Organization expert Peter Walsh sets sights on mental clutter

Peter Walsh is in the business of helping individuals clean up and clear out spaces that are overrun by too much stuff.

TORONTO — Peter Walsh is in the business of helping individuals clean up and clear out spaces that are overrun by too much stuff.

Now the organizational expert and Oprah Winfrey show regular is tackling the buildup of clutter not seen by outsiders — the type that fills your head, which Walsh says could be trickling into other areas of your life and getting in the way of how you live it.

“For me, clutter is anything that gets between you and the life you want to be living,” said Walsh in a recent interview in Toronto to discuss his new book Enough Already! Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You.

“It’s not just the kids’ toys or the stuff in the garage or the paperwork or all those clothes that you can’t let go of — it’s also the stuff in your head like unreal expectations, or bad ways of communicating or low self-esteem,” he added.

“Any of those things, anything in your headspace that trips you up is also clutter and . . . the physical stuff also affects the mental stuff.”

Walsh explores six key areas — family, relationships, money, work, health and spirituality — and how clutter in one aspect of life can often cloud other areas. He writes about a home filled floor-to-ceiling with clutter that he worked on containing what he estimated were more than $500,000 worth of purchases — most in their original bags, untouched. Yet the family was able to recover less than $20,000 through resale.

What’s more, the couple, in their 60s, was in deep credit card debt and living off their home equity line of credit with little savings or investments.

The Australian-born Walsh, who also starred on the TLC show “Clean Sweep,” said he often sees people who are overwhelmed by clutter and feeling like they’re paralyzed or suffocated because they don’t know where to start to address the problem. However, the alternative — doing nothing — is the worst possible option, he said.

Irrespective of whether it’s an overcrowded garage or your finances in need of a fixer-upper, Walsh said there is a core component in any decluttering strategy: having a clear vision of the life you want and developing and carrying out the plan that’s going to get you there.

When it comes to money, while there is no one-size-fits-all plan, Walsh writes about the importance of examining consumption habits and whether individuals are spending beyond their means or without thought to the future.

“Instead of saying ‘What do I need to give up?’ Stop and say, ‘What do I need to live the happiest life I can?’ ” he said.

“Then it’s not about giving up stuff — it’s about making sure that the stuff you have is absolutely central to living the life you want.”

“If it’s about the stuff, there is no end to what you want because if you’re chasing more, the question becomes then when is more enough?”

When it comes to decluttering at the workplace, the omnipresent email and tech gadgets like the BlackBerry are increasingly blurring the lines marking when individuals are on and off the clock.

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