Peter Walsh is the organization expert on TLC’s Clean Sweep and Oprah. Rather than writing another book that lists various organizational methods for different types of stuff, It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Rich Life gets into the psychology of stuff so you can part with it permanently, and then teaches you how to do it.
Clutter Problem: The Psychology of Stuff
If you’ve seen Peter Walsh on TV, then you know that he’s very concerned with the reasons we create clutter. Getting rid of it once is easy, but learning to part with it permanently is hard. His basic theory is that we create clutter because it either represents something we value, or represents our idea of who we are. As you read through the first section, he challenges the excuses you’re already making in your head. He helps you see the error of your ways through quizzes and the stories of other clients facing serious clutter problems.
For example, Walsh relates the story of the woman who wanted to create scrapbooks for her three children, but she had so much scrapbooking stuff that it was overwhelming. Rather than make the books, she avoided that area of the room. At the same time, she couldn’t part with the stuff because she needed it to make the scrapbooks. He helped her see how she was blocking herself from being who she truly was, but he also didn’t make her throw it all out. Instead he honored her desire to make the scrapbooks by placing limits on the amount of supplies she could have and creating an organized space in which to work.
Putting Clutter in Its Place
The next section focuses on learning to control the clutter. Walsh first asks if the stuff belongs to you. Many people have clutter that belongs to friends, neighbors, ex-spouses, or middle-aged children!
Next he asks you to find the true purpose of each room. To do this, you and your family members write down how you think each room should be used. If one of you wants to use the dining room to eat and the other wants to use it to make model airplanes, that’s a pretty big conflict of desires that’s creating clutter. Once you understand the true purpose of a room, it’s easier to clear the clutter.
If a room must have multiple uses, then Walsh recommends creating zones for each use, and limiting the activity storage to that space. He doesn’t say you shouldn’t buy storage boxes; he says you should reduce the stuff, and then buy boxes to fit the remainder and prevent it from outgrowing the boxes.
The Clutter Weekend
Walsh tells you how to recreate the Clean Sweep experience by designating a weekend to clear out the clutter and then get rid of it immediately via a garage sale or donation. Once the major work is done, you can slowly remove the rest of the clutter bit-by-bit.
Room-by-Room Clutter Clearing
Finally, Walsh gives a review of each room. He explains how clutter develops in each room and then provides strategies for discovering what you really need to keep and what you should part with.
The book is part inspirational, part hands-on advice. Walsh never makes you feel guilty about the clutter, but he does make you want to get rid of it. I read this book after cleaning out our office closet, and well after my clutter purge, but the book helped me realize the effect that had on me. Now that there’s less stuff in there, I don’t want to just toss stuff into it anymore. I always take a few more steps to put it back in its place. I also think carefully before adding new stuff to it.
This isn’t the book for you if you simply want another organization system. If you’re ready to truly tackle not only the clutter, but the psychology that causes you to create clutter, then this is an excellent start.