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Peter Walsh has helped thousands of adults clear mental and physical clutter from their lives, and now he’s turning his focus to the unique issues teens face. The stresses of making important decisions and controlling personal finances for the first time can be overwhelming—but a little de-cluttering can go a long way. Walsh helps readers identify problem areas and outlines unique steps to streamline the process of clearing out the clutter and addressing everything from dealing with family to evaluating goals. At...
Peter Walsh has helped thousands of adults clear mental and physical clutter from their lives, and now he’s turning his focus to the unique issues teens face. The stresses of making important decisions and controlling personal finances for the first time can be overwhelming—but a little de-cluttering can go a long way. Walsh helps readers identify problem areas and outlines unique steps to streamline the process of clearing out the clutter and addressing everything from dealing with family to evaluating goals. At a time when teens are under more pressure than ever, this is the go-to guide for getting it all under control—and getting ahead!.
It's all too much! Have you ever heard someone say that phrase before? You probably have. Maybe you've even said it yourself. Maybe you even said it when you picked up this book: It's. All. Too. Much!
This is not a phrase you say while smiling. You don't say it relaxing in the park with a good book, or sipping hot chocolate in front of a roaring fireplace, or playing Frisbee at the beach, or going to see your favorite band, or while having a barbecue in your backyard with your friends.
When you say this phrase, it's because you are stressed. You are rigid and you are tense. Your shoulders and neck and back hurt. Maybe you feel not-so-great in the stomach. When you say this phrase, your face gets all scrunched up. And maybe it turns red. And maybe you wave your hands around. And maybe your hair stands up on end and little curls of smoke come out of your ears. (Okay, this last one is only in cartoons...but you get the picture.)
"It's all too much!" is not a happy phrase. It is, however, a pretty expressive phrase, because it means so many different things all rolled into one. It means:
I feel frustrated.
I feel anxious.
I feel overwhelmed.
I feel freaked out.
I feel unhappy.
I feel defeated.
I feel stressed.
I feel powerless and like I don't have control over my own life!
Anyone who says this phrase can mean any or all of these things. But this last sentence, I find, seems to apply especially to teens.
Why? Because when you're a teenager, that phrase can often feel, well, true. (Just because it feels true doesn't mean it is true, but more on that in a bit.)
"But These Are the Best Years of Your Life!"
Have you ever expressed unhappiness about some part of your life to a random adult — maybe a parent or a grandparent or your friend's parent or a teacher at school — only to have the grown-up get a sort of wistful, googly-eyed look on his or her face and respond with some version of the phrase "But these are the best years of your life!"? Well, if you ask me, that person probably doesn't have a very good memory of what being a teenager is actually like. Or that person is remembering only the good parts and forgetting about the bad. (Then again, maybe it's harder to be a teen these days than it was when he or she was growing up.)
But I remember a lot of it, which is one of the main reasons I wanted to write this book. I remember what it was like to be a teenager growing up in a small town near Melbourne, Australia, born smack-dab in the middle of seven children. With three brothers and three sisters. I loved my family (and still do), but I remember often feeling frustrated because I had the distinct feeling that I wasn't in control of my own life. That I was expected to behave a certain way, to think certain things, to want certain things. And that these expectations weren't always in line with what I actually believed or what I actually wanted.
The Clutter of Too Many Have-Tos
Being a teenager is hard, for a whole lot of reasons, not least of which is the fact that you are living in someone else's house. And that means you end up having to, for the most part, do what they say. (The perennial parental favorite, "While you live under my roof, you'll live by my rules!" is a favorite for a reason.)
Your life is full of too many have-tos. You have to wake up early, and you have to go to school; you have to spend all day going to a whole bunch of different classes, most of which you probably didn't get to pick. After school you might have to go to a sports practice or a meeting for a club or a rehearsal for a play. Or maybe you have to go to an after-school job. After that you have to come home, and you have to do homework. Then you have to help out around the house. Maybe you have to look after a little brother or sister. And it probably doesn't end there. It can often feel like a lot — like all — of your time is spent doing things that other people tell you to do. That your day is not your own. That you are powerless and don't have any control over your own life. But what I hope you might get from this book is the feeling, and the knowledge, that a lot more parts of your life are within your control than you might think.
And no, I'm not going to tell you that you don't actually have to go to school. And that you can blow off all your chores and forget about your homework. And that your five-year-old brother can just take care of himself. Don't try to get me in trouble, now!
What I'm saying is this:
You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind To
"You can do anything you set your mind to" is probably a phrase you've heard before. Maybe you've heard it from many well-meaning adults. It's one of those phrases people love to toss around. Maybe you've heard it so much that you're sick of hearing it, or maybe you've heard it so much that as soon as you hear it (or read it), you tune it out. And you have forgotten that it means anything at all. What it means is this: You don't have to simply go through life waiting for your life to happen to you. You can make things happen. Things can change. You can change. And no matter how overwhelming your clutter situation might be right now, that can change too.
But when you're thinking about your goals, make sure they're your goals. Not society's goals, not your parents' goals, not your friends' goals. Your goals.
If you're five feet tall and the last time you dunked a basketball was when you were four (and it was one of those little Nerf basketballs and you walked right up to the hoop and put the ball directly in it), chances are you are not going to join the NBA. And if you can barely sing a note, and dogs start howling every time you try to, it's rather unlikely that you will be a professional opera singer. And if you put your mind to it, even if you really, really, really put your mind to it, you're probably not going to wake up one morning having sprouted wings with which you can fly around your room.
BUT if you put your mind to it, you can certainly get creative and, say, start a basketball league for the less tall, less hoops-shootingly gifted. Or produce a special silent opera where you open your mouth but don't sing out loud, or one where the audience listens to an iPod of someone else singing while you pretend to. And hey, if you end up inventing a pair of electric wings a person can use to fly around the house, well, I'd like to buy the first pair, please.
However, please keep in mind — just because you might want to put your mind to packing every item of clothing you have ever owned since you were six years old into your dresser doesn't mean it's going to happen. And just because you might want to put your mind to keeping every issue of every magazine that has ever entered your house on one shelf of your bookcase does not mean they will fit. Putting your mind to things cannot change the laws of physics, or the laws of time and space, or the laws of thermodynamics, or the laws of probability.
Your mind is a powerful thing! But you have to know what you're up against.
So, back to my point: The phrase "You can do anything you put your mind to" means that you can and should have goals. And that you can and should believe in yourself. But when you set your mind to something, make sure it's your own goal, one that will serve the future you are trying to create. The future is wide open to you. And that is a very exciting thing! (But it can also be a scary thing too.)
Not Just the Future, but NOW!
But wait, what about now? Isn't now important too? Well, yes, in fact it is. It is quite important, actually. You, right now, sitting there reading this, have the power to not only change your situation in the future, but to change your situation starting at this very moment. The life you're trying to create is not just a life you'll be living in the future, but one you are living right now.
I know, I know — it sounds like a bunch of self-help-booky, grown-ups-saying-stuff-that-they-think-is-nice-to-say-to-teens-but-that-no-one-really-believes crap. Hearing "inspiring" stuff without hearing any information to back it up can make a person, well, stop listening after a while.
What if it's not just a bunch of crap? Just for the length of time it takes you to read this book, I'm asking you to keep an open mind and accept the possibility that maybe, just maybe, things can change. And maybe this book can help.
"But wait!" you might be saying. "Isn't this a book on decluttering? And isn't 'decluttering' a fancy word for just cleaning your room? Because having a clean room is nice and all, but I really don't see how that's going to change my life."
Okay, I hear you. But the answers to your questions are: yes (among other things) and no! Just go with me here. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of decluttering, before we talk about your relationship with stuff and how it's affecting you, think about this question:
What do you want from your life right now?
Not what you want ten years from now, five years from now, or a year from now, but your vision for your own life today. Today. Weird as it might sound, this is the most important question to ask yourself in the decluttering process. Think about it just for a moment now, and we will discuss it again later.
When you're a teenager, there's a lot of emphasis on your future. Where are you going to college? What do you want to be when you grow up? I'm not trying to say you don't need to think about it at all; surely, some planning is important, and you need to do it. But with all the emphasis put on the future, it's easy to forget that you're alive right now and that what is going on now matters too. In fact it matters a whole lot.
And one of the main things that take people out of the moment they're in and make them miss it entirely is clutter. Mental clutter, emotional clutter, internal clutter, and physical clutter. The clutter of our expectations. Clutter robs us of the best parts of life and keeps us from enjoying now. And the thing is, it's always now. It will always be now. It will never not be now. (I once saw a watch on which the face always said, simply, NOW. Not super convenient when one has to be at a particular place at a particular hour. But, still, that watch had a good point!)
This Is Your Life. You're Living It!
I remember being a teen and having the feeling that I was waiting for my actual life to start. Like the life I was living then was just preparation, was just the preview to the main show. I just had this feeling that as soon as I became a grown-up my Real Life would begin. But you know what? I look back on those times and I realize that during those years, while I was spending so much time worrying about the future, I was missing out on the present.
We do need to plan for the future — don't get me wrong. All of us do. The future is coming whether we like it or not, and it always helps to have some sort of a plan for it. However, there is a difference between preparing for the future and spending all our time worrying about it and obsessing about it. Worrying and obsessing do not help you meet your goals. Worrying and obsessing do not help you get the life you want. (Unless what you want is a life full of worry and obsession, that is. And I am guessing you do not!)
When I was a teenager spending all my time planning for what was to come, my real life was already going on. And so is yours. This is your life, right now. You are living it.
But are you having as much fun as you could be? Are you are happy as you could be? Are you enjoying life as much as you could be? Or are you being robbed by clutter?
In this chapter we talked about your goals, your life, thinking toward the future, and living in the now. We talked about the clutter of too many have-tos and how being a teen can be fun and exciting, but it can also be really stressful. We also introduced the most important question when it comes to decluttering: What do you want from your life right now?
What Comes Next...
There are lots of different kinds of clutter. In the next chapter we'll talk about some of the different kinds of internal clutter that affect teens the most. The Internal Clutter Quiz will help you identify what's affecting you!
Meet Devon DiSapoint...
No matter what Devon DiSapoint does, it never seems to be enough. At least so far as his parents are concerned. He knows they love him, and he knows that they only expect so much from him because they believe he is capable of a lot. But sometimes it seems to Devon like their expectations are just too high! For example: Last week Devon took a science test. He got a 92, which he thought was a pretty good score. But his mom was so upset that he hadn't gotten a 100 that she just let out one of those big sighs that make Devon cringe. "How are you going to get into a good college with an average score like that?" she said. And his dad just nodded in agreement.
Devon wanted to point out that a 92 is not an average score; it is actually a very good score. But there was just no reasoning with them, so he didn't even try. Suddenly his 92 did not seem like such a good grade after all, and he felt disappointed. Disappointed that they were disappointed. And also disappointed in himself.
This is not the first time he's felt like that. Pretty much every time he takes a test at school or writes a paper, his parents are upset if he gets anything less than a 100 or an A-plus. And if he does get a 100 or an A-plus, they want to know why he didn't get extra credit. And if he gets extra credit...somehow they still don't seem happy!
And it doesn't stop there. When he was elected vice president of the debate club, they were upset that he wasn't president. When he was put in two advanced classes, they wanted to know why it wasn't three. And no matter how many times he tried to explain that he couldn't be cocaptain of the track team and captain of the swim team because both teams practice at the same time, his parents just didn't quite get it.
Their expectations feel like a giant mountain that he has to climb, but no matter how fast he climbs and how high he climbs, no matter how hard he pushes himself, the top just keeps getting farther and farther away. And he is completely out of breath! Copyright © 2009 by Peter Walsh Design, Inc.
Posted December 31, 2009
The New Year is almost upon us, and the time to make resolutions has come. If one of your goals is to get organized, this could be the exact book you need.
Peter Walsh has created a great resource for teens who need to get organized. It's a quick read, and it's done in a way that's actually pretty fun. The book includes quizzes and stories, plus a bunch of drawings to keep things interesting. IT'S ALL TOO MUCH, SO GET IT TOGETHER is practical, as well.
This book is very thorough. The first part of the book was particularly helpful because it helps explain why clutter exists in the first place. The explanation made a lot of sense. Prior to this book, I had never really given much thought to why clutter exists. The middle portion focuses on how to get of rid of all the clutter. The writing style is pretty hopeful but also realistic, which is something I appreciated a lot. The final portion of the book shows how de-cluttering can affect your life, as well as how to get your family involved.
I walked away from this book with plenty of things to keep in mind as I begin my own de-cluttering process. Perhaps the most important thought is that my life is going on right now. Not when I graduate high school and finish college but now. And it's my job to make the most of it.