• Cecilia Macaulay

Knolling: The Humble Art of Lining Things Up

Updated: Mar 31


Apple does it, your annoying former housemate does it, and the entire nation of Japan does it. They line things up at right angles when they set them down, making a 'grid.'


Wikipedia calls it 'Knolling', after the distinctive furniture designed by Florence Knoll. The strict horizontals and verticals are her trademark, and now they can be yours too. But why would you bother? Because if you persist for a few weeks, and see rewards, it will become 'Second Nature', no bother, all bliss. A kind of game you play with yourself, and always win.


When I get new volutneers on a gardening project, thats one of the first things I request they do, as they enter the Cecilia Culture: to 'Knoll' everything they put down. Take a few extra seconds to mindfully place every spade or stick so it is lined up with its friends. Make it parallell with the lines around it. Everything then feels listened to. Its like a conversation between the straight garden beds and the transient things: 'You belong here' says the garden. 'I'm listening to the customs and culture of this place' says the thing. Its a kind of politeness amongst objects, that is powerful. In creative worksites, kitchen included, things aren't to be dropped once someone's lost interest, and left to lie as they fell.




Knolling is about investing in having the maintainance department of my life as smooth and functional as it can be. Placing items down mindfully means they are in a position most likely to be unobtrusive when you don't want it, and findable when you do. Your home or workplace becomes like a skilled butler. It protects your attention, and hands you things you need, when you need them, not when you don't.


Knolling isn't natural to me. Its 'Second nature', which means I now want to put in the effort to do it, knowing and trusting it will save me hugely in the end. When I straighten things, I'm having a micro-meditation, and a moment of mindfulness with each object. That means, I get a little dopamaine reward, and the adrenaline that chases me though life gets held in check, for a change.


I am so grateful to the natural knollers around me, those steady organized people that make daily life work out. I'm sorry I thought you were crazy all these years, when I'd visit your homes and strew my exuberant mess everywhere. And I'm grateful to the Cecilia of a few years ago, who was prepared to try something new, and it caught on. Now its as natural as brushing my teeth, takes no energy, and gives me so much. Yay for change. Always be Knolling.

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