Brownies for breakfast?

If you are trying to eat healthier, it is a good idea to remove junk food from your living space. Likewise if you are trying to live clutter free, you remove items from areas in the home that tend to be a dumping ground for your stuff (your clutter zones).

Still, clutter tends to accumulate if we are not focused on keeping it under control. If this happens to you, take a hard look at your stuff and ask yourself the Two Magic Questions.


MAGIC QUESTION #1: If I lost this item in a disaster, would I take the time to replace it?

MAGIC QUESTION #2: What would the area you’re focusing on look, feel, smell, or sound like if you cleared out the clutter?


Your answers should help you get rid of some of that stuff. Remember that only you can define your own clutter.

It (clutter/stuff) can be insidious, not unlike that junk food around the house when we try to eat healthier. When on a diet you would not eat brownies for breakfast.

Continuing the diet analogy, too much stuff can feel like excessive weight on our bodies and minds (physical and mental clutter). Since I tend to be a packrat, clutter removal is an ongoing process for me. The Two Magic Questions are a handy tool to keep my clutter under control.

If you are feeling the weight of too much clutter, ask yourself the Two Magic Questions today.

Professor Dumpster - Dr. Jeff Wilson

Letting go and Letting IN the World with Professor Dumpster

Letting go and Letting IN the World–an interview with Professor Dumpster.

Jeff Wilson piqued my interest when I came upon an article in The Atlantic, last year.

Who moves from a 3,000-square foot home to a 500-square foot apartment, and then down to a 36-square foot dumpster?

What’s surprising? He’s an environmental science professor at Huston-Tillotson University (HTU) AND a dean!

I had to meet him when I flew into Austin for a board meeting earlier this month.

What’s his story?

He’s the test variable in his own research, exploring the boundaries of conventional living options.

Can one live in a space of 36-square feet?
The first half of the year, he endured sparse amenities, sponge baths at a sink in one of the university’s bathrooms, and sub-freezing nights. The second half of the year, he added some creature comforts with air conditioning and a futon bed.

As a professor, he inspires by example. His students remain curious about sustainability in their own lives. He welcomes teachers to spend a night through his Dumpster Project “Home” School residency program. (Scroll to “Education Programs” in the PDF that opens.) His DumpterProject.org even offers educational opportunities for 5th and 7th grade science—helping young people understand sustainability of water, food, and energy.

Professor Dumpster - Dr. Jeff Wilson

What unfolded was quite unexpected.

We met for breakfast on a rainy morning at a small neighborhood restaurant two miles east of the Capitol.

Donning a professorial corduroy sport coat over a plaid shirt with bowtie, and heavy black-framed glasses topped with a Stetson will catch anyone’s attention!  That adventurous mix caught mine.

He is letting go.

He picked up the tab for breakfast. I objected since I had invited him to meet with me. He explained that’s what the money is for—to let it go. Although, he’s not giving away money, he is testing many of the conventions of day-to-day living we often take for granted.

He just sold his car the evening before we met, choosing to get around town on an electric bicycle or on foot.

After breakfast, we walked to the University to see the Dumpster. I looked inside and took a few pictures. (It had just been painted.) We went to his office to continue our discussion.

What is he trying to prove?

He’s asked this question, frequently. Anytime, anyone endeavors to do something that defies convention, amateur psychologists gather to decode the pioneer’s psyche by delving into the past.

Was it something from his childhood?

Professor Dumpster (Jeff Wilson) in thought I was curious about his childhood. He recalls trying to arrange Legos in ways that reflect principles of feng shui. He remembers most horizontal surfaces filled with stuff. In STUFFology 101, there’s a reference to tilting horizontal surfaces to prevent the accumulation of POOP (Piles of Overwhelming Paperwork).

A past relationship?

He was married once, but his ex-wife’s and his relationship went their separate ways, amicably.

Past profession?

After a stint with Ernst & Young, he quit, because in the real world, it seems no matter how stellar one’s results, there’s always a leader wants things done a certain way.

Sometimes, people do things for reasons we’re unable to understand.

He’s not trying to change our behavior.

“I don’t want anyone to do anything.” He doesn’t expect the world’s population to live in dumpsters. Although, a dumpster would be desirable shelter for billions who live in poverty.

He’s not even trying to prove a point.

“I’m just doing my own thing.” He’s stretching the boundaries of how we choose to live while exploring sustainable options. He’s conducting “radical personal experiments that have the potential to make a ripple in society.” He’s “inspired by people who sell their home, buy an RV, and travel. It’s a freeing feeling.”

Why a Dumpster?

“The dumpster is a metaphor for the dichotomy between our sacred space (where we live) and the waste we throw away. The crap we don’t want disappears when we toss it in a dumpster.” Bringing together such disparate elements “serves as a symbol and a surprise.”

What’s next?

His goal is to explore “how to build a beautiful home for the price of a car payment in the middle of a city.”

His research is inspiring. His experiments are lessons in letting go while letting in the world of adventure through sustainable living. He inspires a growing community of us with greater awareness of the cumulative global impact of our feature-rich lifestyles.

Professor Dumpster w STUFFology 101By letting go of things we often think are necessary, he has created a life of freedom, flexibility, and fun. For example, he and his girlfriend/writer, Clara Bensen, completed several trips to different countries around the world without any baggage. Read more on his Wikipedia page.

I hope he doesn’t let go of the gift of STUFFology 101: Get Your Mind out of the Clutter, I was happy to sign for him.

For an overview of Professor Dumpster’s work, click to view this six-minute video.


Have Fun With S.T.U.F.F.

Knowing and doing are NOT the same thing. We know we should take time to relax, but often don’t. We know we should spend more time with family and friends, but let work and other obligations get in the way. Clutter is not always black and white.

Step back, take a deep breath, and have fun with S.T.U.F.F.

Our own cluttergories overlap one another, but we can work on more than one at a time. This is where the S.T.U.F.F. acronym comes in handy. START by defining what clutter is for you. For me it has been mental and temporal clutter. Like many of you, I have too much stuff going on! The family and I needed a break, so we went to the California Poppy Festival over the weekend.

I learned some things about clutter at this event, especially in the petting zoo area of the children’s section. The camels reminded me to get over the hump of my mental clutter. I had to TRUST in the process and myself to de-clutter. STUFF-Camel

There was a rainforest animal section too, that contained all kinds of exotic critters. The giant spider made me think about how clutter builds up slowly, just like a web. UNDERSTAND that clutter builds up over time and its removal is a process not an event.

Enjoy the moment and be present. Kids seem to do this naturally. Follow their example and FOCUS on where you are and what you are doing.

And last, but not least, FINISH the area of clutter you are working on. My day of fun with the family reduced the mental and temporal clutter holding me back.

S.T.U.F.F. is a tool you can use to process whatever cluttergories are impacting your life. Try it today!

The Mental Codes by Dr Michael Duckett

STUFFology 101 REVIEW – The secret is in The Mental Codes

In this STUFFology 101 REVIEW, an older and little known work by Dr. Duckett entitled, The Mental Codes, contains the missing ingredient to our success.

Remember the book, The Secret?

Remember the book, The Mental Codes?

Remember The Strangest Secret?

The Mental Codes by Dr Michael DuckettThey all sound familiar, right?

Depending on your age, you may only have vague familiarity with Earl Nightingale’s, The Strangest Secret.

Almost everyone’s heard of Australian-born Rhonda Byrne’s blockbuster, The Secret. It was a marketing fait accompli!

And what about Dr. Duckett’s, The Mental Codes?

If it sounds familiar, it may be because of its similarity to Dan Brown’s bestselling, Da Vinci Code. Yet, it contains the missing ingredient of The Secret.

I will illustrate with an example.

Since my husband and I gave up TV this year, we find we have more energy—physically and mentally. We are being more proactive by reading, hiking, and catching up with those things that were left behind while we passively soaked up satellite-delivered entertainment.

Each night, before I go to bed, I’ve noticed that my brain is not stuffed with sensual clutter—thoughts and images spinning out of control from hours of TV viewing. I feel more focused and more at peace.

The Mental Codes

In 2008, when I received a signed copy of The Mental Codes, I set it aside to read later. For seven years, it leaned against one of the boxes in my home office. I picked it up multiple times, ready to donate it to the local library. It was adding to my physical clutter, which created mental clutter.  Each time I saw it, I wondered: Shall I make time to read it or let it go? It’s still there!

Ultimately, I resisted the popular advice from personal organizing experts, “If it doesn’t make you happy or you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it.”

The Missing Link

Although, The Mental Codes never became a blockbuster, it contained an important ingredient missing from the other blockbusters. Self-help gurus didn’t create a wellspring of expectation; instead, The Mental Codes quietly shared the missing link.

You’re familiar by now with the saying: When the pupil is ready, the teacher will come. I must have been ready, because I finally picked up the book, earlier this year, and began reading it. It all came together for me in about an hour.


It’s all about the strength of our EMOTION!

If I recall, Byrne’s The Secret offered one quote near the beginning that addressed our emotions when attracting what we want. She didn’t emphasize it though, and I missed it. I can’t even find it now among the twenty morsels I had marked with sticky tabs when I read it in 2007.

The intensity with which we feel an emotion while trying to form new habit will determine our success.

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

As we know, the world didn’t self-actualize after The Secret. Although Rhonda Byrne’s life was forever changed, after hundreds of millions in sales. Meanwhile, the rest of us, still depend on self-help titles to get us through life’s tough spots.

The Mental Codes, published after The Secret, devotes two chapters to the importance of emotions in getting what we want in life. Duckett highlights this missing yet important ingredient throughout the entire first and last chapters of his book. Duckett’s book truly deserves more attention than the six reviews it received on Amazon.

Unexpected Gift

It’s amazing when you take one step, like letting go of TV, the kind of space it opens in life. It was an unexpected gift within the chapters of a seven-year old book. To think, I almost tossed this missing link, convinced it was clutter.

Today, I focus on the level of emotions I feel as I try to create new habits in my life.

I continue to be in awe of how diverse forces work together to paint a clearer path during our life’s journey. I feel the benefit of a feng shui related practice–to clear cluttered energy–be willing to let go in order to invite in.

I was ready to let go. Yet, I became that pupil who was ready, and that’s when it happened. I opened the book, found the missing link, and if there was any doubt, a day later, I came across this article, The simple secrets to happiness. About midway, it addresses the important role our emotions play in manifesting new habits.

For more information about these titles, visit the Amazon.com page for each.


What’s on Your Mind?

What’s on your mind?

Have you ever been asked this question and wondered, “Where do I start?”

We lead busy lives with endless items added daily at the workplace, at home, and elsewhere. So much input leads to mental clutter. Mental clutter includes thoughts, worries, emotions, and regrets that distract and drain us.

I view my own mental clutter as a weed filled garden. Just like weeds choke out healthy plants in the garden, so too does mental clutter choke out healthy thoughts in the mind. Weeds-of-mental-clutter-2

That feeling of fatigue, even when you get enough sleep, may well be mental clutter, weeds that must be pulled from your mental garden.

What do you do to clear the mental clutter?

A few suggestions to consider:

  • Take a walk outdoors
  • Call a friend you haven’t spoken with in awhile
  • Read a book (preferably a novel or something light)
  • Watch a comedy movie
  • Listen to classical music

Just as what you define as clutter is unique to you, so too is your response to the mental clutter in your life. Please share something that helps you clear the mental clutter in the comments section below.

Weeds often reappear in the garden despite our best efforts at keeping them away. Mental clutter does the same thing. Keep pulling the weeds.

Pomegranates budding - Avadian photo

Is it Time for Spring Cleaning?

Spring is a season of renewal. We plant the seeds we’ll sow in fall.Corn fields in Wisconsin-Avadian-photo

It’s time to take a serious look around and do some spring-cleaning in the areas we define as clutter. Clear out the weeds so the fruits of summer can grow to their full potential.

What are some of the cluttergories in your life?

  • Physical – accumulated possessions that take up space.
  • Mental – mind clutter, such as worries and even too many thoughts.
  • Digital – excessive files to wade through in order to get to the good stuff on our computers, tablets, smartphones, and portable media.
  • Temporal – resulting in “I-was-busy-all-day, but-what-did-I-get-done?” syndrome.
  • Sensual – overloading our senses until sounds, smells, tastes, and more not pleasurable, any longer.

Remember, one of the key tenets of STUFFology 101 is that YOU define the clutter in your life.

Lately, my husband, David, and I have been spending about two to three hours each Sunday, reducing our tax files from 2006 to 1986. We got a bit behind in clearing our clutter.

Because I have a need to reflect, we’ve spent more time decluttering. David would simply toss the old files. Instead, I persuaded him to join me in reflecting on our past as we review our income and expense files of our various endeavors during a twenty-year period of our thirty-seven plus years, together.

Given that I work with family and professional caregivers for people with dementia, I am acutely aware and feel fortunate that we can recall what we did some twenty years ago when we retrieve a receipt from 1995.

More importantly, I am gaining a greater sense of urgency in not putting things off–whether it is as small as keeping up with the filing or as big as prioritizing my dreams instead of investing so much time and energy helping others build theirs. Besides, I’m older. If I don’t follow my dreams now, there might not be enough time left to dream!  🙂

Fawn comes down from the hills to graze during The Station Fire - photo by AvadianNo one would notice our progress, yet we feel better about getting rid of these records. Besides, we learned firsthand during the 2009 Station Fire of what really matters.

The ripples of clearing the clutter have moved to my desktop and worktable as well. Plus, we’re even making time to clear the excess brush on our property in preparation for fire season.

Again, it’s important to remember; only YOU can decide what is the clutter in your life. I’m not talking about hoarding, which is a different issue.

Part IV of STUFFology 101 Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter offers clear guidelines to help you clear the cluttergories in your life.

After you have taken the steps to clear your clutter, be available to help others clear areas they define as the clutter, too. You wouldn’t want someone else defining what’s clutter in your life, would you? We’ve made it easy with the Bonus STUFFologist’s Guide included in your copy of STUFFology 101.


Happy Birthday STUFFology 101!

Our book baby turns one year old today, and that’s no April fool’s joke. STUFFology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter was born on April 1st, 2014 to proud parents Brenda Avadian and Eric Riddle.  STUFFology-101-stroller-launch

Amazingly, she knew how to read as a print book when she was born. It seems like only yesterday that we were sharing the news with friends and family (see “It’s a Girl!”). They grow up so fast!

She has learned so much through the year. My book spouse and I were so proud when she learned how to use the computer in September as an eBook.

She even started talking in December as an audio book. As parents, we want her to continue to grow and mature. We are hoping she learns a foreign language soon.

Our book baby wants to share her fun and flexible approaches to declutter. Click on the links for each format above to see how she can help you get your mind out of the clutter!