Merlin Mann reviews It's All Too Much, a book on decluttering

On Cool Tools, Merlin Mann reviews It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life With Less Stuff.

200807181306.jpg It's All Too Much is a terrific book that inverts the typical approach to dealing with existential kipple. Rather than helping you find new places and novel ways to "organize" all your crap, author Peter Walsh encourages you to explore why you ever kept all that junk in the first place. Does it reflect a fantasy waistline or a long-abandoned career? What about this "priceless" relic of a late loved one that's been sitting in a moldy trash bag for 10 years? Be honest: what place do these things have in the life that you imagine for yourself? Because, if the stuff you accumulate isn't actively helping get you closer to a life you truly want, then it's getting in the way, and it needs to go. Period.

The biggest change in attitude this book made in my life was to teach me not to generate false relevance by "organizing" stuff I don't want or will never need. Organization is what you do to stuff that you need, want, or love – it's not what you do to get useless stuff out of sight or to manufacture makebelieve meaning. For me, this is about the opposite of organizing; it means disinterring every sarcophagus of crap in my house and, item by item, evaluating whether it's making my family's life better today.

Kevin weighs in with his own hearty recommendation for the book:

Merlin Mann's review turned me onto this fantastic book. We've rethought our household because of it. We were reminded that life is not about stuff; it's about possibilities, which the right tools can enable. For a world of expanding stuff, this book is the necessary anti-stuff tool. If you are reading Cool Tools, you need to read this. It will help you distinguish between that which is fabulous for you personally and that which is just more junk to organize.

Kevin includes a bunch of excerpts from the book. Here are a few:

Imagine the life you want to live. I cannot think of a sentence that has had more impact on the lives of people I have worked with. … When clutter fills your home, not only does it block your space, but it also blocks your vision.


You need space to live a happy, fruitful life. If you fill up that space with stuff for "the next house," your present life suffers. Stop claiming your house is too small. The amount of space you have cannot be changed — the amount of stuff you have can.


I know it sounds strange, but if you start by focusing on the clutter, you will never get organized. Getting truly organized is rarely about "the stuff." This is the bottom line: If your stuff and the way it is organized is getting you to your goals… fantastic. But if it's impeding your vision for the the life you want, then why is it in your home? Why is it in your life? Why do you cling to it? For me, this is the only starting point in dealing with clutter.


If it's taken you ten years or more to accumulate your mess, it's impossible to make it disappear overnight. Letting go is a learning process. You might need to start slowly, and it may take time to discover that not having things makes your life better, not worse.


Most things that you save for the future represent hopes and dreams. But the money, space, and energy you spend trying to create a specific future are wasted. We can't control what tomorrow will bring. Those things we hoard for an imaginary future do little other than limit our possibilities and stunt our growth. When I urge you to get rid of them, I'm not telling you to discard your hopes and dreams. It's actually quite the opposite. Because if you throw out the stuff that does a rather shabby job of representing your hopes and dreams, you actually create room to make dreams come true.

It's All Too Much — How to declutter your life (Cool Tools)