It’s All Too Much Workbook has insightful tips for keeping your cool when talking to others about their clutter

While I was writing Unclutter Your Life in One Week, I stopped reading books to review for the site. Truth be told, I simply didn’t want to think about books after spending five or more hours a day working on mine. I had experienced my fill, at least temporarily.

Now that the text of my book has been shipped off to the publisher, I’m back to reading books again for review. First up on my list was Peter Walsh’s It’s All Too Much Workbook, which apparently came out in April. (April? There was an April this year?!) His workbook is a companion to his popular narrative It’s All Too Much.

What little text is in the Workbook appears to be the same as in the original. Mostly, it includes lined pages where you can physically answer questions and complete charts. There are a few pull-out boxes that contain new text, and one of these boxes really caught my eye on page 39:

COMMUNICATION QUESTIONS

Here are some questions to help you make decisions about what to keep without starting arguments or passing judgment. The goal is to reframe the discussion away from the item itself to its significance in your lives.

EXAMPLES

  1. Instead of “Why don’t you put your tools away?” ask “What is it that you want from this space?”
  2. Instead of “Why do we have to keep your grandmother’s sewing kit?” ask “Why is that important to you? Does it have meaning?”
  3. Instead of “There’s no room for all of your stuff in there,” say “Let’s see how we can share this space so that it works for all of us.”
  4. Instead of “Why do you have to hold onto these ugly sweaters your dad gave you?” ask “What do these sweaters make you think of or remind you of?”
  5. Instead of saying “I don’t understand how you can live with all of this junk,” ask “How do you feel when you have to spend time in this room?”

His tips here are right on the mark. They get to the heart of the matter without antagonizing or assigning blame.

If you haven’t read It’s All Too Much, you can benefit from getting both it and the new It’s All Too Much Workbook. (The original is one of my favorite books on organizing and uncluttering.) You definitely will want the original book, though, as the Workbook isn’t a stand-alone product.

16 Comments for “It’s All Too Much Workbook has insightful tips for keeping your cool when talking to others about their clutter”

  1. posted by Consultant Calamities on

    LOVE Peter Walsh! Those are the type of questions he would ask people on that show on TLC he was on where they’d reorganize 2 rooms in a person or couple’s house. (why can’t I think of the name of it now? its off the air now which makes me sad, but anyway…its early in the morning, for me at least!)

    I like how he makes people THINK about the emotions that are attached to clutter. I also liked how (in the show) he would say: “This STUFF is not your mother.” (or your sister, or father or whoever…), when someone was dealing with objects given by a person who is now gone.

    While its nice to have SOME things from a deceased love one, for example…a whole room, or more, of stuff from them can be suffocating. He says its OK to have a few, well-chosen items that make you SMILE when you think of them…but to toss any clutter from them that causes extra work/effort or I-should-get-to-that-someday feelings.

    And I also loved how he would tell people that its ok to have sentimental “things” of any type, as long as they make you smile and are given what he calls “a place of honor.” If something is supposedly special but its in a teetering pile of junk and you can’t even use or see it, what good is it?

    Yup, love me some Peter Walsh. Wish he was on tv more! :-)

  2. posted by OogieM on

    Will your book come out on Kindle? One of my main decluttering devices is not to buy any book that can be on a kindle (i.e. not color or lots of pictures) in any other format. Unless it’s on kindle I know I’ll never get it.

  3. posted by Sue on

    I just purchased this workbook a week ago and am going through it. I have “It’s All Too Much” as well. The workbook is set up so you write directly in it as you go through, which is nice because I normally take notes in a notebook when I read books like that.

    I haven’t gotten far enough through it to be able to pass judgement. I’m stuck in the beginning, where he suggests you make a “vision board” for your house or the individual rooms in your house. I think I just need to skip that part, since it could take me months to go through magazines and make a perfect vision board.

    One good thing I did get from it so far was a true explanation for my personal clutter problem. Other books try to classify the types of clutterer – sentimentalist, perfectionist, etc. I fall into several of those categories. The workbook finally hit the nail on the head – “Clutter is the result of a deferred decision or postponed action.” Every bit of clutter in my house fits this statement.

    I did think Peter Walsh was the best thing about Clean Sweep. I wish it was still on the air. Clean House is decent, but they don’t truly get to the root of the clutter problems they way Peter was able to do.

  4. posted by Debora on

    As a teenager my bedroom was a complete mess. If someone would have asked “How do you feel when you have to spend time in this room?” I would have honestly said “fine”. Because I really didn’t have a problem with it.
    Refrasing a question is fine, and can even be very smart, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get the answers you want.

  5. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @OogieM — The electronic form of my book comes out the same day as the print version. There will be an audio version, it’s just unclear as to when.

  6. posted by Anita on

    I’m with Debora. Rephrasing the question only gets you the answers you want when the person you’re talking to is in the same state of mind as you. If they haven’t cleaned it up/put it away/got rid of it, odds are it doesn’t bother them and they don’t feel the need to.

    Unless the person is completely helpless as far as knowing how to clean up, asking the kind of questions Peter Walsh suggests will, at best, present you with a reason to keep whatever it is you wanted to get rid of.

    Also: the rationale for rephrasing some of these questions is to convince someone to get rid of things you define as clutter, but they may be holding on to for sentimental reasons. I don’t know about you, but if I’m attached to something, you won’t get me to see its lack of functionality by asking me how I feel about it. A lot of the time, a little confrontation is a necessary evil; not to say you should be combative about it, but don’t beat around the bush either.

  7. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Anita — Fair enough. What I like about Peter’s phrasings is that they get the conversation rolling without instantly pissing off the other person. The follow up question might be more along the lines of what you’re discussing?? It’s a delicate balance.

  8. posted by Carol on

    In regards to what Anita said (“If they haven’t cleaned it up/put it away/got rid of it, odds are it doesn’t bother them and they don’t feel the need to.”), I disagree. That may be true in some cases but not every case. I know I haven’t cleaned up, put things away or gotten rid of things because I don’t always know how to deal with my stuff or I have emotional attachments to my junk (and it is junk). I loved watching Peter Walsh on TV because he asked the questions that got me thinking about the issues behind my stuff. Some of us just need a little extra push.

    I wish I had friends and family willing to speak up and help me address my clutter/hoarding problems but unfortunately I’m stuck doing it on my own.

  9. posted by cdelphine on

    I loved Peter Walsh on that tv show (Clean Sweep?). He was excellent at getting people (and me) to really think about their stuff and how it fits into their life. The one thing I hated was the games that they would play eg for every ball you throw in the box you get to keep five books. I would seriously hate someone for making me unclutter that way.

    I agree with Erin that the questions are about starting a conversation, not about getting the responses you want. Also, presumably, the person that says this to the cluttered individual is somebody important to him, a good friend, roommate, family member, spouse, etc. so he should have some interest in at least discussing the issue.

  10. posted by cdelphine on

    oh, and in regards to what Carol said, uncluttering can be stressful and overwhelming. Particularly if you’ve always had those habits. My favorite thing about Clean Sweep was that crew that would help carry all the stuff out of the house and cart it off for the person.

  11. posted by Suzyn on

    Love your cover design!

  12. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Suzyn — Thanks, but it’s not actually the finished cover. There is a glitch in the system and Amazon isn’t reading the final image from Simon’s server. The final is similar, but not exactly this image.

    Oh, and the back of the book is an uncluttered version of the front. LOVE it.

  13. posted by Amy on

    LOL! Most of that makes a great deal of sense, but I can’t get past imagining the scene in which my husband and I are standing next to a collection of empty beer bottles and half-read books on the living room end-table and I say, earnestly, “What is it you want from this space?”. In fact, I’m going to go ask him right now….

  14. posted by OogieM on

    Interesting, Amazon does not indicate that there will be a kindle version at all… YOu can only pre-order the hardback version now.

  15. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @OogieM — Can you pre-order e-books usually on Amazon?? All Simon and Schuster books go electronic the same day they’re released in print, which is one of the reasons I signed with them. The Simon website says that I have an e-book coming out the same day as the hardcover. So, don’t worry that it’s not yet listed on Amazon. It’ll happen.

  16. posted by OogieM on

    Yes, Amazon usually allows pre-orders. And I know of several on my Kindle list that are pre-ordered now so it’s not an electronic vs paper version issues.

    But good to know it’s coming out electronically, thanks!

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