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April 1, 2020 31 mins

What do I really need right now? We’re all asking that of ourselves in these chaotic times. If there is an upside to a confusing state of emergency, perhaps it springs from identifying what’s most important for our health and contentment. As we roll back to survival basics, protecting our most treasured and the connections that sustain us, our friend Peter Walsh, says this about all the rest of it: Let It Go. In the story of how the king of decluttering downsized his parents’ home after his mother’s death, he reminds us that through any life transition or upset, we can find peace in understanding the physical and emotional impact of surrounding ourselves with stuff we think we need, but really don’t. @PeterWalsh. #Itsjuststuff.

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Millennials don't want to own stuff, they don't want to
own a house, they don't want to own a card,
and so you know, it's this huge, very interesting way
of where stuff is going. And the other thing that
you know that could be explored is that I think
the social media is a huge feeder into this because
millennials want what millennials have without thinking that there might

be something else that could be interesting or challenging or different.
Thanks for joining us on the road to somewhere where
we talk about exploration, adventure, major life change and transformation.
It's about not necessarily knowing where we're going, but having

faith that the journey will be worthwhile. I'm Lisa's and
I am Jill Herzeg and um, you've made it all
sounds so lovely in your intro, Lisa, But I think
we all know that change and transformation and you know,
upheave all is also often an extremely messy business. And

it's I think, you know, we currently in our society,
and maybe it's not. It's not just a current obsession.
We have had a long time obsession with our stuff
and what to do with it, where to put it,
and what it says about us. And how to deal
with the mess of it. So, which is that's part

of this, that's part of getting on the road to somewhere.
Is the mess of the stuff is part of our
journey to somewhere. And that is why we have our
guest today who is going to help us and get
get rid of our clutter, because he is the king
of decluttering, and um, he is the author of let
it go? Do we have to sing that, by the
way when we when we say let it go? Because

I'm not a good good singer, Um, let it go,
downsizing your way to a richer, happier life. We are
joined by Peter wash who is well did you ever
work with him at OH Magazine? And I was just
an accolade and a follower, but you were Oprah Winfrey's declutterer.
Are we right, Peter? Yes, you're very right and still

disturbed already because both of you have such calm and
dulcet and relaxing tone. If everybody I just sleep exactly
at all, I'm digg Is moves that stuff out of
the house. The world's collect I don't know where I'm going.
And it's so, it's so the combination of the chaos

of the Carmen. Yeah, but you know, Dulcet Towns are
not going to get anybody to let it go and
throw that ship out. So I think, I think you
have what you need. But yes, yes, worked with Oprah
for for five years and and had the show on
the Discovery Network and then was really pleased to be
on the own network as well in the early days.

So unfortunately, I've been around for way too long, and
I think I used by date is rapidly approaching. As
long as you keep giving us good advice used by Dick,
it gets keeps expanding. But listen, thank you for having me.
This is a huge, huge issue, you know, letting go
of stuff, and particularly at the moment. And that's why

actually I wrote the book Let It Go. And no,
I promised I won't sing as long as you promise
you don't sing, because I have a terrible voice. My.
You know, I've been doing the de cluttering and organizing
stuff for almost twenty years now, and about five years
ago my mom became was early on set dementia. We
eventually had to put her into a nursing home. She

passed away. Um and then I'm one of seven children
and the seven of us then worked on decluttering the
family home. And so this book is really the combination
of my experience of many years helping people de clutter
and organized, then with the whole personal and emotional overlay
of working with six siblings to work through the family stuff.

So it kind of has that combination, and I found
a way of doing it that works really well. It
wasn't without its problems. Um. And if you have many
brothers and sisters. My husband has one brother and keep saying,
oh my god, it's like the United Nations on your
side of offense. Um, It's it's a very emotionally fraught

but very common problem. Over over ten thousand, over ten
thousand Americans are turning sixty five every day, so the
whole downsize it's two fifty thousand a month. So every
day people are looking to downsize. And that doesn't count
for those of us who are also dealing with our
parents stuff. Yeah, and you know, I have to say,

one of the things I really love about your book
and about what you just said, is that you really
acknowledge that this is not in any way a tidy
or you know, allow this orderly process it is. It
can be a very destabilizing thing. I mean, you're in

some ways I think of you as the opposite of
the Marie Condo is. Not to take anything away from her,
but she has this sort of somewhat simple formula. And
you're going to say goodbye to things, and you're going
to place them in piles, and then you're going to
get rid of them, and then forever after you're going
to fold your t shirts thus and everything will be fine.
And I guess I felt so helped by your book

in just the fact that you see how difficult this is. Yeah,
you know, it's interesting. I have great respect for for
Marie Condo, and commercially she's been incredibly successful. It's not
it's not a method. I subscribe to it all because
the very word magic in the title of her book
I think gives great insight into her technique. There's no
magic in this. And if you talk about something being magic,

it puts the power in an unseen entity outside of yourself.
And the moment you kind of push off responsibility to
someone else or expect someone on a white horse to
ride in and solve this for you, you're in deep trouble.
It's tough it's messy, it's it's emotionally charged, because every

single thing in your home has power. It has the
power to evoke a past experience. It has the power
to bring back a dream that you might hold clothes.
It has a power to bring back the person you
once were or the person you would like to be.
And in letting go of stuff, you have to let

go of that dream or that wish, or that past
or that imagined you and step into the new future.
And so a lot of people still have all of
that stuff in their home when they move or when
they downsize, thinking it will help them connect with themselves
or they can't let go of that dream. But what

it's actually doing is ordering them to a pass that
is long gone, so they can no longer step happily
into their future, into their new stage of life. But
do you think that we need to we need to
get rid of stuff because we keep getting new stuff?
I mean this decluttering. I think a hundred years ago
people didn't worry about decluttering, right, And it's because we

live in this crazy consumptive society and we're every day
we're buying more stuff that we have to make room
for that new stuff because and that's because we're told
that happiness comes with stuff, that if you just buy
the right thing, you will acquire the life that you want.

That if one is good, two must be better. If
I love you, I'm going to buy you the most
beautiful and expensive thing I can find for Christmas, because
the more expensive the thing I give you, the more
I love you. If I get a better job, I'll
buy a bigger car. You know that the stuff we
have has become a badge of success and a mark

of status in our society, and so again it represents stuff.
Let me give you a really good example that you'll
find surprising, and it's actually about Oprah. And Oprah herself
has written about this, so I'm not disclosing anything secret.
A few years ago, when Oprah was redoing her home
in Montecito, she had purchase she had had made a

very large onyx bathtub was carved from one piece of onyx.
I never saw it was supposed to be really beautiful.
And she and as I say, she wrote about this
in her magazine, so I'm not disclosing anything secret. We
were talking at an event and she said, how this
huge onyx bathtub she just couldn't. It didn't fit in
the New Day corps. And yet she was struggling to

let it go. And I said to her, well, hang on,
what does the bathtub mean to you when you look
at it? And she stopped dead in her tracks and said,
I'd always wanted a bathtub like that. That tub represents
my success, that I have reached a point, and to
let it go means to move on from the perception

of who I am to who I will be. And
so that's a great it's a big example. And but
all of us have that. Letting go of the of
of a wedding gift that you've got, letting go of
something that your parents may have left you, letting go
of all those books on the shelf that was a
subject you studied at college that you're no longer going

to pursue means letting go of that dream, letting go
of who you might be, and stepping into the new.
And that's scary. That's absolutely the road to somewhere when
you don't know what that next step is. When we
come back, let's delve into what that next step could be.

Before the break, we were chatting with Peter Walsh about
the need to let go of our stuff so that
we can step into the new and be who we
are and who were becoming, rather than being mired in
the past. But that's not as easy as it sounds.
So I'm so glibly here talking about it. Let's let's

explore why that's so difficult for all of us, and
can I let me just poke at this a little bit,
because I think one of the things that is so
difficult generationally right now is that our parents have things
that they want to pass on to us, sometimes while
they're still alive and well and happy, and sometimes after

they passed away, and those things were very valuable in
their time and in their upbringing. I'm thinking about the
gold China that my father is desperately trying to foist
upon me, and I will never use it, and he
wants to give it to me because he doesn't ever

use it I know this, um, and because he wants
to see it used. But of course my life is
so not a gold China life. I cannot even tell you.
And so stop stop, stop, stop, stop stop. I want
to I want to blow your head off your shoulders
and completely change your perception. Your dad is not trying

to give you a gold China set. Your dad is
trying to give you a piece that represents the beauty
of his wedding, the success of his marriage, and his
happiness as a family, which is all represented in food,
in gift, in celebration, which is represented in that china.

The truth is, nobody wants the damn china nobody. He
doesn't want it. You don't want it. And trust me,
there's no good will up in the country that wants
it either now. But that's not what he's trying to
pass on. See, that's the power I spoke of, of
the china. And so in cases like that you have

to lie. I'm sorry, there has to be a little
bit of deception. Fine the line, dad, I'm so happy
for this, and take it and put it in a
cupboard in your house to give him some happiness and
bolster your relationship with your dad. And when he passes away,

passed on, let it go without the pain that he
would have in letting it go to a third party. Okay,
So to do this for him because out no, no, no,
don't you dare use the s words. But do you
see you need to look at it not as the object,

but as what it represents and nobody. He never used
the stuff, but he wants the dream passed on. And
that's the that's the huge issue in letting go of
our stuff. You would have stuff I don't know, Jill.
Do you have kids? Yeah? I have to teenage girls. Okay,
what do that? What do you have that you do?

You still have your wedding dress? Jeez, I think it's somewhere.
Do you want one of your daughters to wear it
at her wedding? Oh? God no, my mom My mom
wore it. And then I wore the thing. My mom
didn't even like the dress. I didn't particularly like it,
but I was in a big herd to get married
and I couldn't. I couldn't get it done any other way.
So I was like, Okay, I's to swear and I did. Well,

you know that brings up something your daughter doesn't want it.
I I subscribe to everything that you preached, Peter, and
I still have clutter out the wazoo. I mean, so
much scrap. But you were spoken about this before you have. Yes.
How Ever, every now and then I get on some cold,

cold everything out of my closets kick and get rid
of stuff. My children are livid because they want the
clothes that I wore in the seventies. It's like I was,
I was seven years old. I wasn't saving my dance skins.
So they are furious that I haven't saved these heirlooms
for them or wardrobe for them. Is you didn't know
would be cool? I did when you were doing a

clean exact, I was supposed to save everything I ever got,
you know, every letter that they ever wrote me, every
painting they ever painted. And they're very upset that I
haven't saved everything. But see the issue there is the
word everything. That's the word in this because people look
at their stuff and think I have to save everything.

And the problem is, and this is an old saying,
when everything's important, nothing is important. And so the whole
thing with this process, in fact of downsizing and let
it go, the whole process of that to find and
the way through this is to find treasures. So if,
for example, growing up with your kids, don't save all

their school work, save the best of the very best
that fit in one plastic tub. You know, so when
you're and you have a whole system for determining what
is a treasure and what is not right, and and
a treasure. I call it a treasure. When you move,
you can't take everything. So this is a really simple
technique that I use and people laugh at it. The

one item in your home that is proportional to your
house is your dining room table. If you have a
huge house, you have a huge dining room table. If
you're gonna have a small house, you have a small
dining room table. I want you to go through the
house first step and find the treasures. The one thing
that represents your marriage, And this is hard. What is

the one thing that best represents the love and depth
and quality of your marriage. What's the one thing that
best represents you'll be experience at work. What's the one
thing that best represents your relationship to your parents. What's
the one thing that evokes most strongly a memory of
your each of your kids. And they're the treasures. Put
those on the dining room table, and the dining room

table is as much as you could take. And once
you have the best of the best of the best,
suddenly everything else seems less important. And they're the things
that you take as the most important things when you downside,
And there's a whole other system for dealing with all
the other practical stuff. And that's really mathematical how much

will fit in the space you have. But it's about
finding treasures and as you grow, collecting and being aware
of the treasures. When my mom died, we went through
her house. I only wanted wanted one thing that was
the treasure, and that was a green chipped plate that
mom used to make a lemon moring tartan that was
my favorite dessert growing up. It's chip, a little broken,

worth nothing, worth everything to me. Doesn't that put too
much pressure on one item then, because what if, like
you're cleaning lady, draft it and it shattered in a
million pieces, and then you had that one representative of
your mother's love and it's gone. It's not your mother's love.
But that if that happens, it's it's interesting that you

would ask that question because people often do. My line
on that is you can't live in in in fear
of what negatively might happen, Like people catastrophize, you know,
what if this happens, What if that happened? I mean,
look at nort look at California at the moment, look
at look at the Midwest at the moment. People in

a second lose everything, and inevitably they say, but I
feel lucky because my friends and family are okay. You know,
my beloved pets are okay, and and and it's just stuff.
It's just stuff, and so you know, again it's tough

to distance yourself from the stuff when it has such power.
But that's the work that needs to be done. M hmm, yeah.
I mean it's interesting. I read that story in your
book about how you stood there with your sibling. I guess,
but these two boxes, do I have this rate of
your mother's belongings. After month passed away, we went to

the nursing home to get her stuff and we came
out of the nursing home and my younger sister who
I'm very very close to, and we had had two boxes,
and then it was the stuff that that mom had been,
the last things that she had had close to her
at the nursing home. And it was a moment for reflection,
like the truth is, that's where we all end up.

It's not about the stuff your your mother, the meaning
of her life walked through any good will store at
the moment you know, it's all piled to the ceiling
and people have spent life and money and energy and
thought and argued over these fringing figurines, over these Christmas
decorations that are now dusty in a store. That's not

where our life should be. That's why it's a journey
to a richer, happier life. That on the other side
of being connected to stuff is being connected to family
and friends and whatever comes next down that road. That
might be a little misty, but I guarantee once you
get through the mists, pretty damn fabulous when we come back,
Let's talk about what's on the other side of the misty.

We've been chatting with Peter walh and uh talking about
decluttering by letting it go, letting our stuff go, and
and and how that opens space in our lives for
a beautiful potential of growth. And Peter had referred to
it as the other side of the mist Let's talk
about that, the other side of the mist So, so

before we get into it, though, can I just ask
you the other side of the mist is so interesting
to me. Definitely where I want to had and I
don't want to be cluttered. But we brought up this
wedding dress that I have no particular attachment to Yeah,
but there is I have a concept in my mind
that even though it would never pass the dining room

table test, it would never be something that I think
of as a treasure. Does not symbolize my marriage to me,
frankly didn't symbolize my mother's marriage to her. But I
do have a vision of letting my grandkids play dress
up in it and trapes around in it and dribble
all kinds of things on it because I don't care,

but for them it would maybe unlock like a great
princess fantasy. So what do I do with that? I mean,
I guess that's a projection about the future, and who
knows if any of this will come to pass. Right.
That's not about your grandkids, though, That's about you, Okay,
So it's about what I want. It's not about your

grandkids playing dress ups. It's about a fantasy that you
have about your grandkids. And why is the fantasy not
worth hanging onto my dress? It might be, it might
be worth I'm not I'm not opposed to holding onto
the dress or not. I just want people to be
honest about where it sits, if if it's if it's
a choice between the fantasy you have of the dress

sitting in a closet and having a huge fight with
your partner about all the other fantasy items that you
have in your closet. Then you need to let it
go because your grandkids won't know if it's your dress
or one that you go to Goodwill in fifteen years
And by right, right a good point. And since I
am not attached to this particular dress, you could be

a good Will with with Lisa's girls hunting down seventies
gear and dresses because they won't know either weather it
was your stuff, or go to any of the recycled
clothing places. You know, it's not when you look at it,
it's not about your grandkids again, it's about you, and
how you imagine playing with your grandkids, Your your children

in the background preparing that meal and you on the
floor in the living room with a whole lot of
dress ups princess crowns, and say, well, this was Nanna's
dress and it's your fantasy and I love it and
it's beautiful. But it doesn't necessarily have to take up
a whole corner of my basement to come trick. Well
maybe it can, but if it does, and it causes
problems and no, okay, all right, all right, so the mess.

Let's get back to the mess. It's too bad. I'm
feeling bad, like I'm bursting blues. No, no, now you
know that was that is so liberating. I love this
idea that there's an endless source. If it, if it,
if there are grandchildren, please go, let there grandchildren. If
there are a grand children and they want to play
dress up and I want to indulge that, I'm going

to be able to do that, that is what goodwill
is for. Then that's the fan, that's the that's the
beautiful thing. That's the future. You are going to be
able to play dress ups with your children. See that's
beyond the mist. But the actual wedding dress, which is
actually not necessarily a part of this, could be the
thing that's stopping you getting to that place because you

end up arguing your partner, and your children don't like that,
and all the other clutter in your house won't bring
the grandkids to your house because it's so cluttered, or
the mood is so dark and argumentative. So the very
thing that you want to be part of that fantasy
actually is the thing that destroys the fans. How does energetically,

how does our attachment two the past, manifested in our things,
prevent us from moving forward? You know, there are two
main types of clutter. There's what I call memory clutter,
and that's the sentimental stuff, the things that attach us,
the remind us of an important person or event or
achievement from the past, and then I might need it

one day. Clutter that's the stuff you hold on to
in anticipation. That's a that's a whole other thing. It
can be absolutely the memory stuff is what we're talking
about at the moment. And the way it energetically can
cause problems is that you think that the object is
the memory, and so the fear is that if you

let go of the object, you will lose the memory.
And so that's I worked with a woman not long ago.
Grandmother passed away twenty six years ago. Loved her grandmother.
The day she died, she put every single thing into storage.
Was there for twenty six years. We recently got it
out of storage. I asked her what was the strongest,

most loving memory she had of her grandmother baking. We
found the boxes from the kitchen, pulled out the baking items,
recipe cards written in her grandmother's handwriting. We've got half
a dozen baking items. The cards, frame them in a
big shadow box two and a half by two feet,
hung it in the kitchen. When she looked at that,
it brought back all those beautiful memories. She was then

able to let go of every other thing in the house,
the memory stuff, the fear of losing a memory, the
fear of letting go of a dream, the fear of
letting go of who I once was. The guy who
was an insurance agent, who has two bedrooms in his
home filled with all of his notes. He stopped working
as an insurance agent fifteen years ago. Let go of

that stuff. He has to let go of the dream,
the image of who he is, who he was. So
energetically it can completely drain you. I think emotionally, there's
that the energetic component is so deep in our emotions
and moving past that UM helps free us and and

and that's difficult. But there's also a biological component component,
I think, because historically we came out of ancestors who
would be hit with famine for long periods of time,
or um have marauding hordes come and burned down all
their fields and take everything. And if you didn't have

things that you'd stored up, if you didn't hold on
to what you had, it meant you died. So I
think biologically we're hardwired to save stuff. I don't disagree
with that, but we've gone beyond that. There's a lot
of research being done now that shows conclusively that too

much stuff in our homes actually causes us massive problems.
For example, clutter causes a peak in cortisol in our bodies.
Cortisol contributes to heart conditions, sleeplessness, and absolutely to weight
gain and stress. High clutted environments have people with super
high levels of cortisol. Experiments have shown in rooms that

are cluttered, there is a much greater difficulty of perceiving
the emotional cues in people's faces. So it's much more
difficult in a clutted environment to read the emotional cues
that people are giving you. Recent researchers showed when you
put people in clutted rooms and uncluttered rooms and as

they leave the room you offer them a snack, Overwhelmingly
people walking out of uncluttered spaces will take an apple,
and people walking out of clutted spaces will take high
sugar chocolates. It's very interesting how clutter actually physically and
emotionally plays on us in ways that we had not

previously thought of. So I agree with this whole thing
that we're required, we're hardwired to save. But in those
instant it was saved for survival. Now it's safe for pleasure.
And so we're putting a whole lot of stock in
our stuff giving us pleasure and meaning. We're in fact,

that's not where we get pleasure and meaning from. It's
from the quality of our relationships. So we're toward it's
more about the quantity of our stuff. I think we
all can wholeheartedly embrace that message. How do you stop
the buying impulse? Though? How do you avoid how do
you keep the clutter from building up to begin with?

I mean, they're just I love that you have simple
rules for things like the dining room table tests. So
what's a good one for that? Look, there are a
couple of things. One of the one of the if
you employ this one mantra in your home, you can
stop clutter. And that mantra is don't put it down,

put it away, don't put it down put it away.
If you came into my house and there was a
dining fork in the garage and I asked you to
put the fork away, what would you do with it?
Where would you go in the kitchen? Okay? And when

you went into the kitchen, where would you put the fork?
In your in your drawer where you keep yourself away?
There it is you would be anyone would be able
to do that in any home in America. You should
be able to do that with every single item in
your home. Every single item in your home should have
a home, has a place to live, every single thing.

And then if you have a place with specific items live,
that space determines how much you have. And so when
you put something down instead of putting it away, you
start building up clutter around the house. So number one,
you have to have a home for everything. Number two,

if you or in a relationship with someone who doesn't
respect and honor you, you know that relationship won't last.
It'll fall to pieces if you don't respect and honor
the space in your home, if you over fill it,
if you cram spaces, you don't honor and respect your home,
and that relationship just won't last. So number one don't

have a home for everything. Number two, treat your home
with honor and respect. And number three, you really have
to look at your buying patterns to see if it's
about emotional buying and start the habit of one in,
one out. If you buy a new pair of shoes,
you need to get rid of a pair of shoes.
So your home has limited capacity, treat it with honor
and respect. Such great advice. Thank you so much. I'm

going home to clean out my classes right now because
I know way too. It's been such a pleasure having
you look. I love you guys. Really, it's a great podcast,
and I feel so honored to be chatting with you.
I always feel like we never have enough time when
I see you all like this, that we have enough
time to really get into things. But this was a
lovely experience. Thank you so much, and huge success to you.

But thank you, and you can get our listeners can
get the complete experience of this book. Let it go.
So get out there and take a look at this
book and connect with Peter on Twitter at Peter Walsh.
The Road to Somewhere is recorded in New York City.
Make sure you share, subscribe, rate, and review us and

let us hear from you. Where are you on your journey?
Connect with us on Instagram and Twitter at pod to Somewhere,
Email us at road to Somewhere at iHeartMedia dot com.
Special thanks to our producer Alicia Haywood. Thanks for joining
us on the Road to Somewhere. Available on the I
Heart Radio app, on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get
your podcasts.

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