I saw a fantastic documentary recently called Minimalism – A documentary about the important things. The central thesis of the film is that the pursuit of more and more stuff is damaging us and making us miserable. Many of us have come to measure our success in life by the things that we have.
For me, the film was preaching to the choir (pardon the pun). I’d never thought of myself as a minimalist before, just as a super-tidy person who hates clutter, but a minimalist I definitely am, by this film’s definition. And more than that, my minimalism has, I think, had a profound and positive effect on my career as a choir leader. Here’s why:-
So, as I say, I’m tidy. Really tidy. Not just stuff-everything-in-a-cupboard tidy. My cupboards are tidy too. I loathe clutter and find it quite stressful. I try very hard not to be too much of a ‘Monica’ (you remember that scene in Friends when she told someone to eat cookies over the sink because of the crumbs?) and I also try never to comment on anyone else’s untidiness.
Apart from my husband’s ‘man-cave’, which I studiously ignore, there’s almost no extraneous stuff in my house. I’ve never been a collector of anything and I’ve never been overwhelmed with clutter, but over the years, I’ve pared down my belongings considerably from abundant to moderate to sparse.
Everything has a home and goes back there when it’s not being used. I operate a ‘one in, one out’ policy on clothes, shoes and accessories. When mail comes in, it gets scanned (if necessary), then recycled or shredded.
Because I don’t have a lot of stuff, I do have a lot of …
I live with my husband in a modest house on the south coast of England. Because it’s a modern property, it has low ceilings and small rooms (except the kitchen, which we extended), but it’s more than ample for two people and we could certainly live somewhere smaller if we had to.
My attitude to space and storage is ‘I have this much space – what would I like to put in it?’, rather than ‘this is my stuff – where am I going to put it?’ If I don’t have a space for something, I don’t have the something. This leads me to …
When you don’t spend a lot of money on stuff, you don’t need so much space, and when you don’t need much space, you can live in a smaller home, and when you live in a smaller home, you don’t need to earn so much money to pay the bills, which takes a lot of pressure off …
I love work. I’m not the kind of person who craves early retirement. In fact, I don’t see myself ever retiring. But I did want to change my work fundamentally.
When I turned 40, I got out of the legal profession, where I’d been for fifteen years. Because I wasn’t servicing payments for lots of stuff, I was able to take some time to consider what to do next, and to jump at the opportunity to become a choir leader.
So, in an odd way, it was my minimalist tendencies that allowed me to embark on this amazing, rewarding musical journey.