Last night I watched The Minimalists on Netflix, a documentary that offers a fresh perspective on our mass consumption culture. Chances are you have tons of stuff you don’t need and those fleeting moments of happiness from material purchases never truly lasts. The reality is we mostly buy things we want, but don’t need. Many products simply don’t work or only provide small improvements. Most only create a placebo effect, spun from a story we tell ourselves (read: “All Marketers Are Liars” by Seth Godin). It’s scary when you realize you’ve been duped by marketing efforts, but there’s an easy remedy for this: reduce. This is the perfect time of year to pare down your possessions, focus your thinking, and start the new year with clear eyes. Last year I explored 7 Game Changing Ways to Start Fresh Next Year, and 10 Ways To DeClutter and Organize Your Creative Space so it’s time to update and expand those posts with more actionable ideas.
Develop systems, not goals. Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) explains that developing systems are more effective than outlining goals. For most of us, New Year’s resolutions are lies we tell ourselves. We define goals, but don’t implement the tactics to execute them. It’s depressing to see unfulfilled goals, and they are difficult to achieve if the goals are vague or un-actionable. I told my parents I would win a GRAMMY by age 30. It didn’t happen, but I got nominated for one at 30. Awards are not great goals – they are side effects of other successes, and are very hard to manifest. You’re better off building an efficient system for making art that may lead to an award. There’s nothing wrong with big or absurd goals, just make sure it’s not a dream without a plan.
Use the KonMari method to reduce clutter. If it doesn’t spark joy, get rid of it. Be forewarned that this process takes time and needs to be done in large chunks, dedicating at least an entire day to achieve the effect. It is addicting and is easy to go overboard – you’ll regret a few things you’ve thrown away, but ultimately will feel much lighter when the process is complete. I threw away 400 lbs of junk in one day. If you find yourself saying “just in case I need it” this is a red flag. Start with the easy stuff that clearly isn’t needed, then attack sentimental items like photos later. Read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up”
Store, Sell, Donate, Recycle, or Avoid Buying in the first place: Sometimes a new instrument will inspire a song, but more often gear purchases pile up, preventing you from mastering an instrument. Gear lust can actually block you in the studio from mastering your craft. Too many choices kills creativity. My new mantra is “less things, better things.” Sell those three mediocre mics and get one great mic that you love and use on everything. More gear = more maintenance and more useless tinkering. Don’t fall into the trap of crafting elaborate storage solutions for everything – make an active decision to keep the things you love. Remove redundant gear that doesn’t provide a unique niche or purpose in your process – do you really need 30 compressor plugins? Avoid gear lust by auto-archiving any sales emails from manufacturers, or using services like Unroll Me that consolidate emails.
Pack Up Everything: In The Minimalists, they advocate a 21 day journey in minimalism – boxing up everything in the house, and only removing items when they are needed. This is a dramatic, tangible way to see what can be removed, what you actually use, and all your junk is already in boxes ready to be sold/donated/recycled. Does everything you own serve a purpose and provide value?
What gear do you really need? What fat can be trimmed from your studio and creative space? Let me know if the comment section below.
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