I decluttered from April to July, following Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying (which IS effing life-changing, though I won’t go into that so much here).
I liked her approach perhaps as I’ve already been sort of doing it in other areas of life, with interesting effects on work. If I’m completely honest, that’s why I do most things – this work-life synergy or symbiosis fascinates me, how one feeds the other and back again, and how to improve the experience and balance of both – because it just makes life more worth living (it’s completely selfish!).
At heart, to ‘Konmari’ is to go through everything you own, keep what ‘sparks joy’ and discard the rest. Find that which remains a permanent home. That is IT. Everything else about the process is just trimmings. It’s like minimalism, but goes beyond form, function, utility and aesthetics. It’s purely a response to how an object makes you feel. And as a composer I am all about the feels.
Thinking about the last 10 years (I’ve no deadlines at the mo so I’ve been doing a LOT of reflection, perhaps a little bit too much, but what the hell, here goes), I’ve done a fair bit of clearing out of things that don’t ‘spark joy’ or that have lost that spark for me somewhere along the line. I quite working 7 days a week – I take a day off a week when I’m really busy, no negotiating, and I have 2 or 3 days off a week when I’m not up against a deadline, like now. I quit teaching and took a step back from violin performance, which left me with a whole lot more time for composition. That in itself was a momentous event in my work, but also meant I had a fair bit more time for other interests, more creative outlets that weren’t anything to do with earning money. I don’t need to go into any more detail than that. You can imagine, it was pretty chuffing brilliant.
But there are other, smaller changes I’ve made, other areas I’ve ‘decluttered’ because there was no ‘joy-sparking’ to be had, that have had quite large impacts on work and life and everything in between…
I quit caffeine in February 2014.
It was making me anxious and the addiction left me with a headache if I couldn’t find a fix first thing in the morning. There was some joy to be had with that first sip of coffee but it was more habit than an intentional act. Plus I didn’t like being addicted, controlled by an outside force. It felt inconvenient.
However it’s way more interesting what quitting the caffeine did to the tunes I write, at least in those first few months after. I wrote longer melodies – it’s like my attention-span and focus got a little longer and more specific. Not by much, but enough to notice.
I stopped drinking alcohol in January this year.
I was getting some DREADFUL hangovers that really weren’t doing any joy-sparking at all. It feels like I’ve loads more time now, especially on Sundays, and just generally have a bit more energy. Again, not a massive amount, but enough to notice. It’s nice to be able to go out of a Saturday evening and not mentally write off the next morning to fatigue, headaches, nausea and a snotty nose. That time now belongs to me again – some outside force doesn’t have dibs on it (just like the caffeine).
It’s a bit awkward at social events for the first hour or so, but once others get a little tipsy it’s actually quite easy to go along with it, and if I get bored with really drunk people, I’ve the wherewithal to get myself home safely. I can also drive if I want (which might sound a bit sad, but it really is an incredible relief at the end of a night out – definitely more than just a ‘spark’ of joy there. My introversion really does skew my view of what’s fun or not compared with society’s dictats…).
Having more free time to do whatever I want really does impact the work – I sit down to work feeling more refreshed, with a better perspective on the piece which means I work faster, which then frees up even more time to either spend experimenting with sound, finessing the piece or finishing work early. Either way is win-win.
(I’m not saying no to ever drinking booze again mind – I’ve had a few glasses of deliciously old champagne very recently and I think my new rule is probably ‘no to all booze EXCEPT delicious old fancy-schmancy stuff. Makes sense to me anyhow.)
I’ve just quit dyeing my hair!
I’m going grey as a 36-year-old lady might, and I’m bored of colouring it every six weeks if I want to keep the silvers at bay. But what if I look old? Good grief. What if – who cares?
Society wants its ladies to be preoccupied with looking forever youthful, but why? So that we can be more sexually attractive? Who gives a crap? I realised, not me. Will this have any impact on my work? Will this mean that prospective film or theatre clients will overlook me and give the job to a younger model? I realised again, it’s unlikely but possible.
It’s also possible that I’ll look a little older and wiser and said client might trust me with a bigger budget. Who knows?
The point to all this ‘quitting’ and ‘giving up’ is to say no to something in order to have more of the good stuff: more time, more focus, more perspective, more freedom, more joy, not less. It’s not about giving up for the sake of it, it’s not martyrdom or moralistic or even that awful term ‘living clean’ (I think I sick a little bit in my mouth a little every time I see the phrase). It’s about making life just a little bit more bearable (and leaving more room for the potential for awesome).
PS. I’m giving up ‘added’ sugar for November as the autumnal weather has given me an urge to hibernate and EAT ALL THE SUGARY THINGS. Fruit is fine though (‘cos quitting fruit is bananas. Unless you’re allergic, obvs. Which I’m not.).