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Organization and De-Cluttering Tips by Peter Walsh

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O March 2012 Cover

Peter Walsh, O, The Oprah Magazine's organizational expert, knows a thing or two about how to stay on top of the paper trail at home. His recent piece 'What Kind of Clutterer Are You?' in the March issue of O identifies five types of clutterers to help a person combat their issues with mess and fix their rooms. We were intrigued to learn more, which he discussed in detail at a recent launch party hosted by O Magazine and Chase Blueprint. We scored de-cluttering tips by Peter Walsh.

At the event, Peter discussed informative tips on how to strike a balance in life by de-cluttering your head, your home and your money. We were really interested in how to maintain balance with kids bringing home so much paperwork from school like their art, projects and forms as well as how to start good organization habits in the home. Here are a few suggestions by Peter Walsh that may help.


What do I do with all the schoolwork and art projects? I recently worked with a parent who had kept every single piece of schoolwork his twin boys had ever done '?? and they were now in college! Avoiding this situation starts early in your child's life. You have to create good organizing habits with your child so that they can make decisions about what to keep and what can go. It's not just about their art or schoolwork, it's about how they (and you) approach organization. It's all about setting reasonable limits -- not just for your child but also for yourself. Remember, you can't and shouldn't, keep everything (not that some don't try)!

What to keep and what to let go.The first question is who are you keeping the schoolwork for, you, or your child? If it's for your children, get them involved in the decision making. If it's for you, still get them involved as chances are you think everything is genius quality and should be saved! Kids are usually far more practical. Either way, designate a drawer, a folio or a bin for the work you are going to keep. The size of this container sets the limit for how much you can save. Once the drawer is full, a piece has to be discarded before anything new can be added. One in, one out, it's a simple but effective strategy.

This technique will help you and your children see the value in what is kept. It will help you teach your children to be more serious about the value of what they have and how important it is. You can't keep everything, but what you do keep will be important and valuable mementos that you and they will treasure.

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But my child is another Picasso!There's no such thing as artist's block in pre-school, or kindergarten, or even elementary school for that matter. Say your child paints at least one masterpiece a day. At three hundred works in a year your child is more prolific than Picasso. I'm not heartless, but we both know you can't keep every single scribble. How do you pick and choose? And how do you break it to your child that a portion of the work you oohed and aahed over should be thrown away?

The answer is to make it a ceremony, not a purge. File flat art in a portfolio. At the end of each semester, tell your child it's time to pick the best of the best. Go through the art and pick one piece to frame and three or four to keep for posterity. The rest can be photographed and discarded. Use frames that allow you to easily swap in a new masterpiece from your prodigy to replace an old one. This strategy enables you to keep art pieces that your child values and loves. It also gives your child practice in discerning what to keep and what to let go, a valuable lesson for life and a real stumbling block for many people who struggle with clutter.

Einstein would be proud of that science project! Three-dimensional pieces are trickier. What to do with the mock volcanoes and amorphous clay paperweights? Again, let them linger for a while, until the thrill has worn off, then decide whether something is for display or whether it was "a learning experience." If you or your child really wants to hold onto the piece, make sure that it is displayed well in a way that protects it from dust and damage. If a piece is not honored and respected then it has no place in your home, whether it's a science project or a family heirloom.

Organize and honor your child's art and schoolwork.  By organizing your children's space, placing frames on the walls in which artwork can be easily displayed and changed out, putting up shelves to display collections, and helping set up a "lending library" for their stories, they learn the pleasure of setting limits and holding onto only the best things that fit in the space you've created together. In this way your child will feel proud of the work on the walls and have more space to create. Having premiere pieces framed or on display literally brings them into the light and makes them a joy to experience.

photo credit: Philip Friedman/O, The Oprah Magazine

Peter Walsh is the organizational expert featured on the hit OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network show 'Extreme Clutter'. He talks across the country and internationally about the importance of de-cluttering and organization as key to living a happier, less stressed life. Peter is the author of six books on decluttering and organizing including the New York Times bestseller It's All Too Much: An Easy Guide to Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff which is now also available on DVD or as an App for iPhones and iPads.

Visit Peter's website at to read more about his work and approach to organization and follow him on

Momtrends was not paid for this post.

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