"Does this Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?"


This is the tittle of a book I just read. Below is a column I did on the book recently for a local paper. I just wanted to share. Sometimes I think we all get a little caught up in the "de-cluttering" concept of being a mechanism to help sell a home....but Peter Walsh (who wrote this book and is the organizational GURU on TLC's Clean Sweep Show) reminds us of the power of cleaning out one's home runs MUCH deeper than a quick and profitable sale.


The De-Clutter Concept Runs Deeper Than We Think

DE-CLUTTER. Probably 80% of the lived-in homes on the market I have personally gone to visit or seen in passing need to be de-cluttered. There is no doubt, in my experience, that de-cluttering and the sale of a home have a strong association with each other.

I define CLUTTER as anything taking away from the functionality or look of counter-tops, shelves, walls or anything else you can sit or hang things on. Each home is cluttered to a degree and this is always a situation that should be addressed when selling a home.

It was always obvious to me that De-Cluttering held many perks for the homeowner. Not only does this principle help homes show much better, but it makes the moving process easier and makes people generally feel “better.” These all were obvious side effects I noticed after working with homeowners who finally decided to let go of items they had stuffed in closets, cabinets, kitchens, etc.

But it wasn’t until recently that I discovered even more power the de-cluttering principle holds.

A good friend of mine pointed out a book to me the other day. It is written by Peter Walsh, an organizational guru on TLC’s “Clean Sweep” show. The book is called “Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat.” I picked up a copy a couple days ago and have to admit that I was only drawn to the title of the book after previously writing a column about New Year’s Resolutions and how several things one can do to get their home ready to sell can actually help them with their New Year’s Resolutions.

The book is primarily about the obesity problem in the United States and how Peter’s experience organizing homes has shown him the connection between de-cluttering and actually losing weight. After reading only a few chapters, I quickly decided that “de-cluttering” is more than just getting rid of junk and helping a home sale. It is rather a fantastic mechanism to clean out one’s life as well.

Peter Walsh says the following about clutter in this book, “Clutter is about fear of losing memories, or worry about the future, or a sense that something bad is going to happen…Clutter gets in the way of living the life you want. It makes it hard to breathe. It makes it hard to move. It makes it hard to see clearly. It makes it hard to focus and stay motivated. You have to clean outside to get clean inside.”

Ok. We all may not be in extreme clutter situations, but we all experience these symptoms from time to time. Whether it’s the closet in the bedroom that is so packed, it stresses you out b/c you can’t find something. Or the piles of old magazines that you can’t part with. Or the collection of your great-grandmother’s quilts. Whatever it may be, de-cluttering and having things in their place is a powerful tool, not only to the sale of a home, but to one’s over-all well being.

Peter Walsh states several “Clutter Principles” in this book in which I wanted to share:
1. Figure out what your goal is for a room. If an item doesn’t serve that goal, get rid of it.
2. If you don’t love it, use it, wear it, or have room for it, get rid of it, it’s clutter.
3. The clutter didn’t appear over-night and it won’t disappear overnight.
4. Live firmly in the present, not the past or future. If you are holding onto things you don’t use, figure out why. Memory? Hope? Gift? Fear?
5. Break de-cluttering into small, manageable tasks.
6. If you don’t make de-cluttering a way of life, the stuff will creep back into your home.
7. Recognize and celebrate every space that is de-cluttered. It will motivate you to keep going.

In thinking about people and thinking about the power of de-cluttering, it becomes clear that in most cases people can’t handle too much stuff. It’s ironic since we are a consuming culture: constantly shopping, eating, working, doing and going. Simplifying one’s life expands far beyond the quick sale of a home. Simplifying one’s life helps us stay focused and together.

When thinking about these ideas and principles from a buyer’s perspective, it becomes clear that a neat and organized home helps with the sale of that home far beyond the fact that it’s in order. When buyers are looking for a home, most of the time they are attempting to improve upon what they currently have. Chances are, they the buyer has some form of de-clutter in their lives. By creating an organized environment for them to walk through, you are not only showing off the home’s functionality, but also showing them a sense of peace that we all feel when things are in order.

Maybe this theory seems a bit over-the-top or psychological for you to grab onto. If this is the case, I strongly recommend that you read Peter Walsh’s book sited here or another called “It’s All Too Much.” His principles and ideas about clutter do not come from a science lab, but rather from thousands of people like you and me that he has helped break through clutter issues, small and large. Who knows it may actually make your butt look smaller!



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Elaine Manes Gage
Home Staging Online Services - Denver, CO
Staging done ONLINE!

Amber- Since I am concerned on a daily basis that my butt is getting fatter, your title drew me in! It just makes sense that if a person feels lighter after purging all their stuff, then to hold on to it, means you must look fatter! That fact should get women motivated!

Of course, my graphic is bunya-bunya! ;)

Mar 11, 2008 11:16 AM #1
Sandra Hughes
Redesigned Spaces - Northern Virginia - Fairfax, VA
Redesigned Spaces - Fairfax County, Virginia
I have been thinking about for maybe 6 months now that I need to declutter my home.  I know I try to go thru my closets at least twice a year and throw out old stuff and periodically my office etc... but I really, really need a overhaul done on every part of my house and if I am not using it I need to pitch it.  I know I would feel better and the place would look better.
Mar 11, 2008 11:53 AM #2
Diana Young
Staging Seattle, King & Snohomish Counties - Edmonds, WA
Hi Amber,  What a great post!  Clutter is a huge problem for people selling their homes,especially when they have kids.  I know in my own home, there is a lot of kid and pet clutter, but my home isn't on the market, or I'd need to do some serious de-cluttering of my own!  We advise sellers to pack up whatever is not currently being used and make sure that the kids keep clutter off of their bedroom floors and any surfaces (night tables, desk, bookcases, etc.)  We also advise that paper posters are taken down prior to listing, which really make a wall look cluttered.
Mar 11, 2008 01:14 PM #3
Melissa Marro
Watson Realty Corp - Saint Augustine, FL
St Augustine, St Johns, Ponte Vedra

Interesting - I may have to buy the book.  I actually - ummmmm - have a clutter problem myself.  On the flip side, my home isn't for sale.  I also have 3 adults (4 if you count my oldest child), 3 kids, a dog and 4 cats - not to mention my daughter has adpoted 2 turtles that now apparently will be moving into the living room tank (we had a tragic fish event and none survived).  My youngest daughter still has 6 fish in the tank in her room..... Did I mention it can be a little overwhelming here at times? 

I have been trying to systematically declutter, but it doesn't seem to be working.  Maybe I can use his book to make the connection and break the cycle!  Thanks for sharing!

Mar 11, 2008 09:02 PM #4
Amber Langston

Elaine- I think every woman worries about their butts getting fat. :) You are so correct on the connection!

Sandra- Overhaul is the word...and it's something I need to do as well.

Diana- Thanks for checking out the post! And you are right...I could say the same thing about my home not being on the market. :)

Melissa- I thought I had a FULL house with 3 cats, 2 dogs and one husband. HA! You have your hands FULL!!!!!!!!



Mar 11, 2008 10:52 PM #5
Susan Peters
Dove Realty Inc. - Seattle, WA
The Better it Looks the Better it Sells


I'm mucking out my basement and garage right now. I'm working on it a 1/2 day a week. I feel better already but i still have a way to go.

                              My mantra is 'when in doubt, throw it out!'

Mar 12, 2008 12:30 AM #6
Melissa Marro
Watson Realty Corp - Saint Augustine, FL
St Augustine, St Johns, Ponte Vedra
Did you see that I started organizing my warehouse yesterday?  Yay me? Controlling the Inventory - Chaos turns to easy shopping ahead
Mar 12, 2008 06:13 PM #7
Sara Dunton
Land of Clutter - Alexandria, VA

Amber -

I read Peter Walsh's other book - "Its All Too Much". It is a MUCH BETTER BOOK! If you are going to read anything by this author, I would start with the other book, not this one. I would only recommend this one if you are trying to lose weight, and even then, I would still recommend reading it along with "Its All Too Much" which covers a LOT more ground and has many more good ideas on clutter and junk and organizing. I skimmed this book in just 2 days because it had mostly already been covered in his previous book, and/or his appearance on the Oprah show promoting this book. Honestly, this is just a remarketing moneymaker of a book for this author. I like the author, but this book is not his finest work.

Peter Walsh wrote another book called "How to Organize just About Everything" which is an interesting resource because it covers just a CRAZY amount of topics and is a good tool if you are in the staging business, or even the selling houses business. Also, check out the reader reviews on AMAZON on these books, which I find to generally be a great place to find out whether books are worth buying these days.

Mar 14, 2008 04:14 PM #9
Amber Langston

Sara- Thank so much for the info. I haven't read "It's All Too Much" but I plan on it. I usually read those reviews on Amazon and find them helpful. I really think this book is good though...especially for those losing weight...but I will surely check out his others! I appreciate the advice!


Melissa- I should take a page from your book and organize my little space as well. It's a mess.



Mar 14, 2008 04:30 PM #10
Julie Davis, Amy Blank - Rediscovered Interiors, LLC
Rediscovered Interiors, LLC - Andover, MN

Interesting what Sara had to say about the other book.  I have been interested in what this book points out, so thanks for outlining it so well!!  I really liked your point--Simplifying one's life expands far beyond the quick sale of a home. Simplifying one's life helps us stay focused and together.  Our company really emphasises that for our Redesign clients.  Being more informed about the "clutter" in a deeper context, can be much more helpful and purposeful to our clients, rather than just repeating declutter, declutter, declutter like they have all hear already.

Thanks for sharing!!

Mar 14, 2008 04:33 PM #11
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