Peter Walsh shows teenagers how to clean up all the junk they've accumlated. His book, "It's All Too Much, So Get It Together," is filled with summaries, quizzes and stories from teens.
Read the excerpt below, and then head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.
A list of ways You might have Ended up with this book
11. Your boyfriend got it for you as a "joke." Well, at least you thought it was a joke. . . .
10. Your girlfriend gave you that new graphic novel you really wanted, and you found this book tucked inside the same box. And when you pulled it out and were all, "Oh, what's this?" she opened her eyes very wide and said very loudly, "OH! WELL, HOW ON EARTH DID THAT GET IN THERE?"
9. You found it shoved into the glove compartment of your car on top of three broken ice scrapers and a crumpled-up McFlurry cup, with an anonymous note: Thought you could maybe use this.
8. Your best friend tossed it at you and said, "Dude, enough already!" You borrowed his favorite jacket eight months ago, and for the past eight months whenever he asks for it back, you just motion to that crazy pile-o'-clutter that was once your bedroom and say, "Well, I know it must be in here somewhere."
7. Your dad came into your room wearing a raincoat and his old football helmet and said, "It's not safe to come in here without protection!" Then he put the book on your desk on top of those forty-five moldy music magazines from the eighties that you found at a garage sale. And ran away.
6. You woke up one morning and the book was under your pillow. There was glitter sprinkled around your bed, and your window was just ever-so-slightly open.
5. Your uncle got it for you as a "very early birthday present" (and your birthday is ten months away).
4. Your mom sent Woofie, the family dog, into your room carrying it in his mouth. She claimed Woofie bought it for you himself. But that just seems unlikely.
3. Whenever your older sister comes in your room, she pretends to be all upset and screams, "OH, NO! SOMEONE BROKE INTO YOUR ROOM AND RANSACKED IT!" and then says, "Oh wait, it's just like that." She gave you this book because she can no longer handle the stress of having to look at your mess.
2. You opened your closet and it just fell out on your head, along with that Best Nap Taker trophy you won in kindergarten and a half-deflated basketball. You have no idea where it came from. But then again, you don't know how half of that stuff got in there!
Then again, maybe just maybe . . . 1. You're feeling totally overwhelmed by something in your life. Or many things in your life. Maybe you were wandering around the bookstore, and when you saw the bright yellow cover and the white text popping out at you screaming, IT'S ALL TOO MUCH! you wanted to high-five the book. Because you can so, so relate. (And trust me, if you feel that way, you're not alone.)Regardless of whether you got this book for yourself or whether you got it as a gift, chances are the fact that this book ended up in your hands means you probably have at least a little (and maybe even a very big) clutter problem. And maybe you are a little (or a lot) (or completely!) overwhelmed. And just maybe you could use some help getting organized.
People have lots of different thoughts and feelings when it comes to their clutter. Some are aware of their clutter. Some are too aware of their clutter. For some people their clutter is so overwhelming that they think it can't be dealt with. Or maybe it's so overwhelming that they can't bear to think about it at all! (I've known adults who were so overwhelmed by all the clutter they'd collected that they bought an ENTIRELY NEW HOUSE so that they would not have to clean up the first one. I am not even kidding!) Some people mistakenly think that only certain types of people can be organized, and that if they're not organized already, well, then there's no point in even trying! But I am here to tell you that no matter how bad it is, no matter how unmanageable it seems, it can get done. It will get done. And when it gets done, your life will be profoundly changed for the better. And I can help.
But this book is about a lot more than just cleaning and about a lot more than just decluttering and about a lot more than just getting organized.
In fact, really, what this book is about is you.
It's about who you are and who you want to be, what you want from your life and how you can best go about getting it. It's about you and your life and your stuff and how all of those things can work together more harmoniously. But more on that later. Much more on that later.
Some of the stuff that you're going to be asked to do on the pages that follow might feel like work. I won't lie. But I also promise it will be fun. I mean, maybe not winning-the-lottery fun, or being-crowned-prom-queen fun, or bungee-jumping fun (if you're into that sort of thing), but still . . . fun. (Besides, it'll definitely be better than taking a biology midterm, getting one of your teeth removed, hosting a party for twenty-five screaming five-year-olds, farting loudly in front of your entire class, farting quietly in front of someone you have a crush on, or bungee jumping [if you're scared of heights]). And unlike some of the stuff that you're supposed to learn in school that miiiight not seem like it's going to be super useful for the future, the stuff you're about to learn will actually help you for the rest of your life. Starting right now . . .
How do I know? Because I've gone into hundreds of people's homes—adults, kids, teens—and helped them change their lives. Make no mistake: I don't do it for them. I just give them the tools to do it themselves. I've seen their smiling faces, and I've heard the relief in their voices as they tell me how by doing things very similar to what you'll be taught to do in this book, their lives have been changed—they've gotten happier, their relationships have gotten better, they've felt more relaxed and less stressed, and they've been equipped to reach all the goals they have for their lives.
But first, back up. You're probably wondering who I am, and why exactly it is that so many people have let me come into their homes and let me poke around in their stuff. Not only let me, but invited me, and sometimes not only me but entire film crews, so that we could broadcast the most private bits of their homes on national TV. Why?
Well, that's a very good question. My name is Peter Walsh, and I'm a professional organizer.
I know to some of you that probably sounds like just about the worst job in the world, ranking just above dog-food taster and toenail clipper to the stars. But the thing is, I love my job. And it's not because I'm a freak for cleaning, but because I love helping people figure out what they want out of their lives and how they can go about getting it. I love showing people that buried under all the clutter in their homes is a better life waiting to be uncovered. I've been a professional organizer for more than a decade. I had a show on the TLC network called Clean Sweep, in which I helped people declutter their lives. I regularly appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show and have a regular program on Oprah Radio. I'm a New York Times bestselling author, and I have written four organizational books in addition to the one you're reading right now, as well as a decluttering workbook. But I'm not telling you these things to brag. I'm telling you these things so that you believe me when I say that I have had a lot, I mean a lot, of decluttering experience. I have gone into houses where there were tons, literally tons (as in many thousands of pounds), of extra crap cluttering the place up. And by the time I left, 100 percent of the junk (which equaled 90 percent of everything that was in the house!) had been removed. So no matter how overwhelming your own personal clutter might be, trust me that I've seen worse.
How did it get so bad? Why are so many people so cluttered? Well, a lot of reasons really. Some of which are complicated and one of which is awfully simple: Right now here in America we are all suffering from a terrible case of over-stuff-itization. To put it another way, we are all obsessed with stuff.
Wanting stuff, buying stuff, getting stuff, having stuff, keeping stuff.
But the thing is, we're so used to being obsessed with stuff, and so used to our friends, parents, and neighbors being obsessed with stuff too, that it's just become a way of life. And unless we stop and slow down and look very, very closely, it doesn't seem like an obsession at all. We don't even think about it or question it. It just seems normal, and we can't imagine it being any other way.
Think about it: When you're driving, walking, or riding the bus through your town, you pass a million different stores. And what are those stores selling? They're selling stuff. Then maybe you go over to a friend's house, and you open up a magazine. And what's in between articles? Ads for stuff! And maybe after that you and your friend sign onto the Internet, and hey, what's that banner flashing there at the top of the screen? Oh, wait, it's a little message telling us about more stuff we need. Then when you get home, you might turn on the TV, and at every commercial break people come onto the TV screen and tell you about all the amazing new products that you're missing out on and that you must go out and buy. Act now! Act fast! Before it's too late!
Why, sometimes even the shows themselves are all about the stuff you should buy. Like the one that comes on late at night where that guy tells you that you should definitely invest in some of his giant felt napkins, because they are just so absorbent and are going to make your life easier and less liquidy. Or that one where the lady tells you all about how you must, you must, buy this special plastic tube in which a person can cook spaghetti very easily and quickly (since it's, y'know, so time-consuming and labor-intensive otherwise?).
Stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff,
Well, no wonder you might feel a little cluttered. It's no wonder so many of us do. Wherever we look, we are told that acquiring new stuff is going to make our lives easier, happier, more exciting, and more fun. That acquiring new stuff will make us smell better and look better, will make our skin softer and our hair shinier. That we will be perfectly in shape and smiling big, bright, white-toothed smiles all the time if we just buy the right combination of appropriate products that will help us achieve all of our goals. But it's not just about getting the right products; it's about buying the right number of products. And more is always, always better. If one TV is good, then two TVs are better. And if two TVs are good, then two GIANT TVs are better. More bigger. More better. It's no surprise that we're running out of room!
But what happens when we find that we have too much stuff and begin to feel overwhelmed by it? We're told that if we just buy the right plastic boxes, or filing systems, or closet organizers, or special vacuum-bags that will enable us to pump the air out of our sweaters—or better yet a bigger closet in which to keep our sweaters!—then all our problems will be solved. And then we will all drift off into a magical dreamland where unicorns do our laundry and flying kittens make our beds. And we all live happily ever after.
The problem is that unicorns can't do laundry. Oh, yeah, and that this dream is not reality.
If having more stuff were the answer, then we'd all be thrilled already! There wouldn't be so many people suffering from anxiety and feeling overwhelmed by their clutter. But what if all the stuff is in fact causing some of the crazy problems we're trying to solve with it? What if the answer lies not in having more stuff, or even less stuff, but in having a different relationship with our stuff? What if the stuff isn't even about the stuff?
Confused? Excited? Dubious? Well then, let's get started. . . .