In Part One of De-clutter Your Life, I spoke with LA-based Peter Walsh about his background, how he came to be a professional organiser and Oprah’s de-clutter guru. We also touched on the psychology of cluttering and hoarding, and a major reason why we may make poor health choices in our lives. Part Two discusses some solutions to the excuses we give ourselves, and others, for cluttering and hoarding, and how we can STOP.
I had the opportunity to have a personal chat with Peter, who is based in Los Angeles, about organising your home ahead of his exclusive evening for the Australasian Association of Professional Organisers .
De-clutter Your Life – Part Two
“Our living spaces and our relationships are not so different,” Peter says. “If you are in a relationship with someone and they don’t honour and respect you, that relationship won’t last. You simply won’t want to be with that person. It’s the same if you clutter and overload your living spaces – you’re not treating your home with honour and respect. Just like a bad relationship, you can never be fully happy or relaxed or at peace in that space.”
In Part One, Peter explained some of the excuses we make to ourselves, and others, as to why we may clutter or hoard. And often the psychological reasons run deeper than we may wish to admit. In his first book ‘It’s All Too Much’ Peter provides easy-to-follow solutions for organising your home and your life.
“When ‘stuff’ takes over your home it stops you living in the present,” explains Peter. “Sometimes we will tell ourselves that we must keep something because it has sentimental value or it’s worth money. But do we really need the treadmill we never use or the pair of skinny jeans we bought with an expectation that we haven’t lived up to. These just remind us of what poor choices we’ve made and possibly what failures we are.”
Peter suggests that our cluttered lives are a product of investing too much in our ‘stuff’, expecting it to provide us with happiness and meaning. He says that real happiness come not from the quantity of what we own but rather from the quality of our relationships.
“If the stuff you own is stressing you out then why do you have it your house?”, asks Peter. “Being on Oprah provided an incredible platform to bring professional organisers to the forefront. The issue isn’t new, but access to help has been difficult in the past. With the increasing number of professional organisers people can now find the assistance they need to deal with the clutter in their lives.”
Whilst Peter has regularly been in front of over 10 million people talking about organising your home, clutter and hoarding he is critical of some of the pop-up shows whereby hoarders have been treated as a spectacle.
“The flip side of raising this issue to national consciousness is the unfortunate side-effect of unqualified people making money from what is essentially a mental health issue. ‘Stuff’ is a symptom and solving clutter problems is relatively easy for most of the population. The deeper mental health issues that are always present in a hoarding situation require qualified assistance and not media exploitation.”
That said, Peter does have some great advice for helping you in organising your home. Addressing some of the more common problems, Peter suggests the following action.
“I might need it one day” / “If I let it go I’ll lose the memory” / “It’s sentimental”
Preparing for the future can be crippling and you may be doing yourself a disservice by holding onto things you don’t need, and won’t need. By allowing stuff to take over your home, you are not living in the present.
Let go of objects. Time has passed. Move on. Live in the present.
“It’s worth a lot of money”
People buy products but often invest in “the promise” that they home the items will deliver – a treadmill (because it will make me magically fit and thin) – skinny jeans (because they will make me magically more attractive) – we invest in these “promises” that more often than not are not fulfilled. Holding on to these objects reminds us that we have not made the best choices and serve everyday to reinforce our poor decision making. The stuff says “you screwed up”.
As Peter says, if the price is the best thing about an object, you should never buy it.
“My home is too small; I don’t have enough space”
You only have the space you have, you can’t make it bigger. It’s ALWAYS a fact that we have too much stuff NOT that we don’t have enough space. Honour and respect yourself and honour and respect the physical limits of your space. Get rid of things that no longer serve you or are making you stressed.
“I don’t have time to clean up“
You have the time to do what’s important to you. Cleaning up leads to a less stressed life; make it (and you!) a priority.
Peter’s Top Three Tips for a Clutter-Free Life
#3 Clothing: The Reverse Clothes Hanger Trick
“We wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. Turn every single hanger in your wardrobe around back to front. Each time you use an item of clothing hang the laundered piece back in your closet with the hanger facing the correct way.
After six months, you will clearly see all the clothes you have worn on hangers facing the right way. The clothes you haven’t worn will still be on hangers facing in reverse. Send them off to the Savlos or Vinnies where people who need them can use and get value from them.”
#2 Kitchen: The One Month Cardboard Box Test
“Place every item from your kitchen drawers in a cardboard box on your kitchen counter. Each time you use an item place it back in the drawer. After four weeks whatever items you haven’t used will still be in the cardboard box. Get rid of them.”
#1 Procrastination: The One Word You Need to Eliminate from Your Vocabulary
“One definition of clutter is “decisions delayed”. If you want to stop clutter from accumulating the only guaranteed way to do that is to stop using the word LATER, as in “I’ll get to that later” or “I’ll put that away later”. When it comes to any household items – dishes, clothes, mail – procrastination = accumulation.”
For more information about Peter and to read more of his de-cluttering tips and organising ideas follow him on Facebook.
Read Part One of this interview and other articles dedicated to organised clutter including cleaning, picture hanging and displaying.