Best-selling author and resident organisation and decluttering expert on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Peter Walsh, will be back home in Australia this September to spearhead Dymo National Organisation Week (N.O.W.). This is the second year that Peter has been the ambassador for Dymo N.O.W., an initiative of Dymo Australia to encourage us to de-clutter and change our world from chaos to calm.
Born and raised in Melbourne, Peter Walsh moved to Los Angeles in 1994 to assist corporations in their quest to improve employee’s job satisfaction and effectiveness. It was whilst working in the area of organisational change, Peter realised the problems people had with cutter and disorganisation. Peter told Australian Women Online, “I realized early on that the problems people had were usually about their fear of letting things go, or lack of skills in scheduling things, or sometimes even some trauma they’d experienced in their lives. Once these underlying issues were dealt with, usually dealing with ‘the stuff’ became so much easier.”
Eventually Peter’s work in this area came to the attention of a television network in the US and they asked him to work on an organisation show. More recently, he started work with the Oprah Winfrey Show as their decluttering and organisation expert.
Peter told me that as one of seven kids, he learned early on the value of looking after his belongings, “Growing up we didn’t have a ton of stuff and what we had, we learned early on we had to take care of. I think from this I’ve always had respect for looking after what I own and taking care of the things that are mine.”
Peter says the reasons people accumulate clutter can be quite complex. “Clutter can be a response to fear or some trauma from the past. It can also be a manifestation of a mental health issue like anxiety or depression. Someone once said that clutter is just ‘decisions delayed’. Sometimes we need a little prod to get done what needs doing!”
The good news says Peter, is that being organised is a skill that can be learned by just about anyone.
“The single biggest problem with organisation is that people think it’s all about ‘the stuff’ when, in fact, it’s almost never about ‘the stuff’. If you focus on the stuff you will never get organized – weird but true!”
“Generally people accumulate clutter of two types – and you may recognize yourself here. The first is what I call ‘memory clutter’ – this is the stuff that reminds you of an important person, or event or achievement in the past – things like those old university papers from 20 years ago, or your adult children’s baby clothes or that soccer trophy you won in kindergarten. The other kind of clutter is ‘I might need it one day clutter’ – this is the stuff you hold onto in preparation for all those possible futures that could eventuate. Neither of these is a bad thing. The problem only arises when the stuff you own interferes with the life you could be living,” said Peter.
“The very first step in getting organized is to ask yourself ‘What is the life I want to be living?’ And from this question there are others; ‘What does that life look like?’, ‘What do I want from my home – what mood, what experience?’ It’s only after you have answered these questions that you can start looking at your stuff and get organized by asking (of each item), ‘Does this thing move me closer or farther away from the life I want?’ That’s the criteria for what stays and what goes. Other factors are that people simply buy too much. Recreational shopping is a killer!”
Peter’s tips to get organised:
- Find it, label it and give it a home. We all waste too much time looking for lost things around the house. Make ‘homes’ for household items to ensure items are always returned to their right place.
- Keep all horizontal surfaces clear. Flat surfaces attract clutter and paperwork. Keep it to a minimum and make sure everything has a labelled place. In the kitchen label staple pantry items to save time and avoid cooking disasters.
- Organise your garage. Garages often become store rooms for seasonal items like footy boots and Christmas decorations. Between seasons chances are high that you will forget what is packed inside. So clearly label any box, bin or container that goes into the garage to avoid re-purchasing.
- Sort and purge. Turn your wardrobe into a fashion sanctuary. You will first need to spend some time (and maybe a few tears) parting with clothes, shoes and accessories that you do not wear anymore. The rules are simple, if you have not worn it in 12 months, donate it! You never know what hidden gems you might find.
- Educational labelling. Educate your children at a young age to be organised. Create clearly labelled toy tubs, an area for DVDs, magazine and remotes, so items can be found easily and put away quickly. Don’t limit yourself to the kids; educate the whole family in the laundry, kitchen, garage, bedroom, bathroom.
- Create ‘zones’ in your home for paperwork. Make sure that you have clearly labelled areas for office-like functions that happen in your home, for example mail, bills to pay, magazine storage. Clearly labelled zones create a more efficient home and limit clutter.
- Avoid cord confusion. Avoid cable confusion by labelling cords at the back of computer and home entertainment unit. This is also a good plan to implement at work.
- Invest in a good filing system and make sure it is clearly labelled. Up to 80% of what goes into a filing system never sees the light of day. An efficient filing system will allow you too quickly retrieve important information. Cull your files once a year to get rid of outdated and unwanted paperwork.
- Organise your digital world to reflect your paper world. In this age of computers and the internet, be sure to use both software and hardware to your best advantage. Label your computer files and paper files clearly, where possible they should mirror each other for uniformity.
- Use the ratio rule to clear excess books. For every four books you keep discard or give away one. Challenge yourself and try to lower the ratio to three to one or if you are really brave, two to one. Only keep the books you have the shelve space to hold.
Peter says there are two great items or tools to use when decluttering and getting organized. “The first great tool is a labeller. Clearly labelling items and spaces in your home saves a tonne of time and energy. Using a label maker ensures every item is assigned a ‘home’. I really enjoy the Dymo range of labellers – they’re easy to use and are definitely a tool that all organised people cannot live without!”
“The second is the humble garbage bag. It’s an inexpensive item for quickly gathering up those items in your home that you no longer need or use or want. It’s fantastic for hauling stuff to the Salvos or St. Vinnies and – most obviously – it’s the perfect thing for getting trash and useless items out of your home.”
For further information and details on organising workshops visit www.nationalorganisingweek.com.au or call Dymo in Australia on 1800 727 537.
You can also join Peter on Facebook at www.facebook.com/peterwalsh
Peter’s book It’s All Too Much has been included in the 2009 Books Alive program, listed as one of the ‘50 Books You Can’t Put Down’.