Minimizing Our Magical Clutter to Maximize Our Magical Impact

Dear Friends: 
Braden Daniels is a leadership development expert, as well as a professional performing magician. This month he shares insights on how to declutter our magic collections, our lives, and our minds.

“Our aim…is not so much to have a large repertoire, as it is to have a repertoire 
in which every item can be counted upon to produce real impact.” 
– Eugene Burger, Mastering The Art of Magic

Like many of you, I want my magic to get better this year. How do we do that? One approach I have taken is to reduce the clutter in my sacred magic space. I have far too much “magical junk,” and not enough magic! I have come to the realization that there is a correlation between my physical magical clutter, and my mental magical clutter. 
Since decluttering my magic space, I have felt more creative freedom, and a greater quality of focus to polish my performance pieces, and to develop new routines. Once committed to the idea of reducing our magic clutter, the practical question of  “How do I get started?” emerges. Here are three steps that you can take to achieve clutter-free creativity.

1.  Create a staging and processing area

Find a table and place it outside of your magical space. A folding table, your kitchen table, it doesn’t really matter what kind of table or how big. The table is what is important, as you will be systematically removing items from your magic space, and placing them on this table to process. It is important that the table is outside of the space you are decluttering. It doesn’t have to be far – in a hallway is fine, but it must be outside. This will help reduce some of the attachment that our magic props have with the space they occupy.

The area to the immediate left of the table is the ‘staging’ area. You will bring out items and place them here as they await processing. The table top will be the ‘processing’ area. You will place items on the table and decide whether you will keep, donate, or discard. The area to the immediate right of the table is the ‘processed’ area divided into keep, donate, or discard piles. 
You may also make other piles here that are helpful, for instance you might have a pile for things that need to be relocated to other rooms.

2.  Start at the bottom, and work your way up and behind

The best way to gain momentum in this process is to see the results happen quickly. Start by picking up items that are laying on the floor of the room you are decluttering. This can be sound equipment, leaning illusions, magic tables, or random piles of magical junk. Use this opportunity to take any movable furniture out of the space. Seeing the floor clear and clean is a very powerful way to gain momentum. 

As you bring a group of items out of your magic space, set them in the staging area to the left of the table. One by one, pick up the objects, place them on the table, and spread them out liberally across the table top. Once enough items to cover your table top have been placed on the table, you will begin processing the items. 

Carefully review each item and decide if you really need this item. When was the last time you used it? Will you really use it in the future? Don’t kid yourself! Do yourself a favor and be aggressive with your decluttering. You know what you like and use, and you know what you haven’t touched in over a year. 

If you aren’t actively using the item, consider donating it first. Never keep something based solely on how much you paid for it. That is what Seth Godin explains in his book The Practice identifies as a Sunk Cost. “It’s fine to experience regret when we abandon a sunk cost. It’s a mistake to stick with one simply because we can’t bear the regret.” 
The more empty space you can create the more inspiration and flow you will experience later on in the space. Once you have made a decision, place the item in the appropriate pile in the “processed” area to the right of the table. Repeat this process for all items in the staging area. 
Once you have processed all items on the floor you will work your way up to surfaces, tables, counters, and shelves. Bring your books to the staging area, then place them on the table and process them. Which books have you read? Which will you never read? Remember these are sunk costs too, so be aggressive. 
After you have worked your way up to the top of shelves, now you will repeat the process for all items that are hidden behind cabinet doors and in drawers. Start at the bottom and work your way up. 

3.  Avoid further consumption

Congratulations! You have taken a major step toward a more mindful approach to owning magical things. 

However, as Jeff McBride and Larry Hass kindly point out in The Show Doctor, you have only treated the symptom. The root cause is really Consumption. “Consumption is the lavish or wasteful spending assumed to have social prestige, but which actually squanders time, money, and resources.” 

Symptoms include:

  • A drawer overstuffed with magic props.
  • A magic room filled with props that haven’t been touched in many years.
  • The false assumption that having lots of magic-related materials on bookshelves and in storage equates to magical wisdom.
  • An unshakeable urge to buy every new trick.
  • A continual feeling of dissatisfaction with current routines and repertoire.

Causes include:

  • Inability to focus on a singular effect or presentation.
  • The dissatisfaction of one’s current state of performance.

Follow the three steps above and you will have a clutter free space to practice and improve your magic. You will be able to focus on your performance pieces and feel greater satisfaction with your repertoire. Do not let clutter and consumption ruin your magical progress this year! 

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