Ask Peter Walsh anything!

Next week, I’ll be interviewing Oprah’s go-to organizer, the organizing star of Clean Sweep, and all-around fantastic gentleman Peter Walsh to talk with him about a new line of office organizing products he has designed for Office Max. While his publicist and I were working out the details this time for the technical side of things (we’re doing a video chat so you can hear his fabulous accent), I came up with a fun way to get you in on the fun.

My Plan: Ask Peter anything!

Here’s how it will work: In the comments to this post, write in a question you have always had for Peter. Then, next week when I’m preparing for my interview with him, I will pick my favorite question from the comments to ask him that is (likely) unrelated to office organizing. Maybe you want to know what it is like to work with Oprah? Maybe you want to know how he got to where he is today? If you want to know the answer, put it in the comments. I just ask that you please keep the questions tasteful and respectful … this is a family-friendly website after all, and I doubt I would ask him anything that would make me blush!

If all of the technical aspects work as planned, the video should be live on the site next Thursday. Leave your question in the comments, and stay tuned — Peter Walsh just might answer your question.

55 Comments for “Ask Peter Walsh anything!”

  1. posted by Lose That Girl on

    So exciting, Erin! Love Peter Walsh! I would like to know his strategy for traveling. Since he’s a much in demand organizing guru, does he abide by his neatness rules and take only one case with him on his travels? Does he send items ahead? Bring only a massive overstuffed carry on? I always wonder how such organized people really operate on a daily basis. At home is one thing, but on the road I can imagine that cracks in the organization could happen. Thanks for the opportunity to pitch a question.

  2. posted by Gloria on

    Alot of “cleaning” shows ask people to get rid of family heirlooms and replace them with cheap Ikea type furniture. We’ve become a disposable society. This is sad for future generations that may have appreciated the objects. What is Peter’s opinion?

  3. posted by Debi on

    Question for Mr. Walsh:

    My mother would be a prime candidate for Clean Sweep. As a military family, stuff would get cleaned out every time we moved, but since my dad retired, they have been in one place for 15 years and every room is brimming with trash, clutter, dirt, and things that belong in other rooms. I know she’s frustrated with the situation and inability to find anything. I’ve suggested, even given her, books to help but she feels like she needs someone to help her or do it for her. She lives in a very rural area outside a very small town, so I don’t think there would be a professional nearby who could affordably help her. I am only there for short periods of time and live a few hours away.
    [sorry for all the background]
    Could you offer me a couple of suggestions on how to help her?

    Thanks so much!

  4. posted by Karen on

    Was there ever any kind of follow up on the participants of Clean Sweep? In general, were they able to keep things organized or did they slip back into their old habits?

  5. posted by Melissa on

    PLEASE ask him whether he knows of any plans to release the Clean Sweep series on DVD. I previously asked Eric Stromer about this and he said they were working on it…that was about 3-4 years ago. I’d love to know whether Peter knows anything about the release.

    I would think they would release it since they’re no longer filming new episodes…perhaps through Target, who has released several other TLC and HGTV DVD sets?

  6. posted by Laura from beautiful West Michigan on

    Once you have gone through everything (in my case a craft room) and categorized things, how do you decide what containers you will need? And, if my current marriage ends, and if he is available then, will he marry me? Just kidding, but he’s one of my favorites! “If it means something to you, honor it, don’t put it in a box!”

  7. posted by Shalin on

    I’m trying to decide on either what to do with the smaller (~3.5ft D x 4ft W) of my two bedroom closets.
    1) reorganizing the small closet with rack to the right and left as you enter to one where everything is against the back wall leaving space for storage cubby-holes to the right and/or left
    2) take out the clothes and shelves and open up the walls to create the space into a storage/reading/study/laptop nook
    3) some combination of 1 & 2

    What would be the suggested approach for deciding what to do?

    Best,
    Shalin

  8. posted by Todd on

    I’ve used some Peter’s OfficeMax file organization system for a number of months. I really like the heavy duty clear plastic (reusable) file folders. I use a post it note as a “tab” and it lets me organize those on the fly projects that you only need to keep together for a short time–the kind of things that before I’d try to paper clip together. They are an excellent product.

  9. posted by Rhonda on

    To second Debi – how can I help my mom deal with clutter? My parents have acquired more stuff in the 15 years of their current house without getting rid of enough so they are out of space. Another candidate for Clean Sweep!

  10. posted by Elaine on

    No question here; just a comment on how one little suggestion from It’s All Too Much-the banker’s spikes for keeping track of receipts-has improved my life! I am now able to quickly locate receipts for all those pesky returns. Thank you, Mr. Walsh!

  11. posted by Sarah J on

    Question for Peter?

    If you had the chance to work with anyone on the planet to help reduce clutter and organize better, who would it be and why?

    OR along the same lines…

    Of all the people you have met and worked with, who’s situation was the most surprising or shocking and why?

  12. posted by Sarah J on

    My apologies for my last comment and the incorrect spelling and grammar. I meant to type WHOSE situation was the most surprising and shocking. It would drive me nuts all day if I didn’t fix it.

  13. posted by Cat on

    I live in a 1928 house with teeny-tiny closets and no way to really add any in without major re-modeling. In particular we have no coat closet near the front door, and adding one is not possible due to the way the room is configured. So we rely on a coat tree / umbrella stand – but it is a wreck, especially in the winter months. It’s always over-loaded with too many coats, hats, scarves, etc. This is right in our living room and it is unsightly & depressing. I try to keep a neat house & have come up with creative solutions elsewhere, but this situation is beyond my ability to solve. Some clutter experts also recommend having a “launching pad” for things like backpacks, computer bags etc – but I can’t find any solution that works in this space. Help!

  14. posted by Charity on

    What is one of your organizing or de-cluttering rules or tips that you struggle with?

    Or

    When did you get into organizing? Did you color coordinate your Legos as a kid? Or did your passion for de-cluttering come out later in life?

  15. Profile photo of

    posted by Sky on

    Question for Peter….

    I have purged, decluttered and organized and by nature, am a tidy person but….there is always more! Seems like it never ends! Every time I look in a closet, cabinet or drawer, I see more stuff that can go. My question is, does it ever end without becoming a minimalist?

    Thanks, LOVE your books!

  16. posted by Nicole on

    I would really, really like to know how you become a professional organizer? I LOVE organizing things; my home,the homes of my family and friends, my office, co-workers’ offices. I would love to make it a career, but have absolutely no idea how to go about it.

    Thanks!!

  17. posted by Lori on

    I would love to know some strategy for storing luggage! It is SOOO bulky and I just do not know what to do with it. We don’t have an attic, and it takes up a lot of room in the closets and does not fit under the bed!

  18. posted by Susan in FL on

    @Rhonda and @Debi – Here is the answer about your parents. We older persons are tired of dealing with the lifetime of stuff we own. We know we have too much but its here now and the easiest thing to do is leave it alone. Don’t give us any more Christmas, Mother’s Day, etc. presents – we don’t need them, want them or use them. Come visit us instead. If we ask you if you would like to have a certain thing we own that you admire, say yes, take the item away with you when you leave and do with it what you will. Come visit us with an empty car and leave with a full one. Please.

  19. posted by Dean on

    Boating season is approaching for most of the country, after a difficult winter. Do you have any hints for organizing docked boats and dock boxes, particularly those used for overnighting?

  20. posted by amybee on

    I’m a minimalist, husband is not. Ways to deal with the conflicting natures.

  21. posted by Pam in Missouri on

    Don’t really have a question. Just wanted to say I really appreciate Peter’s sensitive response to families struggling to let go of sentimental stuff. His encouragement to honor those things that are meaningful instead of stuffing them in a box in the basement really resonates with me. As does his encouragement to let go of stuff you cannot/do not honor.

  22. posted by HistoryBuff on

    I am a huge fan of Peter Walsh!

    I struggle with organizing my kitchen pantry.
    It never looks straightened or clutter free…

    What kinds of suggestions can you give me?

    Will check out his products at OfficeMax!

  23. posted by infmom on

    I loved Clean Sweep and was sorry when it got canceled (and we know one of the couples who was on the show in the first season). I was hoping I could get them to come out and deal with my kids’ rooms, which were packed to the ceiling with junk when they moved back in with us after college. Alas, that didn’t happen.

    Peter, I know that the Clean Sweep shows didn’t show everything that had to be done to get some of those people to clean up their act (the lady with the room full of Cabbage Patch Kids, mold, rat droppings and other assorted ick comes to mind). Were there scenes you thought were important for an understanding of what it takes to deal with years of clutter that didn’t make it into any of the final shows?

  24. posted by Klyla on

    My question is “On a scale of 1-10 how cluttered does Peter Walsh consider his own home?”

  25. posted by Chris2 on

    I want to 2nd Lori’s question about luggage storage!

  26. posted by Gail on

    I would want to ask him how he has educated himself on the organizing process. As professional organizers take classes through NAPO, NSGCD, and other organizer related classes, how did he train?

    Professional organizers know there is no “right” way to organize and we look to help each client with their specific needs and lifestyle. He seems to understand this concept, but from what background did he pull from?

  27. posted by Marcie Lovett on

    I have been a fan of Peter’s back from Clean Sweep days, too. I have read all of his books, as well, and I have learned so much from him that I use in my own organizing business. My question is: How has his philosophy of organizing evolved?

  28. posted by Corrie on

    Seconding Cat’s question about the entryway of an older home!

  29. posted by Allison on

    I work at Office Max. Do you know how many times a day I listen to Peter Walsh’s voice? Enough to memorize…

    “Hi, I’m Peter Walsh. It’s no secret that *everyone* needs a little help getting organized, especially in the workplace. That’s why I created the [In]Place System: a set of files, folders, binders, clips, and color-coded post-its that grow and change with your needs. It’s the perfect solution to not only help you get organized, but stay organized. Experience the entire [In]Place System, exclusively at Office Max today.”

    As someone who is actually regularly trained in the features Peter’s products, I’d say they are indeed very well designed, and attractive to boot. (Office Max’s target customer is actually professional women, a model of which we refer to as “Eve”.)

    I do laugh a little at the [In]Place file box in our cash office that says “When you’re organized, everything is [In]Place” because said file box has papers completely spilling out of it onto the floor. I often have to remind my customers that no matter how many great tools they are armed with, they still need to engage in active organization in order for those tools to be effective. Sadly, we can’t all have a little Peter Walsh in all our homes to do our organization for us, but his line has given us a start.

  30. posted by Piper on

    @amybee Haha, it’s obvious from your post that you are a minimalist. Cute!

  31. posted by Jenna on

    If he woke up tomorrow and every person in the world was organized, clutter-free and living in the present, what would he do next?

  32. posted by Heather on

    I have an office full of piles of paperwork and I’m just not sure how to tackle it other than one piece of paper at a time. Should I go in and fish out the most important pieces (bills etc.) or should I do some kind of rapid fire sort? I feel if I keep pulling out the most important pieces it won’t get done, but if I go one at a time there will be unpaid bills!!!

  33. posted by klutzgrrl on

    oh I love Jenna’s question!

    The traveling one is good, too.

    I’m very interested in class and clutter. Has he found a difference between the clutter issues that wealthier clients have as opposed to more working-class people.

  34. Profile photo of

    posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    I second (third?) Nicole’s and Gail’s questions about how he became a professional organiser.

    What advice would he give to a fellow Australian on how to get started in the industry. Is there an Aussie organisation of professional organisers? Does one just help one’s friends / family and get going though word of mouth? How do you work out how much to charge?

  35. posted by Petmom on

    I LOVE your blog. I am by nature a sentimental, collector/clutterer but your matter-of-fact style has helped me remove some of the fear of loss. For the last year I have been slowly but surely parting from things. It feels good!

    But here’s my real problem right now: I feel like I do laundry for 3 people 24 hours a day. I want to try wearing clothes at least twice before washing. But, Peter & Erin, what the heck do I do with the clothes that have been worn only once before we wear them again? Put them back in drawers with clean clothes? Hang them back in the closet with clean clothes? Throw them on a chair like we usually do? Help! We live in a tiny house with two cats, so adding a cabinet isn’t an option!

  36. posted by Susie on

    I am not employed outside the home but I do a lot of volunteer work. I have a hard time organizing the various projects and paperwork. I would love for Peter to suggest how I could best use his product line to keep on top of these responsibilites.

  37. posted by Jess on

    We have a 5 yo boy and a 2 yo girl. We are very fortunate to have lots of great toys and hand me down clothes. I do pretty well with basic decluttering principles, I think, but the house still seems full of toys and drawings and projects and…

    Any hints? It’s hard sometimes to know what to dispose of on their behalf.

  38. posted by Debbie Y (Aust.) on

    I have 4 sons and they seem to accumulate an incredible amount of ‘stuff’ Do you have any foolproof ways of organising/sorting/decluttering the rooms of boys (aged 4 to 16) and making it easy for them to keep them tidy?

  39. posted by Jess on

    Hi to PetMom,

    Clothes that get taken off either are dirty and go in the hamper or are still clean (enough :-) and go back in their drawer or wherever. In theory…

    Otherwise, you do just end up with questionable clothes piles.

  40. posted by stef on

    I would ask him what it is like making people cry by throwing away their stuff. It always happened in his shows, one episode or another. Andyes, as someone above has already highlight, I also don’t like the consumeristic attitude of throwing away valuable stuff instead of finding the time to explore other solutions like selling, donating, upcycling, etc.

  41. posted by Jackie Pettus on

    Questions for Peter:
    Nobody’s perfect. What part of your life do you find most difficult to keep organized? Oh, and what happened to your great looking glasses? Did you get laser surgery?

  42. posted by kathleen on

    pete…can you come over and clean house…help in the toss process…thank you

  43. posted by Elaine on

    I was a Clean Sweep devotee the whole time it was on the air and beyond (2 years’ worth of reruns). Some of the chaotic homes shown there were probably just the tip of the iceberg of the more severe problem now being shown on programs like “Hoarders.” Were there any subjects that were just “too much” for Clean Sweep? Were you able to refer the residents to anyone who could help them?

    By the way, I really prefer YOUR more firm and structured method of dealing with junk, over the hands-off method favored by the counselors on “Hoarders…”

  44. posted by Jen on

    What advice is there for people with hoarding disorders? I watch the A&E Hoarders show and I am horrified that they try to fix everything in two days. Two days! I think they must be putting stuff in storage or something; there is simply no way they can get through all that stuff so quickly, even with someone who didn’t have OCD or a hoarding disorder. Has he worked with people with disorders? How long does that actually take (and what all does that entail) and have the long-term results been successful?

  45. posted by Belinda on

    I am wanting to ask Peter Walsh:

    How do you instill or nurture in your children the ability to part with things they accumulate? Do you set quantities or an amount of space for items to be stored or do you coach them through the decisions one by one?

    My kids’ ages are 12, 10, 7, all boys. It’s easy for me to see that many items are junky toys, but from their perspective they are “treasures”. I am trying not to be the kind of mom who throws things away when they aren’t home and then they are upset because they look for it the next day. But I want to prepare them to be more organized and not be packrats throughout life. THANK YOU VERY MUCH for any input you can give!!

  46. posted by JustGail on

    Any advice for those of us who have read the books, but then get to the actual sorting, freeze up? I know the “does it fit in the life you want?” question, but what if the answer is “yes”? Or is this somewhat like smoking – most of us will try multiple times before we kick it out of our lives?

    I too loved the “Clean Sweep” show, and am curious about how the people are doing now. And were all the rooms of the houses piled that high with stuff, or did most have a couple of “problem” rooms (like I do with my sewing/craft room)? The people in tears – how many were crying because they felt they were being coerced into giving up/surrender/submission, and how many were crying because they were genuinely happy that someone was able to help them change how they thought about their things?

  47. posted by Rina on

    @amybe, I have the same question.

  48. posted by Jolyn@Budgets are the New Black on

    LOVE-LOVE-LOVE Peter Walsh!

    I have always wondered — did someone or some event in his childhood contribute to his passion to helping people de-clutter their lives? I know this is personal, but his passion and COMpassion runs so true that I’ve wondered what has led him to do what he does today. Thank you!

  49. posted by Mary on

    I, too, love Peter Walsh! Wish ‘Clean Sweep’ was still being aired.
    We struggle with clutter. My husband has ADD, has a lot of clutter and is very disorganized, which is affecting our marriage. We are military stationed overseas in Europe. Our home here has NO storage, which compounds matters. Any pointers for us? I am ready to do a CLEAN SWEEP but my husband protests because he’s a saver.
    What do you do when clutter affects a marriage/relationship?

  50. posted by Debbie on

    We lost our daughter 9 years ago, she was 10. We still have most of her clothes, toys, school work, cards we received when she passed… We have been able to part with some of her things, but there are so many emotions when we start going through stuff. Any suggestions, chapters from Peter’s books to read, DVD to watch?

    Looking forward to hearing the interview :)

  51. posted by Mindy on

    I want to know how often Peter gets a little unorganized or messy. Come on! He must have a pile of unopened mail or a pile of dirty clothes on the bedroom floor once in a while!

    I would also like to know how to teach my kids organization skills. They are 5 and 2 and I completely blame them for my unorganized ways (I know its really me and not them).

    Cheers!

  52. posted by Jan (Australia) on

    I am keeping up with the daily paper-trail, but need to find time/space/system to get through the 6 years of baby/toddler haze of ‘stuff’…any suggestions?

  53. posted by Dana on

    I live with a husband and 2 dogs. It is important to me to have a home that is organized and clean. It is NOT important to my husband or dogs. When you walk through our house, you will clearly see who “lives” on what side of each room. We’ve made our spare room into a closet. My side of the closet is organized and tidy, my husbands is a mess, the same in the bedroom and the living room. I’ve asked him a million times to not put his junk on the kitchen counter everyday, yet he does. I’ve purchased baskets and such for that reason and they go unused. The amount of do hair in my house is insane from the dogs. One of the dogs is literally nuts and is constantly destroying things in the house. my husband will not get rid of her. I understand why and that she’s part of the family, but she causes me more stress than joy. If you saw my husbands truck and the garage that he’s taken over, you’d have a heart attack! His truck is SO disgusting, that won’t even get into it to move it out of the driveway. It took me a while to purchase your dvd, It’s all too much, because I felt it pointless. No matter how much I keep things organized, it’s counteracted by my husband and the dogs. I find myself staying late at the office sometimes, because I know what I’ll be walking into when I get home. Peter, I desperately want to have a home that rises up to meet me when I walk through the door. I feel as though as long as I live with my husband and 2 dogs it will never happen. Please help-any suggestions on how to handle my situation?

  54. posted by Cindy on

    First of all in response to Stef’s posting here, I am an avid fan of clean sweep and have probably seen every episode. Throwing things away was reserved for the items that were truly trash and unusable. If you will recall things were ALWAYS sorted as either keep, donate, sell or trash. People cried because they were merely eliminating sentimental items from their space, not throwing them away. Secondly, I would like to ask Peter what led him to become a professional organizer.

  55. posted by Susie on

    My name is susie and what will my best friends name be?

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