STUFFology 101 copies of Korean edition

WOWEEEE the Korean Edition of STUFFology 101

STUFFology 101 Box of books from Korea I had the pleasure of picking up a gift that arrived from South Korea, yesterday – a box of the Korean edition of STUFFology 101 – Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter.

As an author of nine books, I’ve had the pleasure of having books translated in German, Spanish, Korean, and Slovenian. It’s always a treat to see how publishers of different countries handle the design and translation.

STUFFology 101 copies of Korean editionThis is an exciting time for us. Imagine writing a book that people from around the world express interest in. I feel a little giddy with excitement imagining how my co-author, Eric must feel. This is his first published book, which became a top-selling title and it is now available in the Korean language. WOWEEEE!

What’s next?

There’s no telling what’s around the corner. As we wrote in the Unexpected Gifts chapter of STUFFology 101, if you keep working toward your goal, you never know which unexpected gift will come your way.

That’s what happened with this edition. We exhibited copies of STUFFology 101 at the Frankfurt Book Fair through the Independent Book Publishers Association. Although more publishers and agents expressed interest in this title than my previous books, the world’s economy remains tenuous and no deal was forthcoming. However, unknown to us, Cheombooks, a publisher in South Korea was searching for books on Amazon when they discovered STUFFology 101And here we are!

STUFFology 101 a peek inside the Korean editionAll we can do is focus on helping you and who knows what’s next.

How about a little serendipity? I opened the book and paged through until I found a nice image of the inside pages I could share. What did I choose? Chapter 17 – Focus on Doing One Thing.

In our demanding, multi-tasking, and fragmented world, the best road to success with S.T.U.F.F. is to Start, Trust, Understand, and FOCUS in order to Finish.

Will you JOIN us?


It’s Our Third Anniversary and We Finally Sign a Post-Nup

For nearly three years, Eric and I had been working together without nuptials on S.T.U.F.F.

“What,” you ask? “You’re not even married.”

Weeeaaaall, in a way we are.

You see when you commit to work with someone, it becomes like a marriage.

Three years ago, we made the commitment to collaborate on writing a book about decluttering. We felt like book spouses, marrying our ideas together during weekends as our vision for the book took shape. And just like the newlywed phase passes, we too had differences. Despite our disagreements, we remained committed to seeing the birth of our baby (book).STUFFology 101 Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter book  Avadian + Riddle

STUFFology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter was conceived early July 2012. She took nearly two years to be born. Like most parents, we felt PROUD and JOY at her birth on April 1, 2014.

Yes, that was April Fool’s Day. We believe it’s best not to take ourselves too seriously. We also felt relief: No more labor pains! Ask Eric about indexing.

We knew she would be a FUN child so we launched her into the world with a FUN party.

She’s 14 months old now and remains a FUN child.

Since then, STUFFology 101  was released as an eBook, and later seeing her influence spread (worldwide English Audio rights sold) and recently Korean Language rights, we’re happy to see her make a path in this big world of ours where many ideas are shared.

Eric Riddle and Brenda Avadian sign their post nup agreementTo ensure we progress according to our initial vision and that should something happen to either or both of us that our “heirs and assigns” will be confident in carrying out our wishes, we retained a Los Angeles-based Intellectual Property attorney to draft our post-nup.

To think, how many partners can agree to a pre-nup much less a post-nup. But this ability to see eye-to-eye is how Eric and I started working together in the first place. We agree on most things–the important ones being integrity and a stable with both-feet-on-the-ground approach to our business and marketing decisions.

We also believe in keeping lines of communication as open as humanly possible. Some days (weeks?) it’s harder than others, but we’ve managed to reach our third anniversary.

When I reflect on it, it’s almost like following our apronym S.T.U.F.F. Instead of letting go, we let in and developed our ideas until we created a book.

We simply got Started.

We Trusted the process.

We Understood how each step builds upon the next.

Sometimes we struggled, but we maintained Focus on each area.

And eventually, we Finished.


Which type are YOU when managing emails?

I disagree with Joe Pinsker’s article in the Atlantic that “Those who can comfortably ignore unread notifications, and those who feel the need to take action immediately.”

A Third Type of Person

There’s a third kind of person when it comes to email messages and I find myself among them. We are those who check our email inboxes throughout the day to respond to important, urgent, and sometimes quick emails. We are those who consciously decide what to subscribe to and what to let go. We are those who may have multiple email addresses. We are those who access our emails when we want to and, in some cases, turn off the notification sounds to avoid annoying Pavlovian bells.

Judging from the comments to his article, others agree.

In 1995, I had one email account with AOL. I received about 35 a day and replied within the hour and in some cases, within 24 hours. Even then, colleagues lamented the fact that they couldn’t respond quickly due to a deluge of 35 emails a week!

Ahh, it’s all relative, isn’t it?

Over the years, my email input has grown and leveled off at about 100+ emails daily. I respond within the day or 24 hours—sometimes, just to acknowledge receipt and that I’ll respond by a given date. (This assures senders that their email was received and the ball is now in my court.) I’ll hit “Reply” then add a note in my calendar or in brackets at the start of the subject line of the draft reply email  such as [PROMISED Reply by #/##/####] before saving it to my Drafts folder.

Emails and Volleyball

I view email correspondence like a game of volleyball. When the ball’s in your court, you need to return it.

Sure, there are people who insist on making others play volleyball by themselves. I’ve heard my husband say, “If you really need to reach me and I haven’t replied to your email, call me.” Others place the burden on the sender with an automated reply informing them of the hundreds of emails they receive and if they don’t reply, to resend them the email. Again, this places the burden on the sender to run to the other side of the net and serve, to keep the ball/email in play.

Organize Emails

To organize the emails I receive daily, I use nine email addresses: six for work with two different websites ( and and my publishing company; two personal email addresses; and a Google account I use twice a month.

We have our own methods to organize our emails, just as we organize our sock drawers. However, a little inspiration and new ways of organizing can go a long way. While some use all the bells and whistles (tagging, filtering, flagging, categorizing), I go so far as to create subfolders in Outlook. I find these especially useful when I’m corresponding with a client on a project. Once the assignment is finished, I delete the subfolder.

Lost Subfolders

Brenda Avadian's Outlook folder - Digital declutterEarlier this month, after work-related travel subsided, I directed time and energy to two old subfolders with a combined 200 emails. They included Los Angeles County emails, environmental studies, initiatives, reports, and related correspondence from my work last year as a town council president. I was shocked to discover they were gone. GONE!

I back up every week, but I just noticed this, which means I’ve since backed up Outlook with the lost subfolders. Besides, in one week I can get through 1,000 emails. Restoring last week’s backup would mean redoing a LOT of work. Just a thought for you to consider when relying on backups.

A visit to the online forums indicated that Outlook subfolders do have a tendency to disappear. This is the first time this has happened to me without my being aware of the cause.

At a crossroads and in a quandary

Is this one of those unexpected gifts?

On the one hand, I’ve saved myself a lot of time, because these data-intense emails will no longer take my time.

On the other, what about the lost records?

Those who can DELETE

Some people, you may be one of them, easily delete backlogs of emails when they grow too large. One publisher/broker wrote to tell me his Outlook froze after having tens of thousands of emails. YIKES!

One of our readers wrote that she deleted 4,000 emails since 2010. I’ve learned in most cases, when people tell me this, it’s usually because they haven’t deleted those sales announcements, newsletters, and other non-essential emails that fill their inboxes daily.

What I’m writing about are those emails that require follow-up during the course of business, day to day.

In STUFFology 101, I shared my goal to reduce all top-level emails to less than five carried over to the next day. I’ll achieve this goal this year. It takes disciplined effort during days, evenings (without TV), and even some weekends to dive deep. Not letting the ball drop and surprising people (even after a year) are worth it to me, an old-fashioned person who believes in following up. After losing touch with some, they’ve ended up becoming clients.

Reducing emails brings me clarity of mind, increased focus, and a feeling of lightness that comes with reducing digital clutter in order to have less mental clutter.


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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.


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.


Stuff Happens!

A man’s home is his castle, unless his wife says otherwise.

Does stuff matter? Consider the question in the context of relationships like marriage. What is important to you may not be important to your spouse, and vice versa. Rather than argue, it is sometimes easier to let clutter encroach on a space you consider your own. My garage is such a space.

If a man’s home isn’t his castle, at least his garage is.


My Castle

Is that true? You decide after viewing my garage story (apologies for the video quality).

We share more stories of how stuff matters in Part II of STUFFology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter. Does stuff matter to you? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.