Saturday, April 12, 2008

Meeting Peter Walsh (very briefly)

Peter Walsh speaking at NAPO conference

You may know of Peter Walsh from Clean Sweep, or from Oprah, or from his organizing books. But he's more than a high-profile organizer, a TV personality, and an author - he's also a delightful keynote speaker, and a gracious man in his post-speaking interactions.

Last Thursday, I heard Peter speak at the NAPO conference - and while much of what he said echoes what he's written in his books (as you would expect), a few things especially caught my attention.

- He chided the people taking notes during his speech, asking what the note-takers were going to do with those notes when they got home. "Do you have a file called notes?" [Peter, I took just a few notes - an index card's worth - and I'm using them for this blog entry. After that the card will get thrown in the recycling bin.]

- He talked about an organizer who worked with a client and found that client had 14 staplers. And then the organizer bought a box for those staplers. [Readers, rest assured that most organizers would not take this approach.]

- When people talk about their clutter, they use specific language: The clutter suffocates me, I can't breath in this room. Getting organized brings life back.

- As an organizer, he has two main tools: a helping hand, and a mirror (to reflect back to clients their own insights). I sat there thinking, "Yes, exactly!"

Peter Walsh close-up at NAPO conference

I also had the opportunity to say hello to Peter later and, like any good fan, get my books autographed. [The picture above was one of him and me - he also graciously posed for photos with lots of organizers - but I didn't like the "me" part, so I cropped it out.] As you can see below, Peter was pleased to see I'd written notes in my book.

Peter Walsh's autograph in Jeri Dansky's copy of his book

Related Posts:
Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?
It's All Too Much, by Peter Walsh


SueBK said...

Amen to the note taking! I've been studying for six years, and I've never taken notes of lectures. I know myself too well to kid myself that I'll ever read them again. And besides, what are the chances that my notes from Week 1 are going to make any sense during exam prep 14 weeks later?
Thankfully, as an external student listening in the comfort of my own home I haven't had any glaring lecturers :-) Good thing too, 'cause usually I sew while listening!

I used to take notes during sermons, but again, realised I would never revisit them again, and really wasn't achieving anything worthwhile. Now, I draw pictures, which I later translate into small (8 inch square) quilts.

I've read that we actually think in images, so to create an image of something you want to remember can be far more powerful than a bunch of writing. And it gives me something sew during lectures ;-)

Michele said...

The stapler story was hilarious! I am a note taker though - I find it helps me process what I am hearing and retain in better. It doesn't invalidate his point though, that it is important to do something with the notes.

Jeri Dansky said...

SueBK, I've heard that different sides of our brains use words and pictures, and it can be useful to engage both sides. Caterina Rando talks about having a compelling vision - something you can SEE, even if you aren't drawing it.

Michele, I understand (and I'm sure Peter does, too) that some people process better if they take notes. But I think of the woman sitting next to me, writing voluminous notes, very neatly, in her lined spiral notebook. I'm wondering if she missed some of the impact of the talk, since she couldn't have been watching Peter as she wrote.

And it reminds me of carrying a camera around when sightseeing. Sometimes it makes me pay MORE attention - but sometimes it can be a distraction from just being in the moment and really savoring the experience.

Louise said...

On the other hand, writing it down truly can capture an experience. That's why we keep a blog; otherwise, we'd forget it all!

Our new joking catchphrase is, "We blog to remember and drink to forget!" At least a blog doesn't take up any physical space.

I'm jealous that you met Peter. I'm reading "It's All Too Much" right now and really enjoying it.

Jeri Dansky said...

Louise, I'm glad you're enjoying the book, and not at all surprised.

I think there are a couple differences between blogging and massive note taking.

1. A blog is easily searchable, while paper notes usually are not.

2. When writing a blog, you are reflecting on something and distilling your thoughts.

But I do agree with both you and with Peter. Note taking can be useful - but it can also be useless. It all depends - mostly on what you do with those notes.

As someone who sees lots of people drowning in paper (there's another one of those phrases of the type Peter mentioned), I related to his comments.

The first time I heard Peter talk - at the NAPO San Francisco Bay Area chapter's conference a few years ago - I bought the CD of his talk, and I have gone back and listened to that. (I didn't buy the recording of this recent talk, though.)