My treasured voice-over coach, Marice Tobias, has pointed out many times that whatever is going on in your life, you bring it with you into the voice-over booth. You need to resolve it somehow, whether it’s by making an appointment with yourself to address it later and then putting it out of your mind until then, or by dealing with it up front. I’ve observed this many times in myself and have various ways of resolving it. For example, for some reason my confidence can be boosted with a change of footwear. Many of my colleagues are proud that they can work in their pajamas, which is a sort of metaphor for the gratitude they feel about being able to work at home. I could never work in pajamas, because I’m not able to feel professional unless I’m properly dressed with my shoes tied. If I don’t feel professional, I won’t be able to do my best work in the recording booth.
One of the things that most interferes with my work is clutter. I abhor unnecessary stuff, and I dread Christmas for that reason. For me the best gifts are ones that can be eaten (especially dark chocolate!) and that don’t come packed in plastic and styrofoam. We have at least reduced the gift wrap component of the holiday mess by making enough festive cloth gift bags that we don’t have to use paper anymore. My battle against clutter is relentless and is made all the more challenging because certain members of my family are packrats and are unable to keep their accumulations organized. If you can’t find it, you can’t use it, and if you can’t use it, you shouldn’t have it. Right?
Lately, I’ve kicked the battle into high gear because we’re renovating our basement and turning a large multi-purpose space into a rec room/music room. The less stuff that room has, the easier it will be to do the remodel. Some of the things I’ve done so far: 1) gone through all my four file cabinets, which have retained a lot of stuff from my days as a biologist, weeded out the things that are uninteresting and unnecessary and thereby emptied out an entire file cabinet, which is now posted for sale on Craigslist. 2) gone through the bookcase and weeded out books and notebooks (I don’t need the originals of all my drawings of bird muscles, for example, since the drawings are all published anyway). Partly used spiral notebooks have been thinned and freecycled. 3) Unused furniture has been sold or freecycled. 4) knick-knacks of all kinds have been given away.
I’ve gone around my house trying to really see each part of each room. If something has been sitting around for a long time, you tend to stop seeing it. And chances are that if you’ve stopped seeing it, it doesn’t have a place in your life and you should let somebody have it who could use it. Goodwill, Freecycle and Craigslist have become good friends of mine. An extraordinary amount of stuff has left my house in the last few weeks, most of it not as trash but as useful new parts of somebody else’s life. And the less there is in my house, the easier it is to maintain order in what’s left, and the more likely it is that’s what’s left will be seen, valued, and used.
My recording space has benefited from the new order as well. I had some stuff stored in there that I was planning to get rid of. That’s now gone. I had some squares of acoustic foam that a friend had given me, which were stacked on the floor in there. That has now been put on the walls where it belongs. The space is now uncluttered and inviting, so of course I feel much better when I’m in there. It feels like a place where a professional voice artist – ME – belongs. My office space is also uncluttered, so I’m happy to be there, doing the work that needs to be done. When my space is uncluttered, I feel that my mind is as well. I think more clearly and I do better work.
In addition to these spiritual benefits of reducing the amount of stuff that demands attention from the eye and the mind, I also feel that there is a financial benefit. If you can’t find something you need, then you will go out and buy it again. That’s nutty if there is actually already one of these things hiding in the chaos. Furthermore, if you have reduced your accumulations and are enjoying the benefits, you’re more likely to keep new purchases to a minimum.
If reducing clutter is one of your goals, and you need a little guidance, I highly recommend It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff, by Peter Walsh. Although I’ve always had a tendency to get rid of things, this book helped me approach the task a little more thoughtfully. Oh, and I got the book out of the library, since I don’t like to acquire books either.
If you’ve been through this process yourself, or are going through it now, I’d love to hear about your experiences.