Five Ways to Stop Having So Much Stuff

Five Ways to Stop Having So Much Stuff

After five weeks essentially away at the National Voice Intensive, then seven weeks with Viva Musica in Kelowna, then three weeks in Victoria, when I finally returned home, I was struck by just how much stuff I have. After living out of my bike panniers for so long, when I returned to the single room office I live in, it seemed palatial. Opulent. Over the top. Even a little overwhelming. So many clothes! Books! Utensils! Supplies! Toys! So much… everything!

Time spent away from home offers a great new perspective on what you actually find valuable, and on what you are attached to because it once held value, or on what has just accumulated over time. This makes the time when you return home, the best time to clean house and better enjoy what you have.

Wrong kind of hoarding.

As any screenwriter or playwright will tell you, whitespace on the page is important. A page packed from margin to margin with text is imposing for a reader; they are more likely to just put the page down without reading it.

It’s the same with us and our homes. The more the clutter, the less likely we are to actually pick up one of those old projects and complete it. It’s in the whitespace that we can breathe, consider, and take action. Every grocery bag’s worth of stuff removed is like a breath of fresh air.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating us all Buddhist monks or permanently living out of our backpacks (as an old friend of mine has done for several years now). I truly do appreciate having and using my stuff: my array of clothes, games, books, music and DVDs. But when half of these possessions remain buried in boxes for 364 days of the year, that’s a clear sign that what I own and don’t need is getting in the way of what I own and could be enjoying.

So, all that preamble out of the way, here are five (perhaps unusual) ways to reduce:

(1) Take out your garbage and recycling!

Seems silly and obvious, but I know I had six bags of soft plastics, a broken breadmaker, and other dead electronics waiting to be recycled. Finally getting around to sending these to pasture really made a difference to the whole mood of my room.

This image was selected as a picture of the we...
(Photo: Wikipedia)
(2) Distinguish between treasured items and memory aids.

There is a difference between your grandfather’s old watch which he gave you a month before he passed away, and a small plastic Eiffel Tower souvenir from that trip you made to France. Ask yourself: Do you need the souvenir in order to remember your grand adventure? Or would your digital photos do? If so, then lose the bulky mementos. It’s the memory that’s important.

(3) Learn that you don’t need to possess everything you enjoy.

In our North American consumer culture, it is far too easy to take that mental step of ‘I enjoy this, so I should own it.’ This applies to books, music, DVDs, games, artwork, clothes, you name it, as though the experience of enjoying it is lessened somewhat if you can’t put a physical (or digital) copy of it up on your shelf afterwards. Nonsense!

DVD collection
(Photo credit: nickstone333)

When I sort through my books, CDs, and DVDs (or when I finish one for the first time), I ask myself, “Do I honestly believe I will read, listen to, or watch this again, rather than go for something new?”, and if I have any hesitation, off it goes to the charitable donation bin.

To further incentivize myself, I have decided to consider donations of items to charity to be an act of tithing (as I have previously written about here), assigning an arbitrary value to each item (~50₵ for a shirt, ~1$ for a book for example). I then take that value off my monthly tithing figure.

And then I finally get through all the books I have accumulated but not read, and DVDs I own but have not watched, I intend on going through my treasured classics and on becoming a library person, searching their website with a wishlist and coming home with a bag full of goodies, a miniature Christmas, every month, all without cluttering up my home. John August has written up his own reasons for giving away most of his books here.

(4) Develop a Feeling of Abundance.
Freedom Android
Freedom Android (Tiago A. Pereira)

Much of this dragon-hoard-of-gold mentality comes from a feeling of scarcity – that we need to hold onto all these things because we may, perhaps, want them later and not be able to find them! But in most cases, especially with the advent of bittorrents and the internet, that’s just not true. Even books currently out of print may see the light of day again if Google has their way. From libraries, to ebooks, to wikipedia, to Netflix, the more we have access to, the less we need to own. And to be honest, it’s just a much healthier and happier mindset to live by – to trust that what you might want will be out there for you if you want it.

Along with old books, CDs, costume items and DVDs, I recently gave to a nearby charity bin a number of kitchen utensils I haven’t used for over a year, knowing that, if I need one of them again, I can always go to a dollar store to pick one up.

(5) Foster a Joy for Discovery.

When sorting through old items begins to feel like a chore, stop and enjoy some of the items you have unearthed. That is the best reason to be doing this, after all – to enjoy what you have.

Stay classy and live eagerly,
Andrew Wade

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party! – Postmortem

The Recap

Reading poetry from a journal of Adlerian Psychology at SAY WHA?! - right before getting upstaged by a skunk.

It has been close to a month since I served my last cup of tea as The Mad Hatter. Feels like yesterday. When it comes to continuing creative work, I follow John August’s advice, that a piece isn’t finished until you cease to be excited by it. I’m still excited by the Hatter.

The soul of the play is in his fight with forgiveness, with guilt; a battle I hadn’t found until the day of the first performance (and thus improvised into the script, from thereon in). I want to take this script and imbue it with more heartfelt pain, fear, grasping, gaining, hope. Take a page or two from Little Orange Man, performed by my friend Ingrid Hansen, which combined audience interaction, humour, character, and story in a poetic and beautiful way. For all the silly set-pieces like the epic fight with the (audience-filled) Jabberwocky, most people told me at the end of the day that their favourite moment was that frantic final five minutes where I worked in the Hatter’s emotional collapse (occasionally at frenetic speed to fit within my time limit). The soul of the show should pervade the whole script throughout. So, that’s my next step.

Only one review emerged, but a positive one:

“Playwright and actor Andrew Wade manages to assemble components of the original story into a cohesive tale of the Mad Hatter, whose personal demons drive him to take refuge in the rabbit hole… I really enjoyed the enthusiasm and joy that he brought to his performance.”

Okay, not me.

I have applied for the CAFF lottery, which, if I win it (about a 10% chance), would automatically place me in eight different fringe festivals across Canada for next summer, with the next iteration of this show. If that falls through, I’ll apply to each one individually. This character still has so much farther to fly. 🙂

A few things I learned at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival:

Me in 24h.

– Volunteers LOVED the show, but audiences were small, otherwise. I need to up my advertising/flyering, especially in the first few days of the festival.
– Take a day to go over the blurb before submitting it! At the last minute, I panicked about thinking about how I was going to wash all those teacups, and included ‘please, bring your own cup’ in the blurb. Then I just bought a bunch of disposable styrofoam cups from Zellers when I came to my senses. Who knows how many people decided not to see the show because of that little tag.
– While I’d much rather have a Dormouse help serve tea, when I take the show on the road, it won’t be a backbreaker to need to serve the tea myself as the audience comes in.
– I now have near total confidence that if I really want to create something, I will be able to find the resources to bring it all together in time. Feels like God giving me a leg-up, sometimes.
– It’s okay to get upstaged by a skunk when performing outside.
– For Jacqueline Irvine to tell me right at the right time that she wanted to get involved in theatre stuff again… for her to be willing to commit her time to sewing together the gigantic hat timeline backdrop, for all her last minute work (we finished that hat in the half-hour before the first performance), I am SO GRATEFUL for her help. Why try fight through it all alone with so many wonderful friends and collaborators around?

So much fun.

– I’m a decent judge of who in audiences is willing to play along and take a part in the show.
– Theatre tech people are just generally awesome, awesome, awesome.
– It IS possible to make friends with fellow theatre practitioners, even if you only see them after hours every day for a week or so. Especially if you see each other’s performances. You learn so much about a person from seeing them perform a piece they wrote themselves. So very revealing.
– Warming up a crowd, improv style, is a lot of fun.
– While I certainly can improvise my way through a play with a bare-bones script, finding the right physicality and voices for each character within that piece take a lot longer to figure out. Wasn’t happy with my Cheshire Cat or Flowers. Something to work on.
– Vocal warm-ups are NECESSARY when doing a 50 minute long show by yourself with three songs and much shouting and screaming. And some hidden water (or tea!) is not a bad idea as a safety net for if the voice goes.
– People want to help. I had a hot water urn donated by a church, tea from friends, Jacqueline’s amazing contributions… fantastic.
– Fight music and dramatic flashing red lighting make ANYTHING awesome.
– Every audience is different. I already knew this, but it’s even more evident when said audience is pretending to be a giant monster attacking you in an epic battle scene.
– Plug your fellow actors and their shows (especially if you liked them)!
– Let the audience see the real you at the end of the show. Build a relationship that way. Thank them as they leave. Every little moment to make them want to see you again, or make them connect with you and want you to do well.
– I can do this.

Andrew Wade