Are you surrounded by papers? Overstuffed closets? Are you stepping over toys or searching under piles, and leaving boxes of mementos unopened for years? Do you feel under siege by your belongings? Peter Walsh, the organizational guru from TLC's hit show Clean Sweep, understands.
It's All Too Much is Peter’s proven system for anyone who wants to let go and escape the suffocating clutter in their lives. With his good humor and reassuring advice, Peter shows you how to face the really big question: What is the vision for the life you want to live? Through simple techniques and step-by-step plans, you can assess the state of your home, prioritize your possessions, and let go of the clutter you have been holding on to that has kept you from living the life you imagine. Going way beyond color-coded boxes and storage bin solutions, It's All Too Much shows you how to honestly determine what adds to your quality of life and what's keeping you from living the life of your dreams. The result is freed-up space, less stress, and more energy for living a happier, richer life every day.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
It's All Too MuchAn Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff
By Peter Walsh
Free PressCopyright © 2006 Peter Walsh
All right reserved.
Something is afoot. Something that until recently I could not have imagined or predicted. Something that is changing the basic fabric of people's lives and is impacting how all of us relate to the things we have and the things we own. Something that affects us all. We are, as a nation, overwhelmed with too much stuff.
Did the title of this book catch your eye? Maybe you are at a stage in your life where something in your life is too much -- your career, your relationship, or "just everything" is suddenly overwhelming. If so, you are part of a harsh awakening in this country, and across much of the developed world, as we come to realize that happiness and success might not be measured by more material things. That having more possessions may be more suffocating than liberating. That a larger house, better car, and more "stuff" come with no guarantee of greater happiness. That for many of us, the stuff we own ends up owning us. Suddenly you look around at the life you've built and all you've acquired and realize that it's all too much!
I have an unusual job. I help people dig themselves out from under the overwhelming crush of their own possessions. I'm not talking about a messy closet or one too many boxes of holiday decorations in the garage. I work with people who have filled their homes, their offices,sometimes their cars, and always their lives with too much stuff. These are people who have lost the ability to deal reasonably and rationally with what they own. They fill every corner of their homes with clothes, papers, their kids' school projects, wrapping paper, collectibles, scrapbooking materials, garden tools, kitchen products, sporting gear, antiques, dolls, toys, books, car parts, and every imaginable (and unimaginable!) item you could list.
Surprisingly, as I've traveled across the United States helping people declutter and get organized, I have come to see that the problem is one that affects far more families than I could have imagined. Every single person I have met tells me not only about their own clutter problem, but the clutter problems of a family member, or those of a friend. Nobody seems immune. The stories are not dissimilar -- papers and magazines run amok, garages overflow with unopened boxes, kids' toys fill rooms, and closets are so stuffed that it looks like the clothing department of a major retailer is having a fire sale. The epidemic of clutter, the seeming inability to get organized, and the sense that "the stuff" is taking over affects us all.
We are at the center of an orgy of consumption, and many are now seeing that this need to own so much comes with a heavy price: Kids so overstimulated by the sheer volume of stuff in their home that they lose the ability to concentrate and focus. Financial strain caused by misplaced bills or overpurchasing. Constant fighting because neither partner is prepared to let go of their possessions. The embarrassment of living in a house that long ago became more of a storage facility than a home.
This clutter doesn't just come in the form of the physical items that crowd our homes. We are bombarded every day with dire predictions of disaster and face many uncertainties -- some real and many manufactured. Think about the perils that we've been warned about in the last decade alone -- killer bees, Y2K, SARS, anthrax, mad cow disease, avian flu, flesh-eating bacteria . . . the list goes on and on. We are also faced daily with reports of war, an unstable economy, and global terrorism coming very close to home. Surprisingly, this endless barrage (its own kind of clutter) inspires many of the families with whom I work to finally take control of their own clutter. In an unpredictable, dangerous world that is out of their control, they look to their homes for stability -- to get some degree of organization back into their closets, their garages, their home offices, their lives. This quest for organization is a deeply personal response to the feeling that the rest of the world is out of control.
Among the clutter, the frustration, and the yearning for organization, I constantly hear the same refrain: It is all overwhelming. The stuff has taken on a life of its own and families have no idea where to even begin. They are paralyzed by their own stuff. Often the people I work with lament, "It's all too much -- help me!"
If you find yourself at the point of being overwhelmed by your possessions, you have a clear choice: Decide here and now that you no longer want your stuff to overrun your life. Work with me to get balance and harmony back into your family and relationships. It can be done and I know how. None of this frightens me or overwhelms me because I have seen it all. I have never walked away from a cluttered home because it was too much. However, I have walked away from those who value their stuff over their relationships, their things over their dreams, or their possessions over their vision for the life they really want.
If you are one of those for whom it's suddenly all too much and want to let go, come on an exciting journey with me to reclaim your life. Living a richer, fuller, more exciting, and rewarding life is not that far away. Trust me, I've led many there already and you can be next. I promise you, if you do this, there is nothing you can't do!
IT'S ALL TOO MUCH
Let me tell you about one of my average workdays. One sunny June day, Jared and Lisa invited me into their modest house in the suburbs of Maryland. From the tree-lined street their home looked welcoming. The grass was neatly trimmed, the garden in full bloom. A gray sedan was parked in the driveway. I rang the doorbell.
The door opened to an appalling site. The floor was invisible. Every flat surface was stacked high with papers. The walls were lined with wall-to-wall file boxes, some stacked on shelves or tables. Many of the piles reached the top of my head and I'm not a short man. The living room was so crowded that the kitchen had become their little boy Cooper's playroom. A toy train track ran through the legs of the kitchen table, its cars long ago scattered, tripped on, and lost. The family was overrun with what appeared to be scrapbooking materials: glue, notebooks, piles of photos, trim, and all sorts of craft material. In short, the house was a disaster. I glanced at Jared and Lisa. To all appearances they are clean, hardworking, upstanding citizens, no different from you or me. Jared manages a successful airport shuttle business. After taking a few years off to have their first child, Lisa has just gotten her real-estate license. Cooper was three years old and delighted in showing me his firm handshake. A great family. And a successful one, in spite of the clutter. But underneath their sunny exterior was tension. They wanted more from their lives and believed the chaos of their home was taking away from their happiness. There was an obvious question that needed an answer: Why was their house completely out of control?
I asked Lisa what it was like living in this chaos. She said, "It's suffocating. I feel like I can't breathe when I look in the office." Lisa felt buried by her own stuff. She went on, "Something has to change. I don't want to live like this. But I have no idea where to begin."
And then I heard the one refrain that sums it all up, the words of despair that I hear over and over again from everyone I work with: "It's all too much."
That is why I decided to call this book It's All Too Much. It's a response to the hopelessness of that refrain. It's about what to do when you reach the point where you don't know where to start. When you're faced with so much mess that you throw up your hands in despair and give up. When you just want to move into a hotel, or throw it all out, or shove it in the garage, like when you were a kid and stuffed all your dirty clothes under the bed. Amazingly, I have dealt with people who have purchased a second home rather than face the mammoth task of decluttering the home they have lived in for many years! Well, there's no place to hide your mess when you're an adult and, eventually, you have to come home, so you might as well start dealing with the problem now. It's All Too Much is the solution.
It's just stuff
I asked Jared if he felt as overwhelmed as Lisa. He shrugged. "I know our house doesn't belong in Martha Stewart, but we're busy. It's just stuff. I don't see what the big deal is." I walked over to their bookshelf and started scanning the titles. There were diet books. Exercise books. Self-esteem books. Career motivation books. Parenting books. Finance books. Marriage books. Books on how to live better, happier, richer, fuller lives. It was a complete library of self-help books for every issue a family might have. It was time for me to tell him what I tell all of my clients: the truth. It was time to hold a mirror up to their life and their clutter so that they could see what was happening. I sat him and Lisa down and said, "You think the state of this house is no big deal, but look at all these problems you're trying to solve." I gestured toward the stack of self-help books. "Your home is the physical and emotional base for your family. You want to change? To get motivated? Improve your self-image? Lose weight? Start by taking a look at your home.
"You want a life built on a solid foundation, but you can't even see the floor beneath you. You want to lose weight, but your kitchen is overwhelmed with appliances you never use. You want to build your career, but your office literally makes you feel ill. You want change? This is where it starts: your home. Where you live, breathe, rest, love, and create. Forget the self-help books. Get rid of the clutter. Get organized. If you do, I promise that every aspect of your life will change in ways that you never imagined possible."
Jared and Lisa were like so many couples that I deal with -- they had lost sight of the fact that who you are and what you have are intimately linked. The things you buy, the items you value, the possessions you hoard are all a reflection of you, your life, your relationships, your career, and your aspirations. You are not your stuff, but, believe me, your stuff reveals a great deal about who you are.
THIS MEANS YOU
Jared and Lisa did want to change. That's exactly why they called me. In 2003, I became the organization expert on a TV show called Clean Sweep, a series for the cable station TLC. The mission of each episode of Clean Sweep was clear: A team of experts had forty-eight hours to help a family get uncluttered and organized. It was a simple formula. We had two days and two thousand dollars to redo two clutter-ridden rooms of the family's home. I do the same thing for private clients like Jared and Lisa. But simple as the concept seems -- getting rid of the stuff that overwhelms their homes -- there's more to the problem than meets the eye.
Bear with me here as I walk you through Lisa and Jared's home. It may not look exactly like your house -- you may make beaded jewelry or collect ancient pottery instead of scrapbooking -- but I have a feeling you'll recognize bits and pieces of your own life in Jared and Lisa's. If I have learned one thing in this job, it's that when it comes to clutter, we are all far more similar than we think!
As Jared and Lisa finished showing me their house, Lisa turned to me and asked, "How did this happen? We work hard; we live in a nice neighborhood. Why us?" I looked out the window at the other houses up and down the street. From the outside they looked just like Jared and Lisa's. And I was willing to bet that they had the same problems behind those closed doors. The person for whom clutter is not an issue is rare. We are all in some way owned by our possessions. As we get older our families grow. Children outgrow their toys and their clothes. We accumulate books and papers. We take on new hobbies and collections. Our extended family members die and we inherit boxes -- or truckloads -- of their possessions. Stuff is cheap -- look at electronics. Not too long ago, televisions and computers were big purchases that you only made a few times during your life. Now we think nothing of replacing them every couple of years or buying new ones rather than having them repaired.
The Container Store is a national chain -- thirty-four stores and growing -- selling storage and organization solutions, but, as their website boasts, there's no containing their growth. Their sales revenues grow 20 to 30 percent every year. Can you imagine if your possessions grew at that rate? This year The Container Store secured a new distribution center that's 65 percent bigger than the last to accommodate continued growth. Think about it: This is a store that sells only organizing solutions; that means that there are millions of Americans buying and trying to organize, but I guarantee there's very little organization as a result. And what's the typical American solution to having too much stuff? Buy another organization solution!
Then there are those of us who can't fit our belongings in containers and resort to self-storage, the no-man's-land of stuff. Self-storage is often supposed to be temporary -- we'll just store this couch until we move to our next house, where we might have space for it -- but it's a fifteen-billion-dollar industry. There are more than forty thousand self-storage facilities in this country, each averaging about fifty-five thousand square feet! This accumulation of stuff is a national trend. At some point, every one of us has to figure out how to manage this influx of stuff before it gets out of control.
FYI -- SELF-STORAGE MANIA
The first self-storage facilities appeared in Texas in the late 1960s. Today, approximately 10 percent of American households have items in one of the forty thousand self-storage facilities in this country. This is a 75 percent increase from just ten years ago and it has happened during a time when the size of the average American house has increased by half. Larger houses and more stuff in storage!
Our home is too small
Before I could help Jared and Lisa get their clutter under control, I needed more information. What was all this stuff they owned? Where had it come from? How important was it to them? Why did they hold on to it?
We started with Lisa's scrapbooking materials. Truth be told, they were all over the house, but we started in their family room, scrapbooking headquarters. Lisa had taken up scrapbooking when Cooper was born. Her baby shower had a scrapbook theme, and it blossomed from there. There were photos, memorabilia, ribbons, stickers, and rubber stamps jockeying for space on her wraparound desk. The built-in bookshelves were stocked with labeled plastic storage bins, all so full that their lids floated inches above the bins. Lisa smiled weakly. "I know it looks bad, but I actually need all this stuff to do my albums. And I know where everything is. Almost."
Lisa didn't think that she was disorganized. There was a method behind the madness of that room. The real problem, as far as she was concerned, was that the room was too small. I agreed with her -- but not on the size of the room. She was, indeed, organized, but she had organized an entire extra room's worth of stuff that wasn't necessary. We finally agreed that the problem wasn't that Lisa didn't have enough room; she simply had too much stuff. Instead of getting rid of some of it when she felt overwhelmed, Lisa just bought more storage systems (more stuff!). Who hasn't tried the same thing? At some time or another, we've all bought storage bins or file cabinets or a closet organizing system or invested in some other shiny new system that promises to elevate us to a higher plane of organization. In fact, I've found plenty of these very storage systems, still unused, wasting valuable space in people's garages, offices, and bedrooms. I am constantly amazed by the amount of stuff that people will squeeze into a room. Listen to me -- it's a basic law of physics that you can't fit five cubic feet of stuff into three cubic feet of space! You cannot create more space than you have. Nevertheless, I know that people will keep on trying! Like I always say, rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic as much as you want, the ship is still going down!
Meanwhile, Jared isn't sentimental like Lisa, but he is afraid of identity theft. He has saved every envelope or magazine that comes into the house with his name on it because he wants to make sure he shreds every single label to pulp. Jared's piles of paper and shredded strips completely overwhelmed their small office. While Jared's worry may be justified, the way he is dealing with the concern is creating a bigger, more immediate issue for his family that affects the way they live every day.
What's really important
Jared and Lisa couldn't just throw away their excess. For them, none of it was garbage because everything seemed important. Lisa had family photographs she wanted to arrange in albums for Cooper to pass down to his kids. Jared's office was full of materials he wanted for his company: employee records and business articles that he thought he'd get around to reading. How could they let go of any of it? This was all stuff that they would certainly need one day. "Fine," I said, "you have too much stuff, but you believe that all of it is critical to you. I understand. Instead of talking about the whole house, let's talk about the rooms one by one." They followed me into the family room. "What's the purpose of this room?" I asked Lisa.
"It's the family room. It's where I scrapbook and, well, Cooper's supposed to play in here, but he's always in the kitchen or the hall."
"I see. So what you're telling me is that hoarding photos for Cooper's future is more important to you than giving him room to play today?" I didn't wait for Lisa to answer. Jared was starting to gloat. He'd been down on Lisa's scrapbooking from the start, but I wasn't about to let him off easy. I went straight to the office.
"You're up, Jared."
"This is the office. I store my business papers here, pay bills, and we all use the computer."
"No you don't!" Lisa burst out. "You pay your bills standing up in the kitchen. When I'm trying to make dinner." She turned to me. "We almost had our electricity shut off because Jared lost the bill behind the stove."
I turned to Jared, "Is this true?" Jared nodded. "Because of the clutter in your office, some bills aren't getting paid. But you're still giving your paper shredding and business papers priority over paying bills and getting rid of the tension that it is causing between the two of you?"
"That's exactly what he's doing," Lisa said, shooting an apologetic look at Jared. "And I'm supposed to work from home. In that office? What a joke!" We went through every room of the house like this. I learned that Jared had every tablecloth his grandmother had owned stuffed in moldy cardboard boxes in the garage. He knew they were ruined, but he couldn't let them go. And Lisa was using the messy office as an excuse. She really wasn't sure if she wanted to go back to work or to take care of Cooper full-time. Their house reflected all of these conflicts. But there was no way to resolve them until they could see what the real cost of keeping these "prized possessions" was to their family. They had to face some tough questions, answer them honestly, and decide on specific actions to change their situation.
IMAGINE THE LIFE YOU WANT
Once I understood the physical space and emotions behind Jared and Lisa's clutter, I told them that I wanted them to do an exercise that is fundamental to helping people declutter and get organized.
As I do with all my clients, I first asked Jared and Lisa to imagine their ideal lives. This is a question that always catches people off guard. They expect me to ask for an inventory of what they own, or a list of their collectibles, or even details of their home lives when they were children. My starting point, however, has nothing to do with "the stuff." I know it sounds strange, but if you start by focusing on the clutter, you will never get organized. Getting truly organized is rarely about "the stuff."
To get Jared and Lisa started, I gave them a little help. You're healthy, happy, and successful. Maybe you have a second child. Perhaps your family lives nearby -- or all the way across the world. Your choice. You wake up in the morning feeling bright, energized, and ready to face the day. You know what you want -- a rewarding career, a supportive community, minimal stress, a loving family, time to relax, and time to pursue your interests -- and you've found a way to have it all.
"Yeah, right," Jared said.
Now I asked them to think about the lives they were actually living. Did the stuff they owned contribute to the lives they were hoping to achieve, or was it getting in the way of that vision? Jared said, "I want to be organized, efficient, and smart in how I use my time." Moments earlier I had watched him spend fifteen minutes trying to find his checkbook. He told me that he misplaced it several times a week. And Lisa had to admit that she couldn't really imagine launching her new work-from-home plan in a house that looked like this. This is the bottom line: If your stuff and the way it is organized is getting you to your goals . . . fantastic. But if it's impeding your vision for the life you want, then why is it in your home? Why is it in your life? Why do you cling to it? For me, this is the only starting point in dealing with clutter. These questions are the ultimate reality check when it comes to what you own and what you have in your home. The first step to getting organized is to work from the vision of the life you want to live. Everything flows from this.
In the eighteenth century, an English architect named William Morris wrote that you should not have anything in your home that is not beautiful or functional. A tough task. Your home is a metaphor for your life -- it represents who you are and what you value. When your house is a wreck, your life starts to crumble. For Jared, who spent fifteen minutes twice a day looking for misplaced items, the cost of that activity alone was more than a week lost every year. That's not efficiency -- that's lost opportunity!
You can't feel at peace when you're tripping over boxes of golf balls or struggling to find last month's electric bill. You can't have a happy family when you can't even see the dining table. For Jared and Lisa, the damage went beyond the overstuffed closets and overflowing desk drawers. They let stuff mess up their lives, their relationships, their priorities, their hopes, and, yes, their dreams -- everything that should have been most important to them. Clutter had stopped them from living the lives they wished they had.
To a greater or lesser degree, I have seen this happen to hundreds of people. The stuff takes over. At some point there is a shift and suddenly life, love, family, and friends all take second place to the clutter. Think about the words we use when we talk about clutter. "There was so much stuff in that room I felt like I was suffocating," or "You should see that garage, you can hardly breathe in there with all those boxes," or "He is really buried under all that paperwork." We use these words for a specific reason -- they aren't exaggerations. Clutter is insidious, a slow but steady tide. It enters your home little by little, usually over years. Clutter sucks life away. It leaves you depressed, overwhelmed, lacking motivation, and unable to breathe. Clutter prevents you from enjoying the most precious, intimate moments in life. Clutter robs you of far more than the space it occupies -- it steals your life!
I told Lisa and Jared that if they wanted to change, they had to admit that lots of their "important stuff" wasn't as important as the space it was consuming. There was an absolute limit to what they should own and that limit was set by the space they had. Period. Their stuff exceeded the space they had to contain it reasonably, so it had started taking up the space they needed to live. Put another way, if they wanted to achieve the lives they envisioned for themselves, Lisa and Jared had to start redefining their relationship to their stuff. It may seem obvious, but -- hard as some people try -- you can't own everything! "Listen," I said to Lisa and Jared, "it's you or your stuff -- make the choice!"
We started in the family room. Jared, Lisa, and I talked about their vision for the room. More than anything, they wanted a comfortable place to gather as a family. They wanted to have empty space for Cooper's play dates. They wanted a pleasant space to watch TV several nights a week. Lisa finally understood that she didn't need all the scrapbooking stuff she'd so assiduously acquired and organized when she actually spent more of her leisure time watching TV in a room cluttered with unused hobbies. So she made decisions about what to keep based on the space that she wanted to devote to the hobby. She agreed that half the bookshelves should be hers and half should be for Cooper's toys. She also agreed that she wouldn't keep any scrapbooking materials that didn't fit on her side of the bookshelves in closed bins. Jared proposed that she give up on scrapbooking any of their vacation photos. She gave him a gentle punch, but he didn't give in: "They're boring and you know it." Once we knew the vision, purpose, and goals for the room, we went through the whole mess, bin by bin, with Jared alternately teasing Lisa mercilessly and helping her through the toughest decisions. With a clear vision in mind, we had criteria for deciding what stayed and what was no longer needed. Anything that contributed to their vision for that space stayed. Everything else went.
The sweet spot
Jared, Lisa, and I spent two days clearing the clutter from their home. We went through every room, figuring out what they wanted from each space and whether its contents served that purpose. We made some tough decisions. Lisa threw away piles of Cooper's first crayon drawings, picking her favorite three to frame for his room. Jared donated his unused Rollerblades to make room for his new paper shredder. Jared and Lisa made the hard choices while constantly asking themselves, "Does this item enhance the life we want to live?" By the end, Lisa voluntarily threw away or donated every item of clothing she hadn't worn in the last year. "When I'm through I want extra room in my closet. Just for fresh air." When it was all said and done, Lisa said, "It feels like Christmas!" and Jared had to admit, "It's like I just graduated from school. No tests hanging over my head. Nothing is due. I feel free."
We've all had a taste of that relief and joy. If you've ever played tennis or another racket sport, think about when you hit the ball on the sweet spot. You're laboring to hit the ball, using all your might, but when the point of connection is perfect, everything suddenly feels smooth and easy. Or think of the feeling you have when you've just mailed in your taxes. Or when you totally clear your desk before going on vacation. You can walk out of your office, turn off the light, and just know that everything is in its place, right where it's supposed to be. You're doing your job and doing it well. When you succeed in decluttering it will be because you've made good life choices. And when you're living by those choices, you'll experience the joy, the lightness, and the freedom that come with natural order. That sense of achievement can be yours every day, and I'm going to help you accomplish it, step by step, just like I did with Jared and Lisa.
Jared and Lisa had a million self-help books and endless file boxes and organizing "solutions." What I did for them isn't a quick fix; it's an ongoing process that has changed their lives in almost every way. This book doesn't waste time telling people how to stick pretty labels on color-coded boxes the way so many organizing experts do. For me, it's not first and foremost about "the stuff" -- that's way too superficial! It's about changing your relationship to your stuff. It's about keeping things that make sense for your life -- your real life, not a fantasy of what was or what could be. Stuff is secondary to who you are, and that needs to be reflected in your home and in your life. When you solve the stuff problem, clarity follows. Jared and Lisa did it, and so can you.
In this book we start at the beginning, as I did with Jared and Lisa. I'm going to help you clearly define the life you want to be living. I'll lead you through your house, as I do with all my clients, to help you assess the state of your home without any sugarcoating. What is the room? What's its purpose? What is this item? Does it contribute positively to the life you want? What is the emotion that ties you to this item that stops you from letting it go? What power does this item wield over you? I'll guide you through the process of understanding your priorities and fixing your relationship with your stuff. You'll learn how and why your use of space doesn't match your priorities. That's the first step.
But it doesn't stop there. Once you have confronted the physical and emotional hurdles that cause clutter, we'll work to overcome the feeling that "it's all too much." I'm going to lead you, step-by-step, through the program that helped Jared and Lisa and hundreds of others conquer their clutter. You'll figure out where your problems lie. You'll examine what the clutter is doing to your life. You'll decide what you'd like your home to be like. You'll answer, as a household, a series of essential questions that I pose to all my clients. As a family, you'll decide what purpose each room serves and how it should be filled. Work, play, eating, entertainment, and rest are assigned dedicated, functional spaces that give each of those activities a new clarity. Together we'll break down your house, room by room, cabinet by dresser, and get rid of the extra stuff that is keeping you from living your ideal life. You'll learn to ask yourself, "Do I even remember what's inside these boxes? Do I need it? Do I honor and respect it?" I can't tell you how many people I've met who still have their baby's umbilical cord or the first diaper their child soiled (I kid you not!). Is this the best way to preserve the memory of a child's first days?
Maybe your problem isn't extreme -- you're not drowning in clutter, but you've run out of space in your house and want to find ways to bring order and purpose back into your home. That's great! You'll rethink your home organization and discover new space and clarity. And the good news is, the smaller your problem, the less time it will take to solve.
If you're on the other end of the spectrum -- a lifelong hoarder -- the process will take longer. You'll have to purge, then purge again. If it's taken you ten years or more to accumulate your mess, it's impossible to make it disappear overnight. Letting go is a learning process. You might need to start slowly, and it may take time to discover that not having things makes your life better, not worse.
Ultimately, the job is done. Tabletops are cleared. Closets are skeleton-free. Bookshelves recover from near collapse. From boxes of memorabilia you'll have handpicked the most important, symbolic pieces, given them places of honor in your home, and thrown away, donated, or sold the rest. The dining room table that's been a junk mail storage bin for ten years is reinstated as a family gathering place. The bedroom is no longer overflowing with laundry and toys. It's a peaceful place where love and sleep come easily. And when everything is finally in order, I will show you how to maintain this level of order for a clutter-free lifetime.
A year after I helped Jared and Lisa clean up their home, I got an invitation to a party they were hosting. When I walked through the front door, I saw a home that any family could be proud of. Surfaces were clear. There were no piles anywhere. Even when I peeked into the family room, I saw that Lisa had one desk and the space above it was devoted to her scrapbooking. The rest of the room was a comfortable space that was clearly Cooper's hangout. Every room served a purpose. Everything had its place. Best of all, the house reflected who Jared and Lisa were: a happy, productive, successful family and you could see that on their faces. As Lisa offered me a drink, I said, "Tell me it's this clean every day!" She smiled and admitted, "We knew you were coming. We cleaned up a little. But it only took an hour." As far as I'm concerned, that's success.
I hope and expect this book to generate discussions between you and your partner and family members that are honest and heartfelt. Change will be necessary and it will be a tough process at times. Compromise is essential, but the end result is worth it. When you've finished my program, you will come away with clear priorities and practical new skills for safeguarding them. You will be able to look around your home and see only things that you truly want and need to have in your living space. A home is the beginning of every day. Changing it changes your life.
Copyright 2007 by Peter Walsh
Excerpted from It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh Copyright © 2006 by Peter Walsh. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
PART ONE: The Clutter Problem
1. This Is Not My Beautiful House
2. Excuses, Excuses
3. Imagine the Life You Want to Live
PART TWO: Putting Clutter in Its Place
Step 1: Kick Start-Tackling the Surface Clutter
Step 2: Hash It Out!
Step 3: Conquer Your Home
Room 1: Master Bedroom
Room 2: Kids' Rooms
Room 3: Family and Living Rooms
Room 4: Home Office
Room 5: Kitchen
Room 6: Dining Room
Room 7: Bathroom
Room 8: Garage, Basement, and Other Storerooms
Step 4: Maintenance
Step 5: Cleanup Checkup
Step 6: New Rituals
Afterword: Take What You've Learned into the World
What People are Saying About This
"The best organizing advice we've ever heard!" Woman's Day
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I was impressed with this book. This author is different from all those that talk about 'organizing'. The author does not just give you advice to organize your home, but gives you the help (and understanding) to DECLUTTER your LIFE for good. It's not about rearranging your clutter in a more neatly way, but to let go of the load of clutter you have been accumulating for years, making you understand what's important and not in life, so you and your family can live happier. It also helps you to understand why you do the things you do when it comes to 'hoarding' stuff. The book is addicting, straightforward, well written and easy to understand. Purge your home, purge your life, open a window to 'fresh air'. Reading it might help you to save money in the long run.
I loved the book and his approach to controlling clutter. I don't recommend getting this book for your Nook. He uses several charts and text boxes and the Nook format cuts off the bottom text. I had to abandon one chapter because when I tried to turn the page near the middle of the chapter, the Nook went back to the library page. I finally had to choose "go to" and move on to the next chapter.
I have been battling messiness and clutter all my life and I am only 34. My mom was a hoarder and we really didn't know the extent of it until she was rediagnosed with cancer and we had to get into her house to find things. After I moved out and bought my own place the hoarding progressively got worse to where she ultimately wouldn¿t let anyone in her house. All the signs were there from her car and obsession to buy things just because they were on sale or cheap. This book would have done wonders for all of us and even her. She felt it was all so overwhelming and I think the baby steps that Peter has you take would have done wonders for her. I started reading this book after years of wanting to change and now seeing all the influx of her belongings into my house. She passed away this past summer and I was having a hard time of getting rid of anything just because it was hers. Peter makes you take a look at ¿WHY¿ do you really want it. I have discovered that I keep so many things not because I like them but because I feel I am obligated to keep them. No more. I have too many things in my life that do not bring me joy and things that have been stored for that ¿just in case I need it¿ time. I haven¿t even finished the book and my husband has already seen great changes. Our house was never bad but I do like to collect things and papers seemed to be the worse culprit. With Peter¿s wise words I am going to declutter my life once and for all. I know I will have to come back and go over sections again as time passes. I knew I needed something like this book as I will have to be cleaning out my mom¿s house soon and I know I can now have a better insight to keeping things and letting things go. I am actually giving this book to one of my cousins as it does seem to be a family trait. I know this is one trait I do not want my baby girl to carry on. You definitely do have to be open to what he has to say and be ready for the experience.
I watched Peter (the author) on TV for several seasons and found this book by accident while browsing at Barnes and Noble. What a find it was. It has inspired me to take simple steps that have really changed my life. It is hard to decide what to let go. By giving you the concept of "decide what you want your life to look like then keep what fits" this book really hits the mark. It is much easier to make decisions rather than focusing on the stuff and deciding "keep or go". It is a joy to walk into my bedroom now and I do have extra money thanks to getting rid of things that, while still good and useful to someone, don't fit the picture of my current life. Grab it, read a couple of chapters, and you'll be hooked. Very readable. I can't wait to start on the garage and attic.
I loved how Peter Walsh got to the heart of why we have clutter and the steps to take (whether babysteps or full force) to get motivated to start a life altering way of dealing with our things!! He was also brilliant in getting us to consider the psychological effects of managing our things to live more free lives on so many levels. I'm going to pass this book on to my friends to pay it forward!
Peter Walsh helps you understand what you really want and then guides you through doing it.
Clutter happens. That's the moral of this book. And, the reader must just hunker down and throw out some stuff when bringing in more stuff. It's not that I don't know that (my husband keeps telling me the same thing) but Peter Walsh puts it in much nicer tone and coaxes you to do the right thing. So far, I have de-cluttered a bit, but it has not gone full-scale yet so I can't say it's a 10. It's probably an 8 right now.
I enjoyed it so much that I bought one for my sister (who holds on to WAY more stuff than I do) for her birthday! It is very motivating and really helps to explore WHY the stuff is so important. He does a great job getting to the root of the problem of WHY you feel you need to keep the stuff. He helps eliminate the waste and then helps to organize what is left! I loved it!
This book is very helpful if you want to clean out and organize your house, and keep it running efficiently. The book provides exercises you can share with your roommates or family members, and for the single person to do on their own, or with the assistance of an organized friend or relative. It mostly focuses on houses and families, but he does address the needs of singles and apartment-dwellers as well. One thing I liked about this book is that the author does not urge you to buy more stuff to get organized. Instead, he encourages you to discard, give away or sell things you don't need anymore, and he gives you some parameters to help you figure out what those things should be. Lest you think he's some kind of organization Nazi, he does cut you some slack and is aware that sometimes we keep things because of an emotional attachment. He eases you through that, too. I tried his method and I threw out and gave away a substantial amount of stuff. I still have far to go. I also recommend the "It's All Too Much Workbook," which gets into more detail behind the concepts addressed in "It's All Too Much," and gives lists, quizzes, questionnaires and appendices to help you through the "debriding" process (that's what my sister calls it). Highly recommended.
I really liked this book. It has some of the best advice on how to declutter and get your home in tip-top shape. If you need some help in this area--or a lot of help!--then this is the book for you.
I needed help real bad because I am a clothes hog and a clutterer. I feel like an addict I am sure! I need too much STUFF for some reason? This book made lots of sense. Of course, it's all true with good common sense, we all should recognize. I knew most of it before I read the Book. But the Book was a needed motivator to help me get my act together. I would recommend this book 100% for someone like me. Or if you just simple need to know how to get organized & didn't know how to get started. And it's alot cheaper than going to Therapy. And it's where I can pick it up when I need a boost when I start to think I need something MORE and useless.
I love Peter Walsh's no nonsense, yet sensitive approach to clearing out the clutter in life. Although a lot of it is common sense, when one is faced with piles of clutter, it helps to be reminded. This book has inspired me to take a serious look at not only the clutter in front of me, but the source and drivers that cause it. Thank you, Peter, for helping me get my life back!
Ok if you have kids and are battling hoarding tendancies. But if you are trying to de-clutter this may not be the best choice. If you can't find your dining room table, or your spair bedroom then yes this should help.
I love the way he makes you think, but doesn't put you down for having a problem with clutter. He is all about helping you work through it, and has an approach that is very motivating and inspiring. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for answers to the clutter issues.
Peter Walsh goes straight to the heart of the issues within clutter and how it affects our lives in ways we cannot imagine. I have always suspected there was more to it than meets the eye and he drives home this point, at times repetitively yet effectively. His compassionate support and clear logic is helping me to launch my own campaign against clutter.
This book is NOT just a copy of the "It's All Too Much Workbook." Mr. Walsh, with humor and compassion, can motivate you to get organized with “It’s All Too Much.” He very successfully explains the holistic benefits of decluttering. His most valuable insights stem from his deep understanding that structuring a home is (1) often a process with a goal of satisfying the needs of several people and (2) therefore often a family, collaborative, effort. He can be a little gruff - "JUST DO IT" might be his motto. And he admits, just a little, that this is an “Of Course You Can” book: Mr. Walsh doesn't offer much about how to determine why, so far, you haven’t used all the tips and tricks. If you could easily accomplish the tips and tricks, you might not be reading this book in the first place. This book has a place in a collection of books. Start with Cindy Glovinsky, Judith Kohlberg, Julie Morgenstein, and Gail Blanke. Lauren Williams, Casual Uncluttering, Woodinville, WA, USA
I know Peter Walsh is one of the foremost names in the decluttering/organization movement and is well-known thanks to his stint on "Clean Sweep," but I really didn't get too much from "It's All Too Much."Perhaps it's because if you read a few decluttering blogs, you'll eventually get all of the tips and philosophy found in this book. I haven't read Walsh's earlier books, but I can't imagine them being very much different from this one. There are a few basic concepts that are hammered home:* It's not about the stuff, it's about changing your relationship to your stuff.* Use what's useful, honor what's worthy of honoring, and chuck the rest.* Have a plan for each room that ties to the vision of the life you'd like to lead.* Don't expect it all to be fixed at once.And that's pretty much it. Oh, and of course the ubiquitous "three bag" approach (keep, toss, donate/giveaway) is mentioned.That's not to say it's a bad book by any stretch. Indeed, if you're looking to declutter/purge your stuff and you don't read decluttering blogs or haven't read other similar books, pick this one up. It does a good job of preparing you mentally and emotionally for dealing with the overwhelming task of cutting back on your clutter and preventing it from piling back up.
This book was exactly what we needed to kick-start us into getting rid of accumulated "stuff". While we aren't as snowed under as many of the families described in the book, we know we can be much better than we are. His tips are fantastic: pile all your kitchen utensils in a box - as you use them, put them in their designated drawer. At the end of a year, take the remaining utensils in the box to your local Goodwill (or add to your garage sale). I love his hints about getting rid of clothing, cookbooks, etc. VERY helpful!!If it isn't functional or beautiful, why are you hanging on to it?
This is by far the best book on organization and clearing out of things that I don't want and don't need of anything I've ever read. Of course, I picked it up after working [Simple Abundance] for two years and Julia Cameron's books for longer than that. It helps that he uses his television experiences as examples.
In the beginning of this book it feels a little bit too self-helpy. The first two chapters are all about our relationship to stuff and why we keep it, along with information about how your life could be different if you were to clean up your act. I was almost prepared to chuck the book at this point, but then he got into the real meat of why I checked this book out from the library. Walsh first has you make a plan (room function chart) of what you want each room of your house to look like and what you want the room to be used for. Then he goes through each room of the house and helps you decide what to keep and what to get rid of by using the same three easy steps:*Refer to your Room Function Chart and have everyone sign on.*Establish zones for the different activities that take place in this space.*Remove what doesn't belong.He first helps you deal with the general clutter and garbage that accumulates in the houses of many hoarders, then he eases you into getting rid of the clutter you're tied to emotionally. He has you ask yourself why you're holding onto these items and helps you think of ways to display the items and give them a place of honor in your home, rather than allowing them to accumulate dust in the corner of the garage. If they aren't valuabe enough to display, they should be gotten thrown out or given to someone who will value the item.Walsh's tone throughout the book is very conversational and makes it easy to get through. And after completing my own purge, I can see how the self-helpy part in the beginning was really necessary. There's no point in reading a book like this if you aren't going to be serious about making changes in your life. I come from a long line of hoarders (my parents have two storage sheds, a basement and a garage filled with boxes of stuff that won't fit inside their home) so I understand how difficult it can be to let go of things. It took a long time for me to break the habit myself, but I can honestly say that life is much better with less stuff and more space. As Walsh says: My job may be all about organization and decluttering, but I cannot say enough times that it is not about the "stuff." I have been in more cluttered homes than I can count, and the one factor I see in every single situation is people whose lives hinge on what they own instead of who they are. These people have lost their way. They no longer own their stuff - their stuff owns them. I am convinced that this is more the norm than the exception in this country. At some point, we started to believe that the more we own, the better off we are. In times past and in other cultures, people believe that the worst thing that can happen is for someone to be possessed, to have a demon exercise power over you. Isn't that what being inundated with possessions is - being possessed?I'd love to give this book to my parents if I thought it would actually help. Unfortunately it would just add to their overabundance of clutter. My siblings and I have been trying for years to help them declutter, but every time we come back for a visit there's just more stuff to go through. Peter Walsh has an amazing job - one I'd love to have. How did he get into this line of work anyway? It must feel amazing to help so many people to get out from under the weight of their possessions. Personally speaking, it has been one of the most freeing things I've ever done. And I'm glad to finally be almost to the end of that journey.
Wow. I'm not finished yet, but it is certainly mking me re-think my life and my things.
This book doesn't tell us anything we don't already know...but if it helps you to clean it up...more power to it...It was a little dry...very repetitive...and a little incomplete to be honest.
This is the first thing I've read on organizing, simplifying, etc, so everything was new. And hopefully nothing was very novel because it all seemed pretty commonsensical. As with books on overeating, I appreciate it when they recognize and address a range of motivations. I read some of the negative reviews before starting the book and was then perplexed when he said the opposite. You're 'allowed' to keep pretty much everything. It's also nice he doesn't start with buying any file boxes, etc. The target market is very much your basic nuclear family in a suburban house, while I live alone in an apartment, but it was easy enough to skim past the irrelevant stuff and it doesn't seem there would be any missing advice specific to my scenario. I'm preparing to both move and combine households in about six months, and getting rid of a lot of things (especially things in storage) ahead of the move is the plan. This book contained some excellent motivators towards that end, especially in terms of rationale for throwing things out. The idea of mapping out your intended purpose for each room seems equally helpful when choosing a new home too, to make sure it will accommodate those goals in the first place. I also really liked the idea of bookmarking items on a retailer's website rather than keeping the catalogs. He's not a reader, though. Reading 3-4 books per week is hardly impossible. And I'm sorry but there are not millions of households in the U.S. that never throw away anything. Either 'millions' or 'never' was hyperbole.
I'm more than half a year into a major decluttering project and a lot of this very good advice was stuff I've already figured out or read elsewhere, but this was a very useful read all the same. I picked up enough new tips and fresh motivation to keep me going for months. The book is definitely geared toward someone who needs to declutter and doesn't know where to start, but anyone who needs a little help organizing is sure to find useful advice here.
This truly motivated me to begin decluttering my home. Walsh argues that it isn't a matter of buying a bunch of Container Store bins -- buying more stuff -- but coming to terms with the "why" of our pack rat ways. Highly recommended. This is a much better investment than (yet another) trip to the store for more shelves/boxes/bins/whatever which only serve to exacerbate the "stuff" problem.