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Peter Walsh

Clutter War II: Attack of the Giant Baby

As of next Sunday, our lovely daughter will have been with our houshold for six months (Happy Half-Birthday, Eleanor). It's a good arrangement, and we're all pretty happy about the whole thing so far. But, to look around our house, you'd think we were raising a small army of babies, each of whom has their own Amazon Prime account and an addiction to things that are shaped like giraffes.

Oh my, the stuff. The baby stuff. Everywhere. Means of conveyance, swingy seat, Bumbo, squeaky toys, fuzzy toys, toys for biting and bending, jammies, jackets, socks that do and don't look like shoes, amusing hats, blankets, books, rattles, pacifiers, cleaning supplies, extra diapers -- plus of course, there's the raw tonnage of stuff belonging to the caretaking adults that has been displaced or disused as a result of the occupying baby's needs. It is a scene, man, I can assure you. And there's not an iota of blame to place on the actual baby; it's all us (and mostly me). [By the bye, for an illuminating look at the perils of the creeping ParentCrap industry, have a look at Parenting, Inc. It's chilling. And, for me, personally damning.]

At any rate, as we approach that august 183-day mark in our little girl's life, you might be able to guess where my head is right now. Yep. It's on clutter, and on what I need to do to get my face back into Peter Walsh's excellent de-cluttering book as a means for regaining domestic sanity and striding toward the possibility of a life without tripping, piling, or losing what's left of my sleep-deprived mind.

But let's start with first principles:

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More from Peter Walsh on clutter, quality of life

Oprah's Clutter Man: "It's Never About the Stuff"

Clean Sweep's Peter Walsh (previously) has a new book out, and Mediabistro had the chance to chat with him while he was out promoting it.

While I wish Peter had held out for a more cromulent title ("Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?" Ouch.), I so admire this guy's grip on what clutter does to your mind. Or at least what it does to mine.

Typically swell quote:

Our show was never about the stuff. I told the producers early on that you can only organize so many closets and garages before people lose their minds... We all have stuff. What we had to do was tell people's stories through their stuff, and see them realizing what their relationship to the stuff had become.

and, later:

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Peter Walsh's clever hanger trick

Here's one of my favorite life-hacky tips from Peter Walsh (guy from Clean Sweep, author of It's All Too Much, and inspiration for my recent War on Clutter).

After you've done a major purge of your closet, remove all the remaining clothes that live on hangers, and put them back in backwards, such that the open end of each hanger now faces you. Got it?

Then, mark your calendar for six months (or whatever) from today, and go back to your business as usual. Except that after every time you wear a shirt or a jacket or a skirt or what have you, when you replace the item, make sure the hanger faces the opposite/usual way (with the opening in the back).

When your n months have passed, and your calendar reminds you that it's time, open your closet and remove every piece of clothing on a backward hanger; the chances are good you can give it away without the slightest pain, because you just clearly demonstrated that you don't wear it.

Here's why I love this.

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MacBreak Weekly 47: Merlin's picks

MacBreak Weekly 47: That's Our Shooby!

Hosts: Leo Laporte, Merlin Mann, Scott Bourne, and Alex Lindsay

Universal challenges iTunes, iPhone hacks, and our software picks of the week...

Here's a direct MP3 download of MBW 47.

This time we did our usual weekly software picks, but I also got to choose our Audible.com audiobook of the week. Can you guess what it is?

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My War on Clutter: Inspiration for Independence Day

Tomorrow is the Independence Day holiday here in the US, so a lot of folks reading this will have the day off from work. If my own clutter war is piquing your interest in improving your surroundings, tomorrow could be the occasion for you to put a few minutes toward making a dent in your own pile.

Here's some inspirational (and cautionary) links to get you started.

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My War on Clutter: The Tools to Purge BIG

[This is a first-person account of what's worked for me in preparing to gut the crap out of my house; you should feel free to do or not do any part of this -- or just adjust the recipe to whatever suits your own needs, hangups, household fetishes, and budget. But you knew that, right?]

My past attempts at removing clutter have consistently bottlenecked at a few common points. Often I wasn't really committed to the idea of a full purge, so I'd ignore whole boxes of memorabilia. Other times, my goal was primarily aesthetic, so I'd end up shoveling things into pretty boxes and "organizers". But I finally realized what's really been stopping me from accomplishing anything substantial. It's so simple and so dumb that I'm embarrassed to admit it: my garbage can was too small.

Yeah, I mean that both literally and figuratively. Because part of my success in purging this time around has come from thinking much bigger in every way -- I want bigger changes from throwing out more stuff including the big dumb items that won't fit in a garbage can. Here's some tools and processes that have helped me.

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My War on Clutter: Never "organize" what you can discard

One of the most basic concepts Peter Walsh talks about in _It’s All Too Much_ brought a total breakthrough for me. If the stuff that you accumulate doesn't help get you closer to the life you want to have, it's simply not worth keeping. Period.

Obviously (and unavoidably), this goes for a family room that's turned into a junk drawer for DVDs and books, and you can clearly see it evidenced in a kitchen where no flat surface is free of junk mail, bills, and newspapers. Those you can't miss.

But, for me, the real story is about the ways you try to solve clutter problems solely by getting more space or obtaining more containers -- jamming all those DVDs into cabinets and stuffing those newspapers into bigger volume baskets. The clutter doesn't need a prettier package; it just needs to go. Now, and in very large quantities.

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My War on Clutter

As I mentioned the other day, I learned about the anti-clutter book, _It’s All Too Much_, when its author, Peter Walsh, was interviewed for the Unclutterer site.

Well, the timing must have been right, because I bought a copy, and by the time I'd finished the first chapter, a switch had flipped in my head. I say "timing" because, while the book is pretty good (if perhaps not particularly groundbreaking), the author's observations on why people allow themselves to live with too much crap were an overdue existential bitchslap for me. And, I'll admit, he has simple cures for dealing with this seemingly intractable challenge, and for me that's a hard combination to beat.

Clutter of every kind has been the default state of my physical world forever. Although no official record of the conversation exists, I would not be surprised to learn that I tried to talk the staff who delivered me into letting me keep my first diaper; just because -- y'know -- you never know when it might come in handy. Bad habits formed early, bad habits stuck, and, for the most part, bad habits remain intact to this day.

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Unclutterer talks with "Clean Sweep" host, Peter Walsh

Peter Walsh answers questions for Unclutterer.com

Thanks to my self-imposed media tunnel vision (and the bulging TiVo that enables it), I've apparently managed to miss a show on TLC called Clean Sweep that sounds like it's potentially up my alley. I guess the idea is that they parachute in to crazy-messy houses and help the harried occupants affect a makeover.

The wonderful Unclutterer.com recently interviewed the show's host, Peter Walsh, and he had a couple interesting things to say about origins of clutter that get to the root cause:

Clutter comes in many forms and the reasons why people hold onto it is similarly complex. There are two main types of clutter: Memory Clutter – which reminds one of an important person, or achievement or event from the past – and I-Might-Need-It-One-Day Clutter – this is the stuff held onto in preparation for all possible futures that one might encounter. Keeping things from the past or sensible planning for the future are great things – it’s when the objects take over that there’s a problem. With many of the people I encounter, their primary relationship is with their stuff. Instead of owning their stuff, their stuff owns them. This clearly is not only unhealthy but also a real stumbling block to happiness and a fulfilling life.

Here's Walsh's new book: It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff. Already ordered our household a copy.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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