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How having less stuff helped me become a choir leader

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:-

Stuff

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 …

Space

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 …

Money

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 …

Work

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.

3 Responses to How having less stuff helped me become a choir leader

  1. Corryn Bass 6 January 2017 at 10:19 pm #

    Love this ! Having moved so many times I know how little we can live with and learnt that it’s all just STUFF !! Family and relationships are what makes life meaningful!

  2. Lyn Young 7 January 2017 at 8:39 pm #

    I do love your points and think there is much truth there. Unfortunately I don’t seem able to live like that. I love the look of houses such as you describe but never achieve it. I think I cling on to stuff for the same reason that you get rid of it – to save me money! Things which I might need, or my kids can use to save them money, or things which may be needed in times of emergency; I think it is like safety blanket for me.

    I am also not just a choir leader, but a band leader and peripatetic teacher with fingers in many pies and part of my challenges involve trying to balance out my life so i do not get overwhelmed, particularly at times like Christmas.

    Other challenges involve the type of person you share your space with. I cannot control his unwillingness to be organised!

    Being a minimalist would not allow to me downize as we have a granny flat for my mum attached to our house. Happy it works for you.

    • Victoria Hopkins 9 January 2017 at 7:51 am #

      Hi Lyn. Don’t stress about it – what works for me won’t necessarily work for anyone else. It sounds like you have a very busy and full life. As long as you’re enjoying it, that’s what counts. And I agree about space-sharing. I live with a very messy chap!

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