Closet Talk With Organizing Guru: Peter Walsh

Closet Talk With Organizing Guru: Peter Walsh

Beth Zeigler
May 20, 2010

We had the opportunity to first hear Peter Walsh speak at a NAPO convention 2 years ago and boy was he inspiring, down to earth and most of all, he was able to make the organizing process accessible and relatable. So you can imagine our excitement when we had the chance to speak to him recently about all things organizing--especially when it relates to the bedroom closet.

Apartment Therapy: A lot of folks use Apartment Therapy as a resource and guide when decorating and organizing their homes. Because a majority of Apartment Therapy readers are apartment dwellers, they usually have small closets (and a small budget) but the desire to create a great solution. What are some unconventional or tried and true tips that you use when organizing a client's bite sized closet (after serious editing of the clothes)?

Peter Walsh: I get nervous when we start talking about and giving organizing tips because it's almost never about the stuff. For me, it's about changing an individual's mindset. The space is fixed and the client has to have a clear understanding of that. By giving tips and not addressing the problem, we're reinforcing helplessness. It's important to embrace the knowledge of the space and honor and respect that (just as you do your relationships). If you don't honor and respect the dimensions of your space, it will sour quickly – much like a relationship. In addition, there's an analogy I like to use; think about a washing machine. You throw laundry in your washing machine. You run the machine for 20 minutes. You then turn off the machine and leave it for a week. You end up with a stinky, smelly mess. That's because you haven't finished the cycle. It's the same thing with anything else in your home. If you open something, close it. If you wear something and take it off, put it in the hamper or put it away. If you finish something, replenish it. This is called finishing the cycle and if you get in the habit of doing this with anything that you start to do you'll discover that it's much easier to maintain organization in your home.

Apartment Therapy: Shoe storage seems to be quite the hot topic for Apartment Therapy readers. We've discussed everything from where to store them to repurposing just about every piece of furniture to house them. What's the best shoe storage solution you've seen and applied? And just for our readers--is your home rule, shoes off or on in the house?

Peter Walsh: There's no real rule for shoes on or off in our home but I'm most comfy with wearing shoes in the home (black slate floors are cold on the bare feet). But honestly, it's whatever you feel most comfortable with in your home. As far as storage solutions for the shoes, I really like this online company out of Canada called ShoeStor.com. The boxes ship flat and are great for stacking shoes vertically. The clear acrylic boxes allow you to see what's stored at a glance. But I always try and push people to think vertically and hang high shelving. And you don't have to go out and buy clear boxes to get organized (which can be expensive). You can use the shoe boxes you already have and put a picture of the shoes on the outside of the shoe box. A small step ladder goes a long way in helping to reach items stored high up and lighting will help illuminate a small, dark closet.

Apartment Therapy: As a professional organizer, I realize that a lot of organizing is about accountability and maintenance. The ability for a client to get in there and do the routine work that will keep the systems in place. What are your tips/solutions for keeping folks inspired to keep going and continue doing the work?

Peter Walsh: 1. Think small--that's what getting organized is all about. Start with the bedside table and organize one little area at a time--and commit to keeping that space organized. If you have a series of small victories you will build the confidence to continue getting organized.

2. Establish a regular routine and make it part of your day to get and stay organized.

3. Finish the cycle. Remember that if you get something out, put it away--if you dirty a dish, wash it or put it in the dishwasher. Combine that with committing to small steps, and establishing a routine, and get into your head that you need to "finish the cycle."

*Peter is currently paired up with California Closets on Facebook where contestants can win custom closet solutions and the expert advice and help of Peter (he'll be making a house call).

(Images: 1. California Closets, 2-5 Courtesy of Peter Walsh (Peter's very cool and hip Los Angles home complete with before and after pics).

--Thanks Peter!!

Created with Sketch.