STUFFology 101 REVIEW – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  Marie KondoMarie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up takes a Samurai’s approach to ridding ourselves of physical clutter.

Written before the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake in Japan her book was released just in time to fill an urgent need of thousands of displaced families in Japan who needed to decide what to keep and what to let go.

Since then it has topped the bestseller list.

Rarely one to join the bandwagon, something drew me to this little hardcover English translation of Kondo’s book. As I read the pages, one incessant question wouldn’t go away: Who is this woman?

Who is Marie Kondo?

Very little has been published beyond the same biographical information rehashed in the media including the major media. Usually, one can find enough information online to satiate one’s curiosity; but Kondo is holding onto her privacy like Ft. Knox.

If you were going to undertake a drastic life shift by ridding yourself of mementos and even family pics, you’d want to be assured that the person advising you has a lifetime of knowledge grounded in research. What are her credentials? The best I could find is a kindergartener who loved to tidy up and a quarter century later, at age thirty, married, without children, advises us to rid ourselves of anything that doesn’t “spark joy.”

What if Kondo has children and later discovers a need to hold onto her children’s treasures? What will be her advice to those parents who hopped on the KonMari bandwagon to rid themselves of these possessions?

As a reader and STUFFologist, I am raising the red flag. Buyer beware of following a young lady who felt alone as a child and felt comforted by breathing life into her possessions. Today, due to timing and the forces of marketing (remember, the pet rock craze?), she’s a 2-million copy best-selling author without clear credentials.

What Works

Still, I do agree with a number of her ideas.

  1. Put things back where they belong.
  2. Take care of your things and they’ll take care of you.
  3. Fold and/or roll socks without folding over and stretching out the cuffs.
  4. Fold underwear compactly in threes.
  5. Fold and store each item vertically like books on a bookshelf, and not stacked atop one another where you’ll forget what’s at the bottom.

I do not agree with her self-admitted impatience. Although, that’s just me. I tend to be patient in our world hungry for instant fixes.

I do like organizing my clothes in my drawers and Kondo’s technique appeals to me. However, I do not agree with her technique of folding T-shirts. I’m rather meticulous in my approach and as many times as I tried, I could not find the wrinkle-free sweet spot for my cotton shirts made in the U.S.A., Vietnam, China, Nicaragua, or Jordan. Admittedly, I don’t have any made in Japan, while Kondo does.

I did apply her “Does this spark joy?” criteria to one third of the books on one of my bookshelves. IT WORKED. Yet, those that didn’t spark joy remain in a pile on the floor in front of the bookshelf with a space remaining where they once more. Now, I must take care not to stub my toe on the stack on the floor below.

Our Need for Quick Fixes

We’re a society who wants quick fixes. We want success, now. We lack patience. Kondo advises completing our decluttering in one major effort until something clicks and you’ll never have to do it again.

I’m not sure Kondo’s quick-fix click is a lifetime fix. Kondo admits to being impatient—needing it done right now. But just as eating fast food frequently results in poor health and crash diets are following by even greater weight gain, crash decluttering may result in long-term regrets. In fact, it may create an even greater problem, such as hoarding for fear of future loss.

What we need is patience and mindful accumulating of the things we need. In these ways, we develop life-changing habits for the long haul. I’m under the impression Kondo’s obsession with tidiness is due to her desire to shop and bring things into her space to feel good. Now, a walk in nature. Ahhh that feels good.



STUFFology 101 Review – Frugal Simplicity: 99 Ways to Declutter, Save Money & Simplify Your Life

Frugal Simplicity: 99 Ways to Declutter, Save Money & Simplify Your Life offers more than just tips on how to deal with the clutter in your life. Author Sally Thomas talks about multiple issues that may be preventing you from living your life simply. A look at the Table of Contents shows these include mindset, decluttering & living with less, frugality & money, and getting more out of life.

Her 99 ways are broken down by sections in the book. Each section incorporates tasks for the reader to complete before moving forward. The section on mindset offers a quick overview of why it (your own mindset) is important to the decluttering process.

The second section formally begins the 99 ways to simplify with “declutter and live with less”. I appreciated these tips because they are easy to understand and follow. Some are common sense, but she took the time to assemble them in an organized fashion. These tips deal with different areas of the house that tend to accumulate clutter as well as her thoughts about the mechanics of decluttering in general. Frugal Simplicity Book Cover

In the third section the author highlights 42 different ways to save money, which fit well with the broad topic of the book, simplicity. The advice in this section reminded me of things our parents may have done and took for granted; her list provides a gentle reminder for the next generation.

The fourth section concludes her 99 ways to simplify under the heading of “simplify & get more out of life”. I liked this section because the tips made me think a little deeper about how I prioritize my day. Simple advice is often clear on paper but not necessarily easy to follow because of our hectic lives. The book also contains a bonus section, but I won’t spoil the surprise!

In STUFFology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter we focus on fun and flexible approaches to get your mind out of what you define as clutter. Frugal Simplicity: 99 Ways to Declutter, Save Money & Simplify Your Life is a bit broader in scope, but still a quick read full of actionable advice. If you want to declutter and simplify your life it is well worth your time.

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 page for each.

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.

Dr. Nancy Irwin

Now this is a STUFFology 101 REVIEW!

I have to admit, of the hundreds of reviews my nine books have received, none compares to THIS ONE.

Dr. Nancy B. Irwin, PsyD, C.Ht., Therapist/Hypnotherapist/Speaker/Author recently married. After her honeymoon, she sent me this email:

Dr. Nancy IrwinFrom: Nancy Irwin
Sent: Thursday, August 14, 2014 3:41 PM
To: Brenda Avadian
Subject: Loved it!

Hey Brenda:

I want you to know that I read your book on my honeymoon, for heaven’s sake! My husband did too. We really enjoyed it. Wanted something light, yet educational and inspirational, and your book was it!

Really well written, and we both learned a great deal. Esp helpful re: technology clutter. Boy, you hit it there!

Dr. Nancy Irwin-hypnotherapy-los-angelesBest,
Nancy B. Irwin, PsyD, C.Ht.
Therapist/Clinical Hypnotist/Speaker/Author


See her review, now featured on our STUFFology 101 book page.

Clutter Busting by Brooks Palmer

STUFFologist Reviews – Clutter Busting

Clutter Busting by Brooks PalmerClutter Busting: Letting Go of What’s Holding You Back by Brooks Palmer (2009) remains one of those down-to-earth titles written by one who’s served in the trenches of physical and emotional clutter. In fact, it remains one of the more psychologically insightful works on clutter.

Palmer writes (paraphrased):

  • 75% of what’s in our homes is clutter.
  • we should keep only those items, which make us happy and comfortable.
  • to de-clutter we need to remove clutter from where we currently stored it to the middle of the room where we can look at it with a fresh perspective.

A person with an impressive library of books may appear to have a problem with clutter. Yet, I believe that each person decides what is clutter. Although, I prefer less, I disagree with the “75% is clutter” figure that’s been repeated in the media over the years. Unlike hoarders – the result of a disorder causing significant discomfort when attempting to let go of items including trash – clutter is more personal.

As for getting rid of items that drag us down or make us feel uncomfortable; what lessons will we miss by discarding these items based on an emotion we feel during one fleeting moment in time? If, on the other hand, we take time to reflect, we will learn to avoid getting into similar situations in the future.

Palmer has a gift for getting at clients’ psychological struggles with clutter. He hones right in and helps his clients (mostly women) decide to take a new road without all those extra clothes that don’t fit, collections of books, self-development tapes, pictures, and more.

In fact, the way he writes about his successes with clients is both hopeful and unnerving. As my co-author, Eric Riddle and I wrote in STUFFology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter, we hold onto some things without knowing why. What if Palmer persuaded us in that moment to let go and it turns out to be a mistake? As I read examples of Palmer’s interventions, I kept wondering: What are his credentials? Does he have a degree in clinical psychology?

People can be successful without a degree; we’ve seen countless examples in business. Yet, it is my belief that higher learning enables people to better see the gray areas within bi-polar decision-making, often the standard in our industry. I’m tired of being forced to “use it or get rid of it.” In fact, Palmer writes of something similar when he admits that he stopped taking photos after realizing that doing so removed him from experiencing the moment. While I agree, we need to balance preservation of a special moment with experience. After all, I’ve spent years working with families who live with dementia and Alzheimer’s. That photo or unused object we should have tossed helps loved ones recall a precious life moment their brains can no longer conceptualize.

I prefer a more custom approach in dealing with clients. We hold on for our own reasons and one person’s clutter is another’s sanctuary. This is why I help clients define their own areas of clutter then work with them for long-term results.

Yet, among the books I’ve read in the de-clutter / organizing space, I feel drawn to Palmer’s message. He offers plenty of nuggets to digest, especially when I recall needing to evacuate because a massive fire threatened our home. I stood in a room frozen with indecision.

Some of Palmer’s exercises throughout Clutter Busting and the questions he suggests we ask ourselves will better help us to understand our relationship with clutter.

If I had to choose a book (besides STUFFology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter), I’d choose Brooks Palmer’s Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What’s Holding You Back.