Clock face

What HAPPENED? Too much Time STUFF!

Clock facePHEW! What happened to 2016?

We’re 11/12 of the way through the year and if you’re saying this, it could be due to too much temporal clutter!

Even I, a STUFFologist – an expert in decluttering the cluttergories of our lives – have lots going on and feel involved in too many things!

Sometimes, we go through periods like these and all we can do is keep up… barely! A family emergency?  We have to fit it in as we set aside other important tasks. Fortunately, there are only 24-hours in a day! Otherwise, we’d be busy, Busy, BUSY for Many MORE hours!

You may recall one of the cluttergories defined along the left side of the page is:

Temporal CluttergoriesTemporal clutter is when we fill our days with so many activities we can’t focus on any one. People who say they’re too busy are often suffering from temporal clutter.

We fill the open slots in our days with seemingly interesting diversions.

I’ve been reviewing author Dorothea Brande’s two-million copy selling 1936 book entitled, Wake Up and Live where she writes about successful people heading toward goals while those who fail head away from goals. In other words, failures engage in self-sabotage. Brande employs an elegant example in the first chapter. (Bracketed “you” replaces use of male gender.)

Suppose [you] had an appointment a hundred miles north of [your] home, and that if [you] kept it [you] would be sure of having health, much happiness, fair prosperity, for the rest of [your] life. [You have] just time enough to get there, just enough gas in [your] car. [You] drive out, but decide that it would be more fun to go twenty-five miles south before starting out in earnest.

Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Yet, how many of us take a break or worse, explore a diversionary route when faced with eventual success? If toward the end of this year, you’re finding achievement of your goals elusive, take an honest look at how you’re spending your time. Brande expands on how we justify our decision to fail.

When failure comes about through devoting precious hours to time-killing pursuits, we can all see … by looking more closely, by discovering that this work gets us nowhere, that it both tires us and leaves us unsatisfied, that we see here again energy is being devoted to the pursuit of failure.

This year, I took steps to focus more on the things that will help me to reach my goals.

Fewer and Better Quality Speaking Engagements
I’m surprised to find fewer potential clients who are prepared to partner in co-creating a stellar program. When I find that rare person who is willing to work to produce an optimal program, I accept the invitation and together we create a memorable and rewarding program.

Reduced board service
For those who know me, I bring everything to the table and more. Surprisingly, there are too many board members (unfortunately) who want/need the prestige but are not prepared to fulfill their fiduciary duties. An example is corporate board membership where board members serve in 9 or more other boards receiving fees of $245,000 or more for each board. Seriously? If your board meets quarterly and you’re a member of 10 boards, you’re needing to prepare for 40 – 80 days of meetings in a year let alone trying to fulfill your primary job as a CEO. Not gonna happen… effectively.

Let go of the temporal clutter in your life. 

Take these final weeks of the year to focus your efforts toward your goal(s).

So often we justify interim failure by saying we’ll start anew in the New Year. Why program yourself toward failure? Work toward success! Dorothea Brande believes success takes just as much energy as failing. I’ve found I feel much better when I test out strategies as the year comes to a close. By the time the New Year arrives, I’m on a roll having already taken steps toward success. I feel much more confident about tweaking my approach as I go along. Try it. NOW! Don’t you deserve to feel better than you do, right now?

Harald Krueger Parody of STUFFology 101 Cluttergories

Throw it Out or Keep it All?

Harald Krueger Parody of STUFFology 101 CluttergoriesRetired psychiatrist and fellow Toastmaster, Harald Krueger leaves us on tenterhooks with his parody of STUFFology 101.

He says, “Throw it out. Throw it all out!”

But does he really mean it?

See for yourself as he rips through each of the cluttergories – physical, mental, digital, temporal, and sensual.

It’s just too funny to resist. He even breaks into song!

This video of Harald’s presentation was taken with a smartphone during a Thursday evening High Desert Toastmasters club meeting at Robertson’s Honda in Palmdale.

I hope he feels better now that he got this off his chest.

I think he wants to keep it all!

We’ll definitely find out when we invite him to speak at our next community event.

Thank YOU, Harald!

If the video does not play below, click on this link:


Most THINGS don’t Matter Unexpected Gifts Do

Life Lesson: Most THINGS don’t Matter Unexpected Gifts Do

Oftentimes, we are caught up with THINGS.

We collect things. We clean, organize, and display them. We feel a loss when things go missing.

Yet, if we let go of some of these things or even better, don’t bring them into our homes, we’ll receive unexpected gifts that may surprise us.

Brenda Avadian in Mexico Drinking la Leche fresca de CocoWhile on a trip to Mexico, my husband and I lived high on the hog, we also lived along the middle of the hog, and under the hog. Okay, I’m stretching the cliché a little.

We returned home appreciating that we had a shelter even though it was a fixer-upper. We questioned if we should proceed with remodeling.

Even now, in our information-rich world, the more things we acquire, we run the risk of creating physical clutter, which soon grows into toxic mental clutter that takes time away from what matters in our lives.

Ever ask a person a question and not get a straight answer?

C’mon, what is it? Yes or No?

It’s hard to decide with a clutter-filled mind.

Instead, when we declutter the various cluttergories in our lives, we feel lighter, more focused, and are more decisive.

At around 7 minutes in the video, you’re invited to do an exercise. Click on link for an overview of the STUFFology 101 Cluttergories. Print a copy and then write your notes (from the video) on the reverse.

And the hog?

We finally ate the hog, but carnitas are not part of this story except for an unexpected gift.

I crossed one item off my Bucket List—a goal I’d had since I read stories in the 5th or 6th grade recounting family gatherings in Mexico.

What was it?

Watch the end of the video for my unexpected gift.

Yours will be different, and that’s what makes these gifts unexpected.


If the embedded video does not display below, click on



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!


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.

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.

Processing POOP - our Tax Papers - Avadian

Getting rid of POOP flows through other Cluttergories

Processing POOP - our Tax Papers - AvadianIt’s amazing what happens when we take steps to de-clutter.

With tax season coming, we’ve run out of space to file our paperwork.

My husband had removed older records from the filing cabinet, which made it so much easier to file current paperwork.

Now, the IRS requires us to save the last seven years of records. For some of us entrepreneurs, who file Schedule C’s, that means lots of documentation.

What to do?

Store the papers in plastic containers or bankers boxes.

But there’s no more room!

Okay, just buy another container.

Wait, that means MORE STUFF!

The time has come for us to do something about all this POOP—Piles of Overwhelming Paperwork.

Our once-every-three-year approach has resulted in a backlog of POOP.

Surprisingly, hubby agreed to sit down with me for two hours every Sunday, until we clear up more space. Hubby usually doesn’t agree to such things; especially, when I want to take the time to reflect on our past, together. You may remember from the book, he’s a “toss-it-all” kinda guy!

Yet, it’s amazing what two people can accomplish by setting aside a little time each weekend, until we get the job done. The photo at the top of this article is one-week’s carefully digested POOP that’s now ready for the shredder. Imagine how much space we’re creating in our storage container after several weeks of this!

What has happened so far has been unexpected.

I feel the relief in other areas of my life—in those other cluttergories that encroach on our daily functioning, without our knowing (or admitting) it.

I feel lighter.  I’m losing a few winter pounds, too. More importantly, I feel lighter, mentally (mental clutter).

Maybe that lightheadedness is a warning of something else!

Seriously, I feel less burdened by those nagging thoughts, like: When will I have time and the energy to get to it?

We’re gettin’ it done!

And I have the energy to move on.Walk in the Angeles National Forest -Brenda Avadian

I’ve made the time to take more walks in nature.

Next, is the bankers box full of stock and options trades from years past. I actually, look forward to revisiting these records. Although, trading in today’s market is vastly different (more speculative); I expect a goldmine of hindsight within those records—learnings that I may apply, today.

Maybe an article or two… or even a book! 😉

Tax season is here. What will you do differently?

To help you without adding to your paperwork, LISTEN to an audio edition of STUFFology 101.  🙂

For a related article click on: We need to declutter and archive statements more often.



When Do Lawn Decorations Become Clutter?

I enjoy lawn decorations as part of our Christmas décor. My daughters have helped me with set up and tear down of the various decorations over the years. Traditionally, we start setting them up the day after Thanksgiving. Then we start to remove them the day, or at least the weekend, after New Year’s.

2015 did not follow the traditional program. Family activities kept us from taking the decorations down as usual. I watched with growing anxiety as each neighbor removed their decorations. One by one the front yards on our street returned to normal. I could feel the uncomfortable stares at my front yard as another day passed. The unspoken commentary “Why his decorations still up? Christmas is over, and so is New Year’s. What’s his problem?”

Not being able to take down my decorations was becoming more stressful daily. Finally, the second weekend of January arrived. But my helper was sick; my youngest daughter was unable to help me with the decorations! Her older sisters no longer live at home and my wife does not get involved with the outside décor. Just as I walked outside to begin my task alone, it started to rain. Really?

The weather slowed me down and prevented me from neatly storing each item as it was removed from the yard. Instead I rapidly piled items into the garage every which way.


Who wants to spend all day in the rain? I was sufficiently damp to go inside and warm up once the yard was cleared.

Hours later, my task complete, I was tempted to go around the neighborhood knocking on doors and say, “See that, my Christmas decorations are down! Ha!” But I did not do so and neighborhood peace prevailed.

Satisfied, I relaxed in the house for the evening. My smug satisfaction was shattered when my wife asked, “Why are the Christmas lights on, I thought you took the outside decorations down today?” Clearly the rain disrupted my normally thorough decoration removal process!

Still, I learned a few things about Christmas clutter.

The lawn decorations became clutter for me once the New Year’s weekend passed. Done is better than perfect, I finished removing the lawn decorations and got them put away neatly in the garage. The house lights will come down this weekend when my daughter is healthy again and can hold the ladder for me. Allow for flexibility when you start a project and don’t beat yourself up when it does not go as planned.

Armenian-Rose-Parade-Float-Brenda-Avadian - sm

Photos, PHOTOS Everywhere!

Photos, PHOTOS, when do they become Digital Clutter?

Armenian-Rose-Parade-Float-Brenda-Avadian - sm

Brenda Avadian standing in front of the first-ever Armenian float in the 126th Rose Parade

In STUFFology 101, we write about digital clutter the kind that harmlessly takes up residence on your smartphone, tablet, or hard or external drive. On the cluttergories page, we define digital clutter as anything in virtual form—such as photos stored in our computers, a backlog of emails, or too many social media accounts.

When do digital files turn into clutter?

  • When they’re on your mind in the wee hours of the morning and late at night.
  • When you realize after saving all this STUFF you can’t find what you need when you need it.
  • When you don’t even remember having some of this stuff!
  • When you decide you need to do something about them.
  • When you keep saying, I’ll download this stuff off my smartphone onto my computer so I can finally write about it.

WOW, sounds a lot like mental clutter!

AHA! There’s no better reason right now, to download these digital photos off my smartphone. This article is scheduled to be published the following day and I want to add some of my post-parade float photos. Also, I like to organize my smartphone photos in labeled folders on my computer.

#20150102_Happy-Hippo-Rose-Parade-Float - sm

Happy Hippo Rose Parade Float
Isn’t he cuuute?

Lucky you! You’re in for a treat.

Remember when I wrote the article about the (click on) Rose Parade Float Decorating – No Clutter? Well, the reality is you won’t care about the Rose Parade Floats in July. But you may still want to read about digital clutter and enjoy a few of the post-parade float photos I took. Right?  Please say, YES.

I came upon the following. Although, my initial source at The CHIVE didn’t cite its source of information, this is entirely plausible.

Every two minutes, we take as many photos
as all of humanity took during the 1800s.
In 2014 alone, humanity will take 880 billion photos.
That’s 123 photos for every single human on earth.

#20150102_America-Eagle-Flag-Rose-Parade-Float - sm As with any kind of procrastinating, which also leads to clutter, the actual deed took less time than I thought the task would require. Five minutes was all the time needed to download 38 photos and 3 videos; plus, another five minutes to download a few other photos and file them. I was on a roll.

The next morning, I opened my Rose Parade Floats file and began choosing which ones I wanted to share with you. While working on this, I also labeled the photos while choosing my top picks. #20150102_Flower-Rose-Parade-Float - sm There are too many to share; so, I further limited my initial selection to four, which include the completely decorated flower the float decorators were working on in my earlier post.

The deed is done.

No longer do I concern myself with downloading my float photos. I’ve labeled them so I may use them later as appropriate. And I feel better about eliminating this one cause of mental clutter.

Before I close, I want you to know that next week, the second Monday of the year, is National Clean off your Desk Day. Getting rid of the potential for digital clutter, gives me a head start on my virtual mobile desk. I’ve cleared part of the gallery of photos on my smartphone, filed them in appropriate folders on my computer, and now feel the momentum to keep going… while the clutter waits and WAITS.

How about you? What kinds of clutter are you dealing with?