living room

Photo: Jonny Valiant

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Esther's closet

Luckily, this is precisely the moment when organization whiz Peter Walsh arrives to do what he does best: deliver a space-clearing smackdown. Walsh is genial, as always, but he's not one to take no for an answer. And today, his tough love is urgently needed. Though there are two ample closets in this 350-square-foot apartment—a New York miracle!—one is so overloaded with Ashley's flotsam (the box a flat-screen TV came in, a glut of shopping bags, a Pan Am stewardess Halloween costume) that Esther can't hang a single shirt. Emptying the second closet would be game-changing: the metal rack eighty-sixed, and the dreaded duffel with a forever home.

But the closet, Walsh makes clear, is not really the point. He turns to the Williams women and poses his standard opening question: "What's our intention today?"

"It's a small apartment," Ashley says. "So we need to get rid of stuff."

Walsh smiles in a way that says, "Try again."

Esther exclaims, "I need a place for my clothes!"

Walsh shakes his head. "It's not about clothes," he says. "What's our intention?"

Ashley finally gets it. "To create a lovely home that's equally ours," she says.

"Good," Walsh says. "This isn't just about space, it's about preserving this"—he points from mom to daughter, indicating their good vibes. "I'm here to make sure you keep that."

"Oh," Ashley says. "This is going to be like therapy."

"Yes," Esther agrees, looking concerned. "Except in front of people." But seconds later, she's back to her default state of full-bore delight, exclaiming, "Peter, you're my new best friend!"

Next: Cleaning out the living room