Does this clutter make my butt look fat?

Yesterday Peter Walsh’s new book, Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?, was released with a home-and-body makeover televised for Oprah.

It has been my delight to meet Peter on a couple of occasions. While he is known for his skill as a “clutter expert” and adorable media star, he is also a passionate and dedicated professional with an advanced degree in educational psychology. He uses his deep insights into human motivations and learning to help his clients address the source of their organizational problems, not just the symptoms.

Professional organizers know that while people call us for help with their “stuff”, there is often a problem beneath the problem, which we must address with the client in order to achieve lasting change. And so it was with the family featured in Thursday’s program.

Peter helped the family of four (including two pre-teen children) to address the difficult emotions – grief, overwhelm, anger, shame – and the disorganized thinking that led to the mess in their homes and lives, and contributed to their collective weight that topped out at over 700 pounds.

Recently I received a call from a client after we had worked in her office, doing an executive launch for the GO System workshop. She said that people had asked her whether she had lost weight, or been on vacation – something about her was different, and they couldn’t quite identify what it was. What it was, we agreed, was the sense of ease and control that she had gained from our work organizing her time, paper and projects. She was able to set priorities and know what to do next. She could finally leave all her work at work. And she was positively affecting the stress levels of those around her.

What are some of the results you’d like to get from improving your organization? I invite you to post your thoughts here.

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3 comments so far

  1. Marilyn Ellis on

    I have also met Peter Walsh and agree that he is a very nice man as well as being very impressive in his knowledge of people and organizing. I am grateful that he has brought professional organizing to the forefront and helped us to be recognized as true professionals.

    However, as you know, when a TV show makes it look like a 2 day process to organize someone and they are often not even part of the process, it creates an unrealistic expectation for the public which drives the REAl PO’s out there crazy! PO’s are usually a one man show. Peter has a huge team of professionals to help him and also, there’s a lot that goes on before the show begins and behind the scenes that the TV viewers don’t see. These so called 2 day TV jobs actually began months ago.

    My other problem with such shows is that the clients haven’t learned any life changing skills. Teaching life skills is what we as PO’s are most proud of. I would like to see these beautifully deculttered and organized TV homes 2 weeks later. I am willing to bet that a lot of the mess has come back. It takes a new mindset and a commitment to stay organized and most importantly, the client has to have been part of the process and feel invested. How many psrents can tell you thst soon after they clean their kids room, its a mess again in no time. It’s the same situation here. No investment, no life skills learned, no change really occurs.

    Lastly, as Professional Organizers, we are very respectful of our clients and their feelings. While we will challenge their thinking about what to keep and what to throw out, etc, it is always their decision and we release the outcome. It’s never about us, but what feels right to the client, however faulty we may think it is. As a matter of fact, I often find that the moment I release the outcome, the client no longer feels the need to keep it. So many times I will say,, OK, well let’s set it aside and come back to it later. Moments later, they pick up the object and put it in the toss pile. If I had “pushed”, I’m sure they would have decided to keep it.

    That’s my problem with TV Organizing Shows but I’m still glad they are showing the beauty and benefits of hiring a professional organizer. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts.

  2. New Leaf News on

    Marilyn, thanks for your comments. You and I agree that for organizing to be useful, it must focus on creating sustainable change. Whether that is one of the things that happens “behind the scenes” on the organizing TV programs is one we can speculate on.

    I especially appreciate your point about not pushing clients. Peter Walsh has been shown taking a more confrontational approach than I would typically employ with a stranger. Again, what relationship they may have developed off-screen is left to our imaginations, for better or worse. Doing violence to the client, for example by insisting that they get rid of something, never helps them make the lasting changes they want. Real professional organizers (as opposed to the TV facsimiles)help the client reach **their** goals, not ours.

  3. Pam McCutcheon on

    I greatly respect Marilyn as a person and a PO, but I have to differ on many of her comments regarding Peter/and organizing shows.

    I run a team, probably much smaller than Peter’s, but I truly believe I am able to impart skills even with a team and the speed in which the job happens. Y

    ou are right about not forcing the client to throw something out, but I (also like Peter) employ a very confrontational style with my clients. If I don’t speak the truth to them, who will? I gain a great deal of credibility and respect by staying in control of the session, and still allowing the client to be the one with the final decision.

    And finally, I think it’s part of the job of a PO to manage our client’s expectations. I think nobody can realistically believe such transformations happen *snap* like that, just like you can’t loose a great deal of weight *snap* like that. We educate our clients on a great many things, and helping them understand from the get-go that it’s a process, not a magic wand (like on TV in 30 min), is part of our job.


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