The Benefits of Cleaning House

by Roy Danger on August 23, 2010

I just got finished writing the content for the page on this site called Why Danger?, and in it, I talk about how I want to live the life that I want to, and not a life shaped by inertia.

What’s a life shaped by inertia like?

The most visceral, tangible example from my own life lied in my house. Over the years I had managed to acquire all this STUFF… old doodles from highschool, VHS tapes I recorded off the TV in 1995, a bottle of Jolt Cola that says “We Support the Troops in Operation Desert Storm” on it… that sort of thing. The house itself had funky shelves installed by a former roommate, and a paper Chinese dragon hung by a different former roommate.

In short, the house, and all the stuff in it, hadn’t been shaped by any real force of will, but just by the random movements of time and laziness. The things in the house weren’t bad (in fact, some of there were AWESOME), and the house itself had charm. But I was just sort of along for the ride, accepting whatever life threw my way as the way things were.

About a week and a half ago, my wife and I decided ┬áto try and declutter and redecorate the house. We’ve decided to do that before, but this time it stuck. Down came the paper dragon, down came the shelves. Up went new storage spaces, wiring concealers, bread boxes, and so forth.

And now the more we do, the more we can breathe. The more it feels like the house I’ve always wanted it to be.

And you know, strangely enough, it’s the same way with the theater.

I’ve been one of the owners of The Hideout Theatre for about a year and a half now. From the very beginning we said that we wouldn’t do anything because that was the way it’s always been done before… that we would look at every part of the business and make it work the way we felt it should. But it takes time.

We’ve been working hard at expanding the variety of the types of shows we do, while at the same time maintaining quality. We’ve expanded our advertising, pushing into the markets that makes sense to us (The Alamo Drafthouse guides, The Onion, Facebook, etc…). We’ve expanded our class offerings from 3 to 5 so that we can get more in depth into the performance side of improv.

In short, we’re doing our best to make purposeful decisions, rather than riding the wave of the theater’s 11 year history without considering where the wave is heading.

And you know what? It’s paying off. Ticket sales are up. Class attendance is up. Awareness of the the theater is up. And now that we’ve taken the day-to-day operations in hand, and it’s been organized, we can focus on next level stuff… like increasing the performance, socializing, and learning opportunities for students and graduates of the improv school… and pursuing deeper, more ambitious shows and projects.

In my freelancing work, I’ve also had the pleasure recently of using Subversion for the first time. Subversion is a version control system, which means it’s something that programmers check their source code, their HTML files, their whatevers into, so that it’s all properly stored, backed up and controlled. If something goes wrong, you can restore an earlier version and save the day.

Without a good source control system like Subversion, you wind up making ad-hoc backups. You do stuff like making a copy of a file called index.html, and calling the copy index.roy.backup.

That’s fine, but eventually you wind up with like 5 different versions of the same file from different times. And if you’re coding with someone else, they might have an entirely different naming scheme.

In short, the files and the code get cluttered and build up, not because of any great plan, but through random decisions and thoughts.

What all this boils down to is that to live the life I want to live, and to translate my actions into the greatest possible successes, I need to make deliberate decisions, clean out the clutter, and move with purpose.

It’s proving true for my theater, my programming endeavors, and my personal life.

What do you do to declutter your life?

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