The things you own are a distraction to getting started on the right path. The key to getting — and staying — organized is to look beyond the stuff and imagine the life you could be living.

Notes and highlights from It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh

It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh

Imagine the life you want to live

“The things you own are a distraction to getting started on the right path. The key to getting — and staying — organized is to look beyond the stuff and imagine the life you could be living.”

That’s the place to start—imagine the life you could be living. Don’t let past decisions lock you in. Every moment presents an opportunity for a new choice or to change your mind.

“The first task I give my clients, and the first challenge I want to present to you is: Imagine the life you want to live.”

On setting up your home

Presumably, you can control what’s in your home. Is there anything there that causes you stress? If so, can you do anything about it? Look at every space in your home and consider if matches with the vision for the life you want to live or if it gets in the way.

“No one should feel stressed out when they open the door to their own home. No one has to. Your home is within your control. It should be the place where you escape all negative forces in the world. Your home should be the antidote to stress, not the cause.”

“Does this house look the way I want it to look? Does this house feel like a home to me? How do I feel when I come home to this place? How do I want to feel when I come home to this place?”

“The single most important factor in deciding what you should have in your home is now clear: Does this item enhance and advance the vision I have for the life I want or does it impede that vision? This is the only question you should ask yourself when looking at the clutter that fills your home.”

“So think about your house. Does each room serve its intended purpose? Is each piece of furniture, countertop, or appliance used to do what it was designed to do? If the answer is no, it’s time to rethink your use of each space.”

How to deal with clutter

Look at every item in your home—from kitchen gadgets to clothes. Evaluate if it’s worth keeping. Does it support your vision? Does it get in the way? Do you feel good when you wear the clothes in your closet? If not, eliminate it now. Don’t settle.

“Ask yourself these questions as you encounter each piece of clutter: Do I use this? How long has it been since I’ve used it? Will I use it again? Is it worth the space it takes up in my house?”

“You should only have clothes in your closet that: you love fit you well now make you feel good when you wear them people compliment you on when you wear them.”

Keep all horizontal surfaces clear
The way you feel about a space is set the moment you step into it. Set the mood for an efficient workspace and keep your office uncluttered by ensuring that any desk surface, countertop, or table is kept clear of paperwork and clutter. If you don’t start piles, they can’t grow.”

Junk mail is your enemy!
Imagine there is a knock at your door. You open the door to see a man with a can of spray paint in his hand. Do you: a) invite him in, or b) slam the door in his face? This is how you should think of junk mail! It’s an intruder waiting to get inside and wreak havoc.”

After decluttering

Control the in/out. When you bring something new into your home, what can you remove? Buy a new toy, get rid of one. Consider cost versus space. Something that takes up a lot of room costs you more. Spend More time deciding to buy bigger items. When you decide not to buy, put that money into an experience fund. Something fun you/your family can look forward to and pay for with the money saved.

“Now that your home is the way you want it, for everything that comes into your home, something must go. The thing that goes must either be the same type as the new item or take up the same amount of room.”

Experience fund:
Every time you stop yourself from making a spontaneous purchase, put the money that you would have spent in a special account called your “experience fund.”

“Pick an experience that your whole household can look forward to — a trip to Paris, the beach, Disneyland, etc. If your child asks for a toy at the store, you can do the same thing. Say, “This toy costs nine dollars and ninety-nine cents. Let’s put that in the Disneyland fund instead.””

It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh


Your Money or Your Life – Book Review

Review of Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin

Book’s website – link – Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence

I actually started reading this book around the start of the year, but stopped after a couple of chapters because I found it too dull. Thanks to Trent at The Simple Dollar running an online book club with this book I decided to try reading it again. I think it’s true that this book gets off to a slow start, but I also think I gave up too soon before because I had no problem reading through the whole book this time.

Bottom line, this is a must-read personal finance book no matter where you are currently with your money. If you want to know more before you read it, I’ll cover the main themes of the book below.

Are you making a living or making a dying?
The first important theme deals with how we trade our life energy for money and figuring out just what it is we do with that money and why. Do you work 50-60 hours a week just to keep up with the bills and have money to blow on having ‘fun’ on the weekend? Do you know how many hours of your life you are actually giving up for the ‘stuff’ you own? Do you know how much you actually earn per hour at your job? This section shows you how to calculate your real hourly wage, which is likely much lower than you think, and how to start tracking every penny you spend and creating a budget. This section is laying the foundation for a sound financial plan, however the process of determining your real hourly wage and figuring out how many hours of you life you trade for ‘stuff’ was eye-opening for me.

How much is enough? Finding fulfillment.
The next big theme is figuring out what is ‘enough’ in your life. What do you spend money on that provides fulfillment and what do you spend money on that works against finding fulfillment? Not only does this apply to how you spend your money, but also to how you spend your time (life energy). Is your job fulfilling? Do you have to spend money and time doing things for your job that you wouldn’t do otherwise? These are important questions to answer because they lead to the ultimate question of determining what you should be doing to make a living and how you need to think differently about it.

Tracking your progress
You could do this on a computer, you could do this on a paper wall chart (as the book suggests), but the key is to somehow track your progress and keep a visual reminder. I use a number of things to track my progress- this website, an Excel spreadsheet, Quicken, and a whiteboard on my refrigerator with my current total debt and how much I have paid down on it since starting my financial turnaround. Whatever you do, do something and make it easy to see on a daily basis. Not only is this an empowering step on it’s own, but it leads to the next great theme, the Crossover Point.

The Crossover Point
This is the most exciting part of the book. If you are tracking your income and expenses like the previous section told you to do, you will be able to add a third component to your chart, which is income from investing or any source of passive income. The goal here is to add your passive income to the income and expense chart (it is likely a tiny number at the bottom of the chart now), but to project it out into the future and find a point where that passive income number crosses over your expense number. This is the crossover point, the point at which you no longer need to go out and earn an ‘active’ income. If you are anything like me, that crossover point is a very long way off right now, but it is the ultimate goal of taking control of your money and finding financial freedom.

The book isn’t perfect, and I would guess you could cut about 50 pages out to make it really great, but the overall message was truly life-changing for me. I highly recommend it for anyone who thinks that maybe they could be doing better with balancing money and life.