Peter Walsh was ahead of his time. He was talking about clutter in the early 2000s before it was cool, and way before Marie Kondo had roll-folded her first organic cotton T shirt. Peter’s best-selling books, TV shows and the attention of none other than Oprah Winfrey propelled him into the public eye way back when we were wearing low-rise jeans with G-strings and listening to our iPod nanos.
It was Peter who created a language around decluttering and organising. He gave words to the exhaustion felt by a culture drowning under decades of conspicuous consumption.
Fast forward to 2021 and Pete is heading up a team including renovation queen Cherie Barber and king of trash and treasure Lucas Callaghan. Together this ragtag bunch organise the spaces and lives of chaotic Australians.
SPACE INVADERS EPISODE 1
Julie and Peter
As the first in the series, episode 1 gives us a taste of what’s to come. Like a warm hug, it ticks all the reality show boxes. It tugs on your heartstrings and put you on the edge of your seat. Moving music, a loving family, the dulcet tones of a Voice Over Man whose face we will never know. And a problem. Wrapped up and solved by the Space Invaders team in the allotted timeframe.
Julie and Peter enter stage left, a pair of empty nesters with hearts of gold. They are living amidst a lifetime of memorabilia and household goods accumulated while rearing their children. Now it’s just the two of them. And a spooky dead-eyed doll in the spare room atop a pile of junk. Oh, and a whopping big pianola that no longer works, but more about that later.
Julie and Peter (let’s call him Clutter Peter to differentiate him from Peter Walsh) are symbolic of a generation who were brought up to value their items. Because back in the day there was no Ikea or Aldi Special Buys, and Kmart only sold daggy things like deodorant and school skivvies. Nice things were expensive and supposed to be kept. The result is full cupboards and full rooms, groaning under the weight of all that stuff. There is no putting things in their cupboards any more. They were full years ago.
Enter stage right Peter Walsh, who rubs his hands with glee. He declares that there is a lot of stuff, which is bit daunting to hear but builds tension. Surely PW has seen it all. But has he ever removed a man’s undies from a living room drawer with a pair of tongs? Well he has now. Peter Walsh quickly deduces that Clutter Peter started storing his clothes in the living room many years ago when he was rising early to slink off to work. Bingo!
At this point the household of stuff is transported to a local Scout Hall, where Scout flags hang symbolically above the trestle tables of belongings. The Scout motto is “Be Prepared” and Julie and Clutter Peter sure as hell have been. A little too prepared in fact.
I must admit as a Professional Organise I am a little jealous. Oh how I would love the resources and budget to get everything categorised by a team offsite where we could look at it objectively. Like customers of a trash and treasure where our very own items are up for grabs. Because in this setting we get a birds eye view of how junky all our stuff really is when it’s outside its natural habitat. With the Endowment Effect weakened, we can be more impartial and realistic. What would we really take home?
Hopefully not the nine racks of clothes and three tables of shoes that Julie is forced to confront. And a toy bike which thankfully, we don’t see again. Nor do we see that horrid doll. Peter Walsh declares that he needs to remove at least 75%. Julie says the classic line “I am going to need a bigger wardrobe”. Um no Julie, because it’s not more storage space we need – it’s more space to live.
But then the truth comes out. A lot of the stuff is a shrine to a former life that burst with life and happiness. Cue the tears. “I miss the kids” Julie says. It is at this point that we are reminded that stuff can represent memories, loved ones and a version of ourselves. There is fear that if we let go of the items we lose all of that. Julie’s dewy-eyed response is poignant.
And Clutter Peter nails it when he says that nobody knows what’s sentimental to people except the people. Any Professional Organiser worth their salt needs to tread lightly here. But PW missed that memo, as in a moment of either whimsey or insanity he proceeds to have Jules play what he calls shoe hockey with her footwear. I was totally there for it.
Shoe hockey aside, clothes are often more personal for women than for men. Clothes can represent who we are. Sex appeal, size, fashion – it all resides in our wardrobes. The way she projects herself to the world is who she is. She likes to have a choice of what to wear depending on her vibe for the day. But as Peter Walsh points out, trawling through two tonnes of clothes every day to find your vibe is not realistic.
Then Peter Walsh drops another truth bomb: Clutter is anything that gets between you and the person you want to be. Say it Pete!
The camera pans around a much emptied scout hall. Julie says she can’t even recognise what’s missing. That’s what we like to hear!
Next we go to trash and treasure expert Lucas Callaghan. His role on Space Invaders is to address a common concern held by the declutter subject – what if my clutter is worth money? His passion for vintage instills trust in his subjects. If Lucas says it’s not worth keeping, we trust him. He pulls out a 24 carat bracelet like a needle from a haystack. He identifies that the pianola is fabulous but not worth fixing. Then he claps his eyes on the sewing machine and it really sings to him. (sorry I couldn’t help it, yes it’s a Singer)
Meanwhile reno queen Cherie Barber does her thing and spruces up the now-empty family home. Be gone, dark blinds. Be gone, tags that hang off the dining room chairs because Jules thought it added to their value (bless). And the Deep Clean team enters with some spray and wipe. I always love to wipe as I go so that part is deeply satisfying.
The show moves onto the discard pile, which is another rewarding scene. Knowing that all of these things are being donated and not added to landfill strikes a cord with Clutter Peter and Julie.
Then the Big Reveal. Like a holiday house they say.
I take comfort in the fact that the Space Invaders team use a similar formula to most of us in the Professional Organising industry. Remove, categorise, declutter and return. Also let’s face it, there is a little of Julie and Clutter Peter in all of us.
That’s a wrap, until next week when the team tackles toy clutter with the Room of Doom. 58 boxes of kids’ clutter and a mum who feels that she has enabled it. Bring it on.