My son and daughter are both YouTube watchers, but until this year I’d never felt the need to try it. The whole influencers and cult of personality thing put me off. Then last week I decided to look on YouTube for tips on meditation and I found a Matt D’Avella video, I Meditated for 1 Hour Every Day for 30 Days.
D’Avella is a classic self-help vlogger who specialises in minimalist living and is a documentary filmmaker by trade, which makes his videos impeccably shot and edited. He’s personable, good-looking, self-aware, talks about his feelings, has a lovely apartment, and is funny. I watched the video, then watched all the others. He made me feel good. It was comforting.
I remember Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog from the late noughties (check out his archives, which go right back to January 2006), and in tech circles in particular, there was an endless debate about the best ways to live as simply and effectively as possible in an increasingly overwhelming online world. People were beginning to burn out — and this was way before social media became all-consuming. I was trying to start a business at the time, and I too bought Getting Things Done and The 4-Hour Workweek. I suppose I’m saying I have a mixed history with this stuff.
Minimalism, which is living simply and within your means, seems to be a hotter topic than ever. My wife and I have both worked four days a week for most of the last decade so that we can be around more for the children. In a way, minimalism is our natural philosophy, partly from financial necessity, but also because we both like order and neatness.
I develop software for a living, and I write stories in my spare time. Now that I’ve completed my Masters in Creative Writing, and The Complex has been published, I feel like I’ve levelled up to being a professional writer. I have two professions and I need to give them both their due. Fresh thinking is required.
So, to solve this complex problem, I did what I always do: I cleaned my desk.
I now have the piles of short story collections that were on either side of my monitor (and supporting my laptop speakers) on the shelves behind me. Novels live on the downstairs shelves, split between the living room and the kitchen-dining room. I can now do whatever I need to do on a sparsely populated desk without always thinking, I should really read one of those short story collections, or, I should roll those story dice for once and see what comes up, or, that tennis ball shouldn’t be there, but I don’t know where else to put it. (I put the tennis ball on the pile of useful things in the corner of the room that would usually be on my desk.)
So. I cleaned my desk. I feel like a minimalist. I have two professions. Got it. Onwards.