

  • Alleys
  • Hallways
  • Walkways
  • Spaces around furniture
  • Blank wall space between pieces of art

The next question to ask is, “How do I add borders to my space?” Well, if the primary goal of a border is to clarify where one thing ends and another begins, it will be necessary to first group like items together. After all, we wouldn’t put a frame through the middle of painting! Rather, we want the borders to go between disparate pieces. Sorting belongings helps us figure out how many boundaries we need to establish, how big/small they need to be, and where they should be placed.

Secondly, we want to establish borders that comfortably fit. A pleasing space is one with enough “wiggle room” for both people and belongings to flow with minimum difficulty. A drawer organizer won’t be effective if there are too many utensils shoved inside. A room full of stacked and labeled boxes may be considered “organized,” but the contents of these boxes may be difficult to access. A living room with too much furniture can be hard to move around in. When we keep too much, we are likely to overflow whatever borders we establish. So, prioritize your space for what matters most, and then remove the rest.

Lastly, establish borders to define where one item or function begins and another ends. For example:

  • In a junk drawer, add an organizer to keep the tape from piling on top of the scissors and the pens from mixing in with the paper clips
  • In a living room, clear walking paths between furniture
  • In a closet, add dividers on a shelf to hold handbags
  • In a bathroom, add a makeup organizer to separate brushes from mascara and lip pencils
  • In a pantry, add bins and/or turntables for various types of food
  • On a desk, use a file sorter for action files
  • In a garage, establish zones for different types of items, such as “garden,” “lawn care,” “sporting goods,” and “car care”
  • For a teenager’s room, close the door 🙂

To conclude this post, I thought I would share a few images of borders that I found on a recent vacation. Once I started looking, I found them everywhere. Notice how boundaries can define our spaces, maintain order, and add beauty.

TV with a frame around it
Frame Around the TV


Decorative stone garden with wooden borders
Wood-framed stone garden


Walkway with groomed sand border
Groomed border around beach walkway


Mirror with a fancy frame
Decoratively framed mirror


Tile border around carpeted staircase
Tile border around carpeted staircase


Decorative railing between rooms
Decorative railing between rooms


Crown molding between ceiling and wall
Crown molding between ceiling and wall


Tray to hold coffee making supplies
Segmented tray for coffee supplies


What borders do you see in your space? Where might you benefit by adding one?

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