Office Declutter Tips from Peter Walsh

21/4/2013 |

Peter Walsh, known as ‘Oprah’s Organizer’ and host of the TV show Clean Sweep, spoke in Calgary last night to share de-cluttering and organizing tips.  He has a very direct style and there was no escaping his pointed and challenging questions, which is what makes him so successful in helping people shed their stuff.

He was also very gracious with his time. Peter spent an hour with a small group of Professional Organizers from Calgary’s chapter of Professional Organizers in Canada to share his best tips and practical industry advice. Thanks to Kelly Hipkin and the Calgary POC for making this happen.

One of Peter’s main messages is that clutter, be it paper, e-mail, electronic files, binders, books or whatever builds up in your office, is the result of a lack of systems.   His cure for this is a simple 4 step approach to overcome the clutter in any space.  I took notes and applied his ‘Vision, Function, Zones, Limits’ approach in my office today.

Peter suggests beginning with a Vision of how you want the space to feel.  I envisioned a serene space to inspire creativity.  I want to sit at my desk and feel calm, focused and prepared to tackle challenging work.  Now the tricky part is how to translate that into reality!

Step two is to arrange the room around how it needs to Function to support the Vision. I considered the layout of my office and found it already quite functional.  What is lacking for me is more about the appearance and the mood of the space.  So I created small project plan to paint the walls and have 2 pieces of artwork framed.  This will help me feel more inspired and calm.

If you are doing this exercise in your office you might consider the following related to Function:

  • Is your desk ideally positioned to discourage interruptions from others?
  • Is it designed for private, contemplative work?
  • Do you have too many surface areas attracting clutter?
  • Is the floor clear of boxes or other tripping hazard items?
  • Do you have appropriate storage for paper files, books, binders etc..

Zones – This is where we consider how to use specific areas for different purposes.  Just like in the kindergarten classroom with specific zones for arts & crafts,  dress-up clothes, and a math centre, we need to do the same in the office.  It also made me think I needed a napping zone in here!

In the photo here Peter is using me to demonstrate basic ergonomic principles of a well-planned desk.  He had me act out sitting in my vehicle, starting the car and reaching overt to the glove box.  If we translate that to our desk, Peter says we need to have all our key items within easy reach.

Office declutter and organizing
Photo by Jade Manz – Peter Walsh using me to demo office ergonomic principles

But a word of caution here, don’t make it so easy to grab everything that you never need to get up and move.  Recent studies show that sitting is killing us!  So be sure to put some files or important items far enough out of reach that you need to get out of your chair to access them.

Limits – This is where we need to consider our boundaries.  Mine include:

  • Operating with Zero Inbox
  • When my paper in-tray reaches capacity its time to process and file
  • Use only ONE notebook
  • No Post-it notes
  • Close the door to signal I am focussed on high priority work and not open for interruptions
  • End my day at 4:00 to be home for the kids

Overall it was a pretty easy and very rewarding activity.  It reinforced things I was doing well, but also challenged me to make the space a little more functional and on its way to prettier!  I feel like Peter has given me permission to indulge a little in the Vision and not be so focused on the practical.  My designer Caireen will be excited now as I will need her help!

Peter says:  “What I know for sure is that when you declutter—whether it’s in your home, your head, or your heart—it is astounding what will flow into that space that will enrich you, your life, and your family.”  I know the same holds true for the office because I have seen the evidence countless times in helping clients get organized.  If your space supports your vision it will open up exciting possibilities and opportunities for your business!


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