It's all too much! Have you ever heard someone say that phrase before? You probably have. Maybe you've even said it yourself. Maybe you even said it when you picked up this book: It's. All. Too. Much!
This is not a phrase you say while smiling. You don't say it relaxing in the park with a good book, or sipping hot chocolate in front of a roaring fireplace, or playing Frisbee at the beach, or going to see your favorite band, or while having a barbecue in your backyard with your friends.
When you say this phrase, it's because you are stressed. You are rigid and you are tense. Your shoulders and neck and back hurt. Maybe you feel not-so-great in the stomach. When you say this phrase, your face gets all scrunched up. And maybe it turns red. And maybe you wave your hands around. And maybe your hair stands up on end and little curls of smoke come out of your ears. (Okay, this last one is only in cartoons...but you get the picture.)
"It's all too much!" is not a happy phrase. It is, however, a pretty expressive phrase, because it means so many different things all rolled into one. It means:
I feel frustrated.
I feel anxious.
I feel overwhelmed.
I feel freaked out.
I feel unhappy.
I feel defeated.
I feel stressed.
I feel powerless and like I don't have control over my own life!
Anyone who says this phrase can mean any or all of these things. But this last sentence, I find, seems to apply especially to teens.
Why? Because when you're a teenager, that phrase can often feel, well, true. (Just because it feels true doesn't mean it is true, but more on that in a bit.)
"But These Are the Best Years of Your Life!"
Have you ever expressed unhappiness about some part of your life to a random adult -- maybe a parent or a grandparent or your friend's parent or a teacher at school -- only to have the grown-up get a sort of wistful, googly-eyed look on his or her face and respond with some version of the phrase "But these are the best years of your life!"? Well, if you ask me, that person probably doesn't have a very good memory of what being a teenager is actually like. Or that person is remembering only the good parts and forgetting about the bad. (Then again, maybe it's harder to be a teen these days than it was when he or she was growing up.)
But I remember a lot of it, which is one of the main reasons I wanted to write this book. I remember what it was like to be a teenager growing up in a small town near Melbourne, Australia, born smack-dab in the middle of seven children. With three brothers and three sisters. I loved my family (and still do), but I remember often feeling frustrated because I had the distinct feeling that I wasn't in control of my own life. That I was expected to behave a certain way, to think certain things, to want certain things. And that these expectations weren't always in line with what I actually believed or what I actually wanted.
The Clutter of Too Many Have-Tos
Being a teenager is hard, for a whole lot of reasons, not least of which is the fact that you are living in someone else's house. And that means you end up having to, for the most part, do what they say. (The perennial parental favorite, "While you live under my roof, you'll live by my rules!" is a favorite for a reason.)
Your life is full of too many have-tos. You have to wake up early, and you have to go to school; you have to spend all day going to a whole bunch of different classes, most of which you probably didn't get to pick. After school you might have to go to a sports practice or a meeting for a club or a rehearsal for a play. Or maybe you have to go to an after-school job. After that you have to come home, and you have to do homework. Then you have to help out around the house. Maybe you have to look after a little brother or sister. And it probably doesn't end there. It can often feel like a lot -- like all -- of your time is spent doing things that other people tell you to do. That your day is not your own. That you are powerless and don't have any control over your own life. But what I hope you might get from this book is the feeling, and the knowledge, that a lot more parts of your life are within your control than you might think.
And no, I'm not going to tell you that you don't actually have to go to school. And that you can blow off all your chores and forget about your homework. And that your five-year-old brother can just take care of himself. Don't try to get me in trouble, now!
What I'm saying is this:
You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind To
"You can do anything you set your mind to" is probably a phrase you've heard before. Maybe you've heard it from many well-meaning adults. It's one of those phrases people love to toss around. Maybe you've heard it so much that you're sick of hearing it, or maybe you've heard it so much that as soon as you hear it (or read it), you tune it out. And you have forgotten that it means anything at all. What it means is this: You don't have to simply go through life waiting for your life to happen to you. You can make things happen. Things can change. You can change. And no matter how overwhelming your clutter situation might be right now, that can change too.
But when you're thinking about your goals, make sure they're your goals. Not society's goals, not your parents' goals, not your friends' goals. Your goals.
If you're five feet tall and the last time you dunked a basketball was when you were four (and it was one of those little Nerf basketballs and you walked right up to the hoop and put the ball directly in it), chances are you are not going to join the NBA. And if you can barely sing a note, and dogs start howling every time you try to, it's rather unlikely that you will be a professional opera singer. And if you put your mind to it, even if you really, really, really put your mind to it, you're probably not going to wake up one morning having sprouted wings with which you can fly around your room.
BUT if you put your mind to it, you can certainly get creative and, say, start a basketball league for the less tall, less hoops-shootingly gifted. Or produce a special silent opera where you open your mouth but don't sing out loud, or one where the audience listens to an iPod of someone else singing while you pretend to. And hey, if you end up inventing a pair of electric wings a person can use to fly around the house, well, I'd like to buy the first pair, please.
However, please keep in mind -- just because you might want to put your mind to packing every item of clothing you have ever owned since you were six years old into your dresser doesn't mean it's going to happen. And just because you might want to put your mind to keeping every issue of every magazine that has ever entered your house on one shelf of your bookcase does not mean they will fit. Putting your mind to things cannot change the laws of physics, or the laws of time and space, or the laws of thermodynamics, or the laws of probability.
Your mind is a powerful thing! But you have to know what you're up against.
So, back to my point: The phrase "You can do anything you put your mind to" means that you can and should have goals. And that you can and should believe in yourself. But when you set your mind to something, make sure it's your own goal, one that will serve the future you are trying to create. The future is wide open to you. And that is a very exciting thing! (But it can also be a scary thing too.)
Not Just the Future, but NOW!
But wait, what about now? Isn't now important too? Well, yes, in fact it is. It is quite important, actually. You, right now, sitting there reading this, have the power to not only change your situation in the future, but to change your situation starting at this very moment. The life you're trying to create is not just a life you'll be living in the future, but one you are living right now.
I know, I know -- it sounds like a bunch of self-help-booky, grown-ups-saying-stuff-that-they-think-is-nice-to-say-to-teens-but-that-no-one-really-believes crap. Hearing "inspiring" stuff without hearing any information to back it up can make a person, well, stop listening after a while.
What if it's not just a bunch of crap? Just for the length of time it takes you to read this book, I'm asking you to keep an open mind and accept the possibility that maybe, just maybe, things can change. And maybe this book can help.
"But wait!" you might be saying. "Isn't this a book on decluttering? And isn't 'decluttering' a fancy word for just cleaning your room? Because having a clean room is nice and all, but I really don't see how that's going to change my life."
Okay, I hear you. But the answers to your questions are: yes (among other things) and no! Just go with me here. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of decluttering, before we talk about your relationship with stuff and how it's affecting you, think about this question:
What do you want from your life right now?
Not what you want ten years from now, five years from now, or a year from now, but your vision for your own life today. Today. Weird as it might sound, this is the most important question to ask yourself in the decluttering process. Think about it just for a moment now, and we will discuss it again later.
When you're a teenager, there's a lot of emphasis on your future. Where are you going to college? What do you want to be when you grow up? I'm not trying to say you don't need to think about it at all; surely, some planning is important, and you need to do it. But with all the emphasis put on the future, it's easy to forget that you're alive right now and that what is going on now matters too. In fact it matters a whole lot.
And one of the main things that take people out of the mom...
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.