Sometimes the clutter in my life gets the best of me.
At least that’s what Peter Walsh says. He was the main guest on Oprah Thursday, promoting his new book, Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? If you’ve never heard of Peter Walsh, he is the star of the show Clean Sweep, which airs on The Learning Channel. He’s an expert at decluttering, and apparently now an expert on weight loss.
I don’t generally watch Oprah very often, but I do like to watch when Peter Walsh is on. I have this dream of cutting back the stuff I own to only the necessities. So far I’ve not gotten very close to my goal, but I’m planning on being there by the end of the year.
What does all of this have to do with finance and frugality you may ask? A LOT. As the show opened, Oprah displayed a quote from Peter’s book on the huge screen behind her.
Eating more and buying more is an attempt to fill the need for something more.
Isn’t that the truth? We eat to comfort ourselves. It starts when we’re young. We get an owie, and mom gives us a cookie. When we’re adults, we get an emotional owie, buy a bag of cookies, and eat the whole thing in one sitting.
When we don’t feel we measure up to our friends and neighbors, we buy a new outfit, to convince ourselves that we’re worth it. The problem is, the feeling wears off quickly, leaving us just as depressed, and $50 poorer. If we’re lucky, we paid cash. Unfortunately, sometimes we go into debt to try to satisfy an emotional need. And the debt only makes things worse.
Throughout the show, Peter talked a lot about clutter weighing us down. He stressed that the clutter in our homes weigh us down, and because of that, we gain weight. And debt weighs us down too. When you’re in debt, you have to deal with the pressure of living on a smaller budget to afford your debt payments. You have to deal with the question of how you’ll pay it off. If you’ve fallen far behind in your payments, you have to deal with creditors calling you, demanding payment.
So how do you stop the cycle? Well, Peter Walsh has the answer to that too. He says it works for house clutter and weight, and I say it works for debt. First, he says, you need to stop the cycle of consumption. Stop buying meaningless stuff. Stop eating stuff that’s not good for you. Stop charging stuff on your credit card.
Then, he says, ask yourself what you want from each room. How do you want to define each space? I ask how do you want to define your life? When it’s all said and done, how do you want to be remembered? For all the nice, shiny toys that you have? You can’t take them with you. Or would you like to be remembered by your kindness? Your generosity? Your faith? That’s the kind of legacy that can be passed down from generation to generation.
“Stuff” goes out of style. It gets old. It breaks. But if you teach your children kindness, compassion, generosity, and love, it’s a trait that can be passed down from generation to generation indefinitely. That’s how I want to be defined. When I die, I want people to say that I was a woman of great faith. A woman who loved others and did my best to be kind. I don’t care if they remember what kind of car I drove or what I wore to the PTA meeting.
How do you want to be defined? Spend some time thinking about it. Then structure your life to define yourself accordingly.
Peter’s last suggestion was this. Choose good, not easy. Let me repeat that, because I have a hard time with this one.
Choose good, not easy.
I need to start asking myself if I’m making choices that are best for me and my family, or if I’m taking the easy way out. Too often I take the easy way out. I find that kind of ironic. I’ve never been afraid of conflict, and my parents would tell you I’m a pretty stubborn determined person. When faced with difficult situations in life, I rarely give up. I tend to walk straight through the conflict.
Yet, when it comes to making dinner, something relatively simple, I choose easy. Almost every time. When it comes to tossing out something sentimental, I choose easy. Rather than part with things I’ll never use, I just hang onto them, cluttering up my life. Maybe for you it’s something different. Maybe you charge something on a credit card, rather than admit you can’t afford it (I’ve been there). Maybe you retreat, rather than face a conflict with a loved one (I’ve been there too). But is that good? No, it’s easy.
That was a very convicting statement for me. Choose good, not easy. That’s my challenge to myself this week, and that’s my challenge to you, too. This week… today…choose good, not easy. Will you join me?
Do you define yourself by your things? Do you clutter up your life to fill a need? Do you have a story to share? I’d love to hear it in the comments!
I think its great that we buy our self something really fatty for doing good. This is why we are obese. Things like this are not good for our fat society.
Great article! I saw this on the news earlier this month re: clutter = weight gain. It has a biological as well as an emotional component.
Massive clutter causes stress…stress causes your body to release the hormone cortisol…which makes your blood sugar levels rise…which produces more insulin…which makes you hungry…causing you to eat more.
Lynnae – thanks so much for such a wonderful summary of my book. It is a real pleasure to read your blog and the comments posted here as well.. One other thought about choosing the good or the easy. Being organized, being clutter-free, having a space that nurtures and sustains you (in the broadest sense) actually makes choosing the good easier. Best wishes. Peter Walsh
This is a really, really excellent post. It hit home on a lot of levels. I remember about a year ago, noticing that I ate less sweets when I was very happy (not to say I’m a sad person, because I generally am pretty happy). Though, as someone who is also working on losing weight, I’ve traded my treats for ones that are better (e.g. less fat and/or sugar), and that’s helped a lot. I feel less guilty when I indulge — which is, I suppose, an example of doing what’s good.
Again, well done!
Hey, I’ve always thought being called stubborn was a compliment!
My husband and I saw that show, too. I was a bit skeptical, but lately I’ve been decluttering a lot and I’ve dealt with some of the same issues like who I want to be vs. reality.
For example, I have a lot of books that I want to read because I want to be the person who knows all the stuff within them. It’s hard for me to get rid of books, but I’ve cut back significantly.
I also have a lot of shoes. I admit, I like being “the girl with the cute shoes”. Nothing wrong with that I guess, but I’ve had to learn to limit my collection somewhat.
And the bikes my husband and I bought to go burn some calories on… can’t get to them because of the clutter. At least right now, though, it’s our roommate’s stuff in the way (her two week stay now looks like it’s going to be 3 months, so there’s not much we can do at the moment).
This post is so timely! I was literally just about to order a new purse, because I’m feeling down about myself after feeling like I don’t measure up to a woman I met recently.
I just emptied my shopping cart. Thanks, you just saved me $80.
My clutter is books and magazine. Seriously, I see something interesting and buy it. I have to use the library more often. Many books I read are goood for one read.
Thanks Lynnae for the reminders.
I have way to much stuff. I have been getting rid of things since the start of this year. Just this morning I packed up 12 bags of books to go to Goodwill this afternoon. I have hundreds of more books to go through.
I am at a point I just don’t need or want stuff.
What a great post! I really need to hear this, as I am currently working on a goal of having our “junk room” cleaned out. Thanks for the advice and information!
Wow. I’ve heard this before, but it’s good to hear it periodically. Especially on my down days, it’s hard not to want stuff to fill the hole. One way I try to deal with it is discovering new stuff I already had. But I think that only treats the symptom.
A very relevant post Lynnae…
I agree it can be easier to consume something than try to figure out what is making us feel empty in the first place. (It’s so cozy in that comfort zone). But it’s quite rewarding stepping out and taking a different direction. Hubby and I have been working on the whole simplicity thing for a few years now. It has been a significant factor in contributing to his successful substance abuse rehabilitation, and is probably key to conquering most addictive behaviors. Thanks for the post…
choosing good over easy is not easy as you mention, but it really pays well. I heard (I think it was) John Maxwell say that you should do one thing everyday that you hate doing just for the practice of it. His point was that in order to have a great or fulfilling life, you have to do things you do not like to do… That is tough and GOOD lesson to learn.
This is a great post! I
think it is true that we often times reward ourselves with “things” if we are having a bad day or good day or did something we are proud of.
It may start with our parents giving us cookies, but I know that it really should stop at some point.
Whether it is cookies or clothes, we shouldn’t use “things” as a reward or “treat”.
This year, I am trying to lose weight(5 lbs gone so far!!) and I have noticed that whenever I have had a rough day or if I have completed a task that seemed impossible-I will reach for a “treat”.
I have had to teach myself that the “treat” is the job well done or the fact that my bad day is over.
This holds true for anything-retail therapy or eating cookies will only make you feel good for a minute-then you have to deal with buyer’s or muncher’s remorse. It is just not worth it.
Please no flames, but I’ve lost 18 lbs since Jan 1 by simply avoiding sugar in my coffee (I drink a lot of coffee), saying NO to bread, and by asking myself, do I really, I mean REALLY want to eat all that food and feel like a beached whale the rest of the day?
The funny thing about losing weight is that after you experience some success, you’re more motivated to continue.
Next, I need to start exercising. After cutting up a huge oak tree that blew down in those tornadoes a few weeks ago, I’m so sore I can hardly move. I haven’t done that much physical labor in years!
It feels good though, in a strange sort of way.
What a great post! I have pretty much structured my life around simplifying, decluttering, and doing what’s good instead of what’s easy for the past 2 years. It’s hard sometimes. But I do know it’s best for me, my family and the world around us too.
I saw bits of the show last week as well and it got me thinking just as it did for you.
A great post. I will say that we go through a “simplify your life” activity about every six months and have been doing so for the last two years. It never ceases to amaze me at the stuff we collect to either toss out or give to Goodwill. Almost every time we find ourselves saying “did we not just do this a few months ago.”
It adds a great sense of peace and productivity to our house. Thanks for a great read!
My mother, the Queen of Frugal, just gave me Peter Walsh’s book, It’s All Too Much, which addresses all the issues you mentioned in your post and more. One of Walsh’s comments is that “America has a problem with overconsumption.” And, he goes on to point out, that without clutter in our lives we invite more peace and harmony. I too wrote a post on decluttering just a few days ago on my blog (http://frugalmomla.blogspot.com) based on reading Peter Walsh’s book. I think decluttering is a germane and relevant issue for Americans today and I think it’s hitting home with a lot of people.