So many of us are trying to keep up with the Joneses, aren’t we? And as we’ve covered before in this blog, monetary excess does not a happy person make. Peter Walsh knows—it’s a topic the declutter king and California-based author of Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? and Enough Already! is covering is his new book Lighten Up. Only this book addresses decluttering not just your stuff, but your life and encourages you to focus on yourself financially, all with the intent to help you live with less, get the life you want and be happy.
Q: Why is clutter never just clutter?
Walsh: I discovered early on that if you focused on the “stuff” when you help people declutter, they never get anywhere. There’s never any long-term change. For me, clutter isn’t just the physical stuff. It’s anything that stands between you and the life you want. So clutter can also be your relationship with someone for example. It’s the mental stuff that stands between you and the life you could be living.
Q: So what do you suggest people do to get the life they want and be happy?
Walsh: After figuring out what kind of life you do want, before you do anything, buy anything, eat anything, change anything, ask yourself if what you’re about to do moves you closer to the life I want? And if it’s going to move you away from it, why would you buy it or say it or eat it or do it?
Q: So what advice can readers do to make the move towards becoming happier people?
Walsh: Here’s what I suggest.
Recalibrate your ideas of happiness. So talk with your partner about where you derive happiness from. And if you’re caught into this idea that more is better, you’re doomed to repeat the excess mistakes of the past. Everybody knows that less is more, and that we shouldn’t eat junk food or exercise. Knowing is not the issue—the issue is how do we get there.
Live within your means. When we use the word “less”, it’s immediately a pejorative word. Switch it up and think about how empowering the word can be. Less can also mean less stress, less arguments, less debt, less worries. For me, less actually empowers us more than we think it might. Money is not what makes life rich. Being rich comes from living within your means and being happy in that place.
Put your needs before wants. Have a clear vision of what you want for your life and then when you’re in the process of buying something, normally it’s I see, I want, I buy. But if you’re very clear about what you want for your life, it’s I see, I want—pause—will this move me closer to or farther from the life I want? Be mindful in that moment.
Think experiences before stuff. We’re caught in this idea that if people aren’t buying you stuff, they’re not thinking about you. It’s easy to get sucked into that.
Get everyone involved. When it comes to discussing your financial life, include the kids. Sit down as a family and talk about how much money you have, where it’s going to be allocated and how you should spend it. That way you all have a sense of how money is limited.