Unclutter Your Life

It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh (Free Press)

The Promise

You can change your life by changing your relationship to the "stuff" that possesses you.

The Test

I took Walsh's quiz and learned that I am an off-the-charts "hard-core hoarder," only to lose this book on my bedside table for six weeks. When the book re-emerged, I found Walsh's basic premises easy and actionable.

First, the "F.A.S.T." maneuver. This involves fixing a time and going gangbusters on three types of clutter: anything not used within the past year, clutter that belongs to someone else, and of course, trash. Twenty pounds of stuff, gone.

Next, Walsh urges you to consider the ideal function of each room, then each area. I immediately noticed zoning errors: Why were the bills piling up on every surface but the computer desk? Walsh is a master chronicler of the excuses we make for the state of our homes. But I had a hard time accepting his idea that the impetus to declutter is a clarion call to "look beyond the stuff and imagine the life [I] could be living." As far as I can tell, I'd been doing a little too much living and not enough cleaning.

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The Verdict

Walsh's initiatives work, but my own 30-year plan did not come into focus just because the wood on my dining room table was laid bare. Then again, I have yet to tackle my desk at work.

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