Pharrell Williams HAPPY video image

Freeing Ourselves from the Shackles of Clutter to Work Happy

Ann Vanino  Working HappyFriend and colleague, Ann Vanino of Moving Forward Coaching & Consulting writes in her monthly Working Happy Newsletter, “Clear away the noise and listen to what your heart is saying about your happiness.”

Sometimes we need to clear the clutter—the obstacles to unencumbered living to release us.

As we clear the areas of clutter in our lives, we feel lighter and even happy. We feel FREE!

Every month, I write a reply to Ann. Her newsletters seem to address a challenge I’m having in my life. Is it a coincidence? Or is it proof that we’re following a common path?

Dear Ann,

After the last few days of TOO MUCH STUFF—digital clutter–I keep returning to your subject line: Working Happy.

When I am backlogged with emails, even valued correspondence, I keep asking myself, Brenda, are you working happy, right now?

Recently, the answer’s been, I could do better.

What better time to digest and apply your newsletter nuggets in my life.

Clear the noise of clutter–in my case, an excess of emails, which cause me stress.

My goal is to reduce them further until I only have to deal with a manageable number each day.


I would be disingenuous as a STUFFologist, if I said you can deal with your clutter once and for all. The truth is, it’s an ongoing process.

Any inspiration we find that will keep us on the path will free us from the shackles of clutter and help us work happy.

One person’s message about being happy has been viewed over 612,000,000 times around the world.

Try a little dose of happiness right now, click on the video below or click to visit Pharrell’s Happy video on YouTube.

Hear what’s calling you is a path to Working Happy, Vanino writes.

I’m listening, Ann!

What are you waiting for?

What shackles of clutter must you release in order to work happy?


Unload That Trailer

I would rather have and not need it than need it and not have it. My philosophy for garage items was not serving me well when it came to my utility trailer. As discussed in STUFFology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter , I rarely used it. Worse than not using it was the fact it had turned into a not so mobile storage area for stuff!

On the rare occasion I needed to use the trailer, I first had to follow a multiple step process to get it out of the garage. This entailed moving the items in and around the trailer out onto the driveway so I could maneuver the trailer out of the garage. Then all that stuff in the driveway went back into the garage temporarily while I used the trailer. Finally, I reversed the process to park the trailer in the garage again. Not a very efficient use of time or space. Talk about temporal and physical clutter!

A solution to my clutter conundrum eventually appeared in the form of my nephew, who asked if I’d be interested in selling the trailer. Ultimately I said YES, but not before agonizing over the answer for at least 30 seconds. I was not home when he came to pick up the trailer, so he and my daughter followed my multiple step process to get the trailer out of the garage.2015_Trailer-1

While it was nice not having to do that work, I also received some unexpected gifts. Letting go of the trailer inspired the family to finally sort through the many trailer items to keep, toss, or donate. Clearing out the garage clutter enabled us to find a few family treasures to display in the house. Those items we chose to donate were put to much better use by our favorite charity. What a wonderful feeling!

In addition, my nephew did not need the panels I had made for the trailer, so I turned that material into storage shelving for my garage. Much of my jumbled Christmas decorations now had an easily accessible home. Aaahhh, relief from Christmas clutter constipation.

Unloading the trailer provided me with another unexpected gift, family time. My nephew stayed for dinner the day he picked up the trailer and we had a nice visit. Sorting through the garage items from the trailer as a family provided a nice block of time to catch up with one another on a variety of things that might otherwise have been missed.

Clear the clutter from an area in your life and discover what unexpected gifts are waiting for you.

Grand Piano_Avadian

To Master the Art of Decluttering, Ask Magic Question 2

The art of de-cluttering is similar to any other skill or talent worth developing. If you want to play better piano, you need to practice, Practice, PRACTICE. If you want to be a better basketball player, you need to shoot hoops and practice moves on the court.

Whatever talent you wish to master, you need to respond vividly to the second of two magic questions.

The great masters, whether in music, sport, or any other talent, practice and use visualization to mentally finger the keys or take hoop shots.

Grand Piano_Avadian

We take it a step further.

Visualization is not enough when we have access to five senses.

Master the art of decluttering so that you may join us as STUFFologists.

In over 45 years of clearing the clutter throughout my life, I have found when I clear a physical space; it has a profound effect on how I think. For example, clearing a square foot area of clutter clears my mind and opens me up to unexpected possibilities. It goes deeper than this but I’m limited by two-dimensional expression.

Imagine what we can accomplish room by room in an entire home or office!

Clutter will never totally disappear. It’s part of our natural cycle of life. Just as you eat to digest the nutrients in your food, and then eliminate, there will always be a cycle of clutter in our lives. We accept this as the natural course of life; especially, while we’re focused on other tasks leaving clutter to accumulate.

We can control our clutter by answering the two Magic Questions.    

In Chapter 22 of STUFFology 101, we address the Two Magic Questions.

Eric Riddle wrote about the first Magic Question in Why do I have this?

This article invites you to step up the challenge of answering Magic Question 2: What would the area I am focusing on look, feel, smell, or sound like if I cleared the clutter? 

Your ability to feel the answer deeply will yield lasting success. In other words, visualize the area but go beyond to imagine using your other senses.

  • Do you notice how clean an area smells after you’re finished dusting?
  • Do you remember feeling a more open mind after clearing an area of a stack of papers?
  • Have you noticed after emptying a room of stacks of boxes, that you are able to hear sound more clearly?

Where do you begin?

Click to Start with S.T.U.F.F. Define an area you want to clear of clutter and get started. Focus on how you feel, what you smell, hear, touch, or see.

The more senses you involve, the greater your success.

Over time, like a virtuoso pianist or a star basketball player, you will master the art of decluttering.

And who knows?

In the physical, mental, digital, temporal, and even sensual space created, you may find an unexpected gift. There is no telling what it will be. That’s what makes it unexpected. I have found if I observe closely and keep an open mind, I usually find the answer to a question I’ve been mulling around awhile or a find a solution to a challenge I’ve encountered.

Getting Rid of It  Betsy and Warren Talbot-Review

STUFFologist Book Review – Getting Rid of It

Getting Rid of It: A Step-by-Step Guide for Eliminating the Clutter in Your Life by Betsy Talbot and Warren Talbot (2012) offers a unique look at how to get rid of the physical clutter in your life. The authors are a married couple who decided to sell everything they owned so they could travel the world. Their advice on decluttering comes from what they learned during that process.Getting Rid of It  Betsy and Warren Talbot-Review

One sentence in the introduction sets the tone for the book, “We hate to break it to you, but you have too much stuff.” The statement is not judgmental, rather it is given in the spirit of people who have lived with too much stuff. The Talbots offer many examples that the reader can relate too of how that is the case.

Getting Rid of It then gets into the steps of eliminating the clutter promised in the title. Each chapter covers a specific aspect or area of decluttering, starting with the mental preparation, which explains 5 styles of decluttering. I appreciated the Talbots insight here, “None of the methods are ‘more right’ than the others. In fact, the right one is the one that is easiest for you to do.”

The book then gets into selling your stuff with many suggestions from Craigslist to yard sales. Since I prefer to donate my excess stuff, I enjoyed the ability to jump into another chapter that applied to my situation. The chapter on decluttering your garage/attic/storage building I found particulary helpful (click on my garage story: STUFF Happens!). Other chapters cover kitchen, home office, closets, and bathrooms.

Since our mental clutter can get in the way of decluttering, the Talbots chapter on sentimental value, dealing with the emotional attachment we assign to things, I found quite useful. Their view, “sentimental value is assigned by you…and if you don’t already honor it, it isn’t special.”

The authors tie everything together with final notes on decluttering and share what they learned about themselves as a result of the process. Getting Rid of It is an easy to read book filled with actionable tips from people who have lived the process.

The eBook version of Getting Rid of It provides quick links to further information, as well as links to their other books and services. Depending on your perspective, it may seem like selling or just good marketing. For example, the Talbots link to their online course, Declutter Clinic, at the end of several chapters.

We researched different aspects about clutter while preparing STUFFology101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter, and continue to do so in order to see what else is working for people. Getting Rid of It: The Step-by-Step Guide for Eliminating the Clutter in Your Life is another book I can recommend to help you get your mind out of the clutter.

Decluttering Tax Records Avadian

Using S.T.U.F.F. to DeClutter

While dealing with the STUFF of LIFE, we could use a helping hand with clearing the mental clutter swirling in our minds or the physical stuff that stops us from going after what we really want.

When a helping hand is not an option, an inspirational reminder can lift us over the obstacles created by clutter.

To help you declutter, we use the word STUFF as an apronym.


The only difference between an apronym and an acronym is that in the former, each letter actually spells a word. I admit, I recently learned this, myself.


When you find STUFF getting in the way, it’s because you haven’t Started yet.


Once you decide to START, define an area of clutter, and then do something about it.

Your one action will make it easier to keep going. A little progress is better than no progress and means one less thing you need to add to your growing To Do list for tomorrow.

Decluttering Tax Records AvadianAfter five consecutive Sundays of going through old paperwork for two to three hours each time, my husband and I took a break this past weekend. We’ll  return to reducing the clutter of old tax records, next Sunday.

It’s harder to Start than it is to continue. So get started with even one small step.


When you hit that wall of resistance, you’ll need to TRUST the process and yourself.

As you build trust in the process, you’ll gain self-confidence.

I made progress in spurts over the years. The older I get, the more I realize that I need to devote the time and effort to getting this done.

I trust that the process will take time and it’s a bit easier sharing the misery while going through old tax files and statements with my husband. During five consecutive weekends, we reduced our records by eight inches. That’s a lot of shredded paper!


Progress helps give us strength to UNDERSTAND the nature of how STUFF accumulates. This is why it’s important to go through the process of decluttering in order to learn the important lessons, which will help us prevent clutter from accumulating.

For lasting results, we can’t expect to get rid of years of stuff in one weekend.

We understand that the small steps we have taken each weekend means we’ll be finished decluttering our old tax records before the end of this month. YAAAAY. This encourages us to define another area of clutter in order to continue the process.

To avoid a future of toxic clutter, we understand now the importance of scheduling regular intervals to manage our records. Drinking wine helps make the process easier.  🙂


In our information-overload world, it’s hard to keep FOCUS.  Watching television becomes a major obstacle for many of us. When in a decisive moment, my hubby decided he was ready to let it go, I cancelled our service.

I didn’t realize all the mindless thoughts filling my brain until we stopped watching TV.

WOW, is Geraldo’s ego really THAT big? His almost rivals Trump’s on Celebrity Apprentice! How much gold do we really need on Gold Rush? Look at all that pristine Alaskan wilderness being torn up just for gold dust! Is Hillary going to run? What’s the deal with Kim Kardashian’s butt?

In the scheme of life, what substance do any of these thoughts add to the contributions I choose to make in our world?

Nothing. They prevent me from focusing on what matters and that is to get my life in order. FOCUSED effort on decluttering one area at a time will free my mind of distraction so that I may help you from a place of focused strength, rather than scattered weakness.


Finally, understand that this is an organic process–things come in, they turn into piles, and then they need to go out in order to keep life from becoming toxic.

If you manage your clutter, your progress—cleared space on your desk, space in your file drawers and storage bins, will bring you a feeling of lightness and freedom from not being tied down by too much stuff.


What are you waiting for?

Start decluttering your stuff. Trust in the process. Understand how clutter accumulates. Focus on one area at a time and you will Finish.

For more information, click to read Start (again).


While Eric and I are happy to give you a helping hand…

You must first define YOUR clutter.

Old books  Avadian

What you define as clutter, I may enjoy as a walk back into time—such as reading a book or letters from the late 1800s.

While you think I should delete all my older emails, I may value following-up with an old acquaintance not forgotten. 😉

If you haven’t yet, pick up a copy to read STUFFology 101 first and then send us an email for Today, our virtual communications allow us to help you almost anywhere!




Just Say NO!

Do you feel overwhelmed? Are you experiencing that feeling of too much to do and not enough time to do it in? If you are just too busy, consider a catchphrase from the 1980’s, just say NO!

Say no to things and people that are keeping you from fulfilling your goals. Decide what is important to you each day, and act accordingly inasmuch as you are able to do so. That is, declutter the time wasters from your day.

Granted, we all have family, work, and other obligations that we must attend to each day. But think about items in your day that you might be able to delegate, or not do at all. Often we get so caught up in our daily activities that we are living on autopilot, and not really questioning the need for doing a given task.

Consider the various euphemisms for how we use time:
Work expands to fill the time allowed.
Time flies when you are having fun.
There are only 24 hours in a day.
Time marches on.

These imply that we cannot control our time. While it is true that all of us have the same 168 hours each week, we can control how at least some of that time is utilized.

How can you avoid temporal clutter?

In STUFFology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter we talk about temporal clutter this way, “When you feel your time is limited, look at your daily activities. Sometimes we fill our lives with activities and feel overwhelmed by how busy we are.”

Just say NO to some of those activities.

The key is to work on those things that are the most important to you, while eliminating those that are not. This may sound simplistic. But it is the simple and obvious that often must be re-learned when we are in the autopilot mode of daily living. Stop and ask yourself, “Do I really need to do this?” The answer may surprise you.

Time is a precious resource. Think hard about how you can declutter time wasters from your day. Make it a daily practice to just say NO to things and people that are keeping you from fulfilling your goals.