Friday, July 25, 2008

It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh

I recently moved, which is a great time to get rid of stuff I don't need. I normally spend weeks before and after moving taking stuff to charities and dropping off recycling. This move was a bit easier because my boyfriend and I had thrown away just about everything we owned before we moved to Paris last year ... or so we'd thought. When we picked up our boxes from storage and our many relatives who had been holding things for us, we realized we had kept much more than we'd thought. After unpacking the bulk of the boxes I found that I still had about seven boxes that I'd just stacked in my closet because I didn't know what to do with their contents. That's where It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life With Less Stuff by Peter Walsh came in handy.

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.


Teresa said...

Peter Walsh is just wonderful! Have you ever seen him on Clean Sweep? One of the best tips I picked up from that show was that my memories of my loved ones aren't actually attached to the stuff they gave me or that once belonged to them. I'll remember them whether I have the stuff or not. So it's okay to just keep a couple of my grandmother's things if that's all I have room for and really like or use.

Becca said...

Teresa: I've only watched Clean Sweep a couple of times, but I really liked it. Every time I see it I imagine getting my parents onto the show. It's so true about memories. I really like that he teaches people to honor those memories by displaying items or making something useful out of them.

Kim L said...

I haven't read this one, but it does sound useful. I hate clutter but I still manage to accumulate enough of it. I feel like I'm always fighting it! I definitely know people who can't seem to clean up anything and fill up every space with junk, but the sad thing is that usually the attachment to their stuff is so great that it doesn't matter if you clean everything up, they will fill up the empty space with junk again.

Zakiye said...

I love rolling around in my own filth- plus who needs a man when you can just masturbate under the weight of your possessions? no one, thats who. Well, apparently you, but no one else, really. How does it feel to be all alone? I hope your little blog keeps you warm at night.
Love, Ange
ps:when am I getting my invitation to the annual thanksgiving party? it suspiciously hasn't arrived yet...

Becca said...

Angela: I'm always torn between deleting your comments and leaving them to see if anyone else will be scandalized by them.

Did I really not send you an invite to the annual Thanksgiving thing? And why are you so concerned? It's still months away!

Angilaz said...

Well, it seems you've made the right decision. And I just want to make sure I secure a spot at the table, to regale the guests with all my know, really appropriate ones.