Cut Through the Clutter

What unexpected gifts will unveil themselves to you when you cut through the clutter?

In STUFFology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter, we discuss the five categories of clutter, which we call cluttergories. They are physical, mental, digital, temporal and sensual. Clutter has an ebb and flow to it, just like life. How we define our clutter may change.

Recently my Dad has been making improvements to his home, discovering areas of clutter in the process. One hall closet in particular had several shoe boxes full of old pictures (remember the print kind?) that were stored at random. My daughter Maggie volunteered to sort them out and organize them for my Dad so the whole family could enjoy them.

We took all the boxes home for easier sorting, and to help cut through the clutter at my Dad’s house! My first unexpected gift came shortly thereafter. As Maggie went through each box of pictures she would stop to ask who or what was in a given photo. It is amazing what memories (my unexpected gift) came into focus as I answered her questions. Of course there were questions that neither I nor my wife could answer about certain photos. That’s not a problem because a sticky note to mark that photo will do the trick short term. Maybe my Dad can provide the answers.  Unexpected-Gifts_Cut-Through-the-Clutter_05272015 - Copy

His pictures are now neatly organized in new photo boxes. As he looks through them in the future he will enjoy a pleasant stroll down memory lane, an unexpected gift worth giving.

Maggie was inspired to review and sort the family photos at our house as a result of this project. Fortunately my wife keeps them in pretty good order already. This is when I received my second unexpected gift. The photos triggered pleasant memories for sure, but also motivated me to take action.

Looking at my skinnier self from years ago, coupled with some good-natured teasing from my daughter, motivated me to lose weight. Getting back in shape is something I have been working at half-heartedly for most of this year, with limited success. Pictures tell a tale that is difficult to ignore.

The physical clutter of printed pictures has motivated me to get in better physical shape. What cluttergories are impacting your life?  Cut through that clutter to unveil an unexpected gift that is unique to you.


Tug of war with Magic Question 1

“I’m cheap,” said my friend as she pulled the empty bottle of shampoo out of the trash. “I can get another two shampoos out of this.”

“No you’re not,” I replied. “You’re ecologically minded. You’re green!” I added.

She smiled, unbelievingly.

Raised by Depression-era parents, she also saved everything. You never know when you’ll need it.

From time to time, I also have a tug-of-war when letting go.

Do I save something to use in another way or do I let it go to keep clutter at bay?

For years, I’ve saved a little jar of night cream. I let go of a smaller travel-sized version with no regrets, but I’ve held onto this larger-sized one. What if I might like to use it for something else? Unlike my friend, I do try to be ecologically minded.

The tug-of-war begins when I consider The Station Fire of 2009.

Would this be one of the items I’d take with me when we evacuate?


In a similar vein, Magic Question 1 is: Will I take time to acquire this item again if I lost it in a disaster?


As I write this, I’m struggling to reach the rest of the lotion from the bottom of a large-sized pump bottle. I could let the remaining lotion pour into this little jar! Oh, but I need to clean it, first.

This begs the question: When is enough ENOUGH?

Do the resources spent—water, soap, and my time—outweigh any benefit to saving it?


My friend gave me an idea, which I shared with my husband. Today, we add we add a little water to a near-empty bottle of shampoo and manage a few extra uses. That’s not being cheap, that’s being GREEN!

Little jar of cream tossed in trashI tossed the jar of night cream.

Instead, I’ll simply tilt the bottle with a piece of foil covering the top until I use the last of the lotion.

It may seem incidental to focus on one little jar of cream, but as you know if you finished reading STUFFology 101, mass attracts mass. Even one sheet of paper can soon grow into an overwhelming pile.

So, I ask you: What’s the “little jar” you need to let go in your life?

Leave a reply below or click on any of these social media buttons and share your answer.

STUFFology 101 Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter book by Brenda Avadian MA Eric Riddle

Review Mirror

Do you have a book inside you? Most people would say yes.

Writing a book has been a great experience for me. Putting yourself out there for everyone to see is a worthwhile endeavor. But receiving feedback from people can be a challenge. Few of us enjoy criticism, even if it for our own good.

During the editing process, feedback can be brutal. But it gives the author time to incorporate the recommendations of the editor. In the end the book is better from this process.
Book reviews are different because the process is over, the book is complete. But the feedback is still important. For me a review is like looking in the rearview mirror when driving a car. It is an opportunity to see where I have been.

We all have our own views and perceptions of clutter and life. Reading what someone has to say about STUFFology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter is both exciting and scary. I enjoy learning how people benefited from our work, which is exciting. After all, we wrote the book to help people get their minds out of the clutter! My ego wants people to love the book, but it is impossible to please everyone, which is a little scary for a first time author like me.

Negative feedback is also important because it challenges me to see things through the reader’s eyes. That person’s perception of what we wrote in the book may not be what we intended to say or even actually said. Perception is reality to each of us. That too reminds me of a rearview mirror because it is behind me, I can’t change what the reviewer wrote.

Earlier I asked if you have a book in you. If you do, then write it. It is a great experience.

I have another question for you. Do you have a review in you? Reviews are important to authors, both for the feedback to improve and to help sell books. If you have read STUFFology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter, then please write a review.

If you haven’t read the book, then please BUY it and write a review. It is available from many retailers.

Here are a few of them:


Barnes & Noble





As you can see, the book is available in multiple formats to suit your preferred reading method.

Do you have a review in you? I hope you say yes. Thank you.

Alice in Wonderland Small door

Down the Alice-in-Wonderland Rabbit Hole of Cluttergories

When one part of our lives grows cluttered, so do other parts of our lives. Hence, the term we’ve coined to describe various areas of clutter – cluttergories.

When we think of clutter, it often deals with physical clutter—the stuff that makes us fear judgment by others.

What kind of person do we become when we hold onto these feelings?

Do our fears affect our relationships with others?

Beyond the obvious—don’t invite anybody over to see our clutter—what signals are we sending by our behavior?

Are we at risk of falling down the Alice-in-Wonderland rabbit hole of cluttergories?

Alice in Wonderland Rabbit

Let’s turn the tables for a moment.

We’ve all experienced relationships when we get to know someone initially and feel comfortable. Somewhere along the line, we start feeling the person is holding back. It’s not the shy or introverted behavior; rather, the kind of withholding that creates an inexplicable void in a relationship.

Some people tend to dismiss such observations as thinking too much. The reality is, we humans are far more observant and can sense anomalies in our relationships—things that don’t add up—well before we learn the truth.

Now, let’s look at ourselves.

I don’t intend to address the psychology of human behavior. Instead, I’m trying to raise awareness that such voids in our relationships may serve as clues to the struggles we have with the different cluttergories in our lives.

Whether it starts with physical clutter—what we observe easily—and then radiates outward to the burden of mental clutter. Or it starts in our mind with secrets we hold onto so tightly, we spiral into a life filled with sensual clutter; such as, too much entertainment, alcohol, or food.

Cluttergories play a greater role in our lives than many of us are willing to admit. Unless we do something about them, we’ll continue bearing the burden for a lifetime.

Isn’t it time, we crawl out of the rabbit hole and let the light create awareness?


Who has time to read?

Who has time to read? You do, despite the temporal clutter in your life. I like to read for pleasure, for personal development, and so forth. With all the demands on our time, it is a good idea to have a plan for your reading.

When preparing STUFFology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter, I read and subscribed to many newsletters and articles about clutter, some of which we reference in the Additional Resources section of the book. I continue to read and watch videos from other experts; you never know what will trigger a fresh idea.

One such expert is Maria Gracia from Get Organized Now! She has wonderful stuff on her website to help you control your clutter. In one of the videos on her YouTube channel she explains how to organize your reading. As someone who loves to read and is still building my personal library, I really appreciated her perspective.

Remember too that you can always read from your smartphone or tablet through one of the popular reading apps like Kindle or Nook.

You do have time to read when you follow Maria’s advice.

Pick up that book or magazine and enjoy a good read today!

Clutter free Kitchen table - Avadian - Web

Nature abhors a vacuum and other clutter postulates

About a decade ago, I came upon “Nature abhors a vacuum” in a book on feng shui. It left a lasting impression upon me. If we resist this force of nature, we may gain control over the cycle of clutter in order to enjoy the unexpected gifts in life.

At this time, I needed to get rid of a number of classic-tailored suits. I no longer wore them because after years of living in a dry climate — the High Desert of Southern California — the finely woven wool fibers had shrunk significantly; yet, I couldn’t let them go.

Isn’t it funny how when we don’t even need something, we insist on holding on?

That changed when a fellow caregiver and friend needed donations for the Children’s Hospital fundraiser. Knowing these clothes were to be purchased by women who would recognize the finer quality details, I donated a half-dozen suits and other clothes.

The void in my closet provided relief. I no longer had the toxic reminders of what was not in my future — a body to fit in those clothes.

And while the force of nature pressured me to fill that void, I resisted. I bought two new outfits. I needed something to wear at speaking engagements!

Today, I consciously resist the urge to replace something I give away or discard. I try to live without it a while to see if I really need to replace it.

This past weekend, one of our living room tabletop lamps stopped working. My husband took it apart to try to fix it. We agreed it wasn’t worth his time and tossed it. We considered buying a new one. Then, to fill the void with light, we experimented by moving two floor lamps. Amazingly, the new arrangement resulted in a much better effect with one less lamp!

What is it that compels us to give into nature’s force and fill a newly created void? And why?

It turns out that Aristotle made this statement. Ahh, now that explains why we accumulate clutter! It’s a physics postulate! And who can resist nature’s law?

We can, if we try hard enough.

After all, with enough power, we defy the laws of gravity and enjoy air travel around the world.

We CAN defy the laws of physics.

When we resist the urge to fill a void whether it’s physical, mental, or even temporal, we free ourselves to receive the unexpected gifts in life.

Unexpected gifts

Clutter free Kitchen table - AvadianYou may recall reading the part in STUFFology 101 about my husband’s and my commitment to keep our kitchen table clear after we grew tired of having to clear a space to eat. Instead, we put our food on trays and ate while watching TV.

This is a photo taken on May 4, 2015 of our clutter-free table. And we took advantage of two unexpected gifts. First, we focus on what we’re eating, which means we eat less. Instead of permitting TV to be a distraction, we take our time to enjoy meals we prepare together from scratch. Second, we’re talking more, just as we did when we became a couple almost 38 years ago.

You may also recall the article that we cancelled our television subscription earlier this year, in order to have more time.

This means less temporal clutter. We have more time to catch up with the things that piled up while our attention was diverted to the TV. And there’s no more mindless blur of daily entertainment that overloaded us with mental clutter.

As we consciously strive to defy Aristotle’s (clutter) postulate, we’ll have more time and energy to enjoy life’s unexpected gifts. One such gift presented itself a couple months ago after I took steps to reduce the hours and days I worked each week.U.S. News & World Report - Brenda Avadian

For almost twenty years, I worked 14-16 hours a day for 6-7 days a week. Last year, I began to take stock of my time and energy and reduced my schedule to 12-14-hour days. After facing some difficult decisions, I let go of several volunteer activities and reduced my work schedule even more.

This year, I’m working 10-12 hour days 6 days a week. This reduction left me with enough time and energy to accept an unexpected gift–an invitation to write for U.S. News & World Report.

This opportunity helps me to reach a wider audience with my message for caregivers. I would not have been able to accept this gift had I not cleared the temporal clutter in my life. Plus, I’m getting out more often to hike in nature.

What unexpected gifts will you invite into your life after resisting the urge to fill a void with stuff?