De-cluttering

I just moved from a comfy, customized, closed-door office to a cubicle.

The past week has been all about adaptability and flexibility. Although I do miss my sweet office (and my dear door!), I’m actively choosing to focus on the many good aspects. Our whole team has more space to spread out, there are beautiful walking trails nearby, I’m exploring new dining options and my total commute time has shortened by a half hour – that’s a reclaiming of two and half hours of personal time each week!

De-cluttering played a crucial role in making this a more successful transition.

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The trompe l’oeil effect of this garden path opens up my small space.

Moving from a large, uncluttered space with lots of file cabinets and storage to a cubicle in a wider, open floor plan revealed all the unnecessary STUFF I had packed away over the past 10 years. There were outdated files, photographs, “old fashioned” Day Planners and calendars (why was I keeping these?), greeting cards, a “past due” pharmacy of over-the-counter pain relievers, old makeup, deodorant, nail polish, receipts and $1.27 worth of pennies.

I re-homed a couple of pretty posters and potted plants with some friends, temporarily placed my beloved meditation chair in storage and chose one framed picture of my old view (replete with a rainbow!) for my new cubicle shelf.

Our attachment to stuff can be paralyzing. I was 90% ruthless. Yes, a few unnecessary things followed me, but they are tucked away in the bottom file drawer. I have a lot more desktop space, which feels good.

De-cluttering has always helped me feel better.

Before this move, the last “de-clutterpalooza” I engaged in was right before my surgery. I had done the “Remove twenty items every day for one week” approach and it felt really good energetically. Since I was going to be in my bedroom a lot post-surgery, I focused on de-cluttering the tops and drawers of my bureaus, rearranged wall-hangings and furniture and made my closet a “walk-in” again – instead of a “stumble-over-something” one.

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My cubicle shelf with my old view of Ira Allen Chapel. Good times.

For me, having more openness helps in a space. I grew up in a house with cathedral ceilings and an open living room floor plan, so the preference for airiness is hard-wired. I currently live in a colonial with lower ceilings, so there’s less room to play with and it can get crowded pretty fast.

Remember these five words to reinvigorate the energy of any space:

Re-gift. Recycle. Remove. Release. REPEAT.

I still miss my office, though.

What helped: Clearing out and rearranging my bedroom and closet space made it into a sanctuary.

What I wish I knew at the time: If I followed the twenty minute suggestion below, I could have cleared out even more with the time I had off for healing.

Some things you can try right now:

  • Twenty things per day for a week. Try getting rid of twenty items a day. It sounds like a lot, but you will be amazed how the average Joe and Jill can do this easily. If you’re having any trouble finding items, visit your basement or garage.
  • Twenty minutes at a time. This is a doable chunk of time. It’s more than fifteen and less than thirty. If you want to go longer you can, commit to at least twenty. I promise that you will make a noticeable dent in your stuff!
  • Give something away. Is there something you love, but has been sitting in the basement or garage? See if a friend or relative might use it. If not, bring it to the local Goodwill or hospital thrift shop.
  • Look into Feng Shui. “The art of placement” is a time-honored approach to de-cluttering, streamlining and enhancing your living space. Vermonters, we have a wonderful local resource – Lydia Solini. Learn more about how Lydia can help you reclaim your space.

What has worked well for you when it’s come time to let go of a beloved item?

Next Up: Eating & Exercise

Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at www.FullyPresentWithYou.com.

24 Things I Learned From My Cats

I’ve often been mistaken solely as a cat lady.

Although I am a feline enthusiast, it’s important to note that my first love was our childhood dog, a gentle Newfoundland named Cabot.

I have cherished and learned from ALL of my animal friends. Dear Cabot was the first. Then came seven cats: three “dog-in-a-cat suit” types and four of the more classic feline personalities.

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I’ve been a fan for a long time now – check out the date!

Since I’ve spent more of my timeline with cats, I have amassed more first-hand observational data of them. My early teachings from sweet Cabot will come in a future post.

We’re all conscious beings. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to have my consciousness interacting with the consciousness of another species on a daily basis for most of my life.

We have learned to communicate, have and show affection for one another. They have been healing sources of comfort and laughter during many difficult times. They’ve filled my heart with love and they’ve broken my heart open with each passing, teaching me how to grieve.

I’ve had the blessing of witnessing the seemingly infinite and entertaining energy of kitten hood, the strong and confident middle years, the slowed down senior day-to-day experience, the providing of palliative cat care and the honor of being with them during the final, painful goodbye.

Listed below are some pearls of kitty wisdom, courtesy of Lucky, Frisky, Zoe, Zeus, Xena and our current adventures with “The Hooligans” – Ginger and Diesel.

Embrace a tip (or two) from these confident beings and reclaim some of your personal power today:

  1. Good sleep habits can lead to a long and happy life.
  2. Engage in daily play.
  3. Pay attention to your surroundings. It’s critical to know what’s going on in your own backyard.
  4. Having “Just a little more catnip (fill in the blank with human stimulant equivalent)” typically doesn’t end so well.
  5. Savasana is awesome. Savasana outside on the grass in the summertime is DIVINE!
  6. You’re never too full to have one more shrimp.
  7. Appreciate beauty. Cats embody beauty in stillness and motion. Carry yourself like the masterpiece you are.
  8. Embrace curiosity. C’mon, it won’t kill you.
  9. Customize the boxes in your life. When necessary, break through the sides!
  10. On those days when you feel like tearing someone’s head off, stay inside.
  11. Set and reinforce personal boundaries without guilt.
  12. To purr is to soothe. Purr loudly!
  13. Never underestimate the power of a good hair day.
  14. Flexibility is just as important as strength.
  15. Self-grooming is important. Stay on top of things.
  16. Be in harmony with the moment in front of you more often. Especially in nature.
  17. Don’t waste time worrying about what others think of you.
  18. Find a perfect hiding spot. Don’t tell anyone.
  19. Actively engage in rest to recoup your energy.
  20. When you are being ignored or need to stand your ground, be vocal.
  21. Immediately follow waking with a good, long stretch.
  22. If you fall or get knocked down, shake it off and climb right back up.
  23. Be picky about who gets to rub your belly.
  24. Trim your nails regularly.

What bits of wisdom have you learned from your animal friends?

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Next Up: Chakras & Chanting

Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at www.FullyPresentWithYou.com

Books

Since 1982, I have reread one particular book about every ten years. Can you guess which one?

Hints: A scarf and “not a hat”

Answer at bottom!

My nightstand is home to a variety of half-read books. The topic I select depends on my mood. Sometimes I engage in “appetizer sampling” and sometimes I dig into one delicious main course. Fellow bookworms understand when I say that “The End” just means “The Beginning” for yet another book to be discovered and devoured.

Somanybooks

So many books, so little time…

I’m a traditional hard copy, paper book gal. There’s something about the familiar form and weight of holding a physical book in my hands, mindfully dog-earing the pages and having the progressive visual of how close I am to completion. There are some books I love to revisit, some I wish could go on forever and some I just want to bring across the finish line and donate to the local Goodwill.

I read voraciously after my diagnosis. Most of it was online and much of it was conflicting information. Part of the reason was because I was searching with incomplete information. There were some facts I wouldn’t learn until after the surgery.

What helped: My surgical recovery phase allowed me to do a deep dive and COMPLETE multiple books. Some were gifted to me and some recommended as useful by others touched by cancer. I benefited from the specialized advice, nourishing recipes, traditional and non-traditional approaches, real patient stories and multiple research findings. Favorites included:

  • The Cancer Revolution by Dr. Leigh Erin Connealy
    • I liked the comprehensive nature of different approaches and their descriptions, plus the eating plans, recipe section, glossary and extensive footnotes.
  • The China Study Cookbook by LeAnne Campbell
    • I enjoyed the wide assortment of plant-based recipes and nutritional information.
  • How Healing Works by Wayne Jonas, MD
    • I loved the history he shared, how to heal with your environment and real-life patient stories.
  • It’s Not About the Hair: And Other Certainties of Life & Cancer by Debra Jarvis
    • I appreciated her humor, candor and openness in sharing her group emails and lessons learned along the way.
  • WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink
    • This was not cancer-specific, however, it was extremely valuable to me as my return to work approached. I was still very tired, but this book offered strategies to better harness my natural energy phases. You can check out the book’s core message and the power of a “Nappuccino,” HERE.

      morefriends

      More old friends…

What I wish I knew at the time: Audiobooks! Of course I knew about audiobooks, but I’d never actually listened to any. They would have been a convenient delivery system of informational resources on my work commute in the first weeks after diagnosis.

Some things to try:

  • Check out one of the books listed above, if appropriate for you or someone you care about.
  • The next time you fly, use it as an opportunity to finish at least one book. Watch how it transforms the early arrivals, unexpected flight delays and long layovers into a more positive and satisfying experience. Pick one you’ve been wanting to sink your teeth into – you know the one. It elicits the “Just two more pages…” response.
  • When it makes sense, layer! Since my brother and his family got me a six-month membership, I’ve become a big fan of the audiobook. I recently heard Tony Robbins use the term, NET: No Extra Time. He was talking about time management strategies. Life is busier than ever these days, so listening to an audiobook is an example of utilizing time that you’re already engaged in doing something (driving, working out, cooking, cleaning) and layering on some learning that can benefit you (and possibly reduce some stress, depending on the topic!) without taking up any extra time.
  • Block time for down time. Although books and audiobooks are enriching in so many ways, it’s important to schedule regular doses of “white space” or “waking rest” into each day. This relaxing, agenda-free “down time” allows your brain to better process the multitude of learnings and experiences, increase the flow of creative insights and productivity and restore and relax your nervous system.

Answer to Intro Question: It is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry! I first read this on my 7th grade school bus (no talking was allowed that year, so plenty of time to read). It profoundly affected me. I stumbled upon it again after college and understood even deeper aspects of the story after a decade of life experiences. Since then, I commit to rediscovering it (and myself!) as I welcome in each new decade.

Which book do you reread and why? List in the comment section below.

Next Up: Cats!

Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at http://www.FullyPresentwithYou.com.

Birdwatching

The songbirds were more vocal, bringing literal “cheer, cheer, cheer…” with the warmer weather. Vermont has to go through sticks, dead leaves and lots of mud to get to spring, but at least our fine feathered friends signal when we are heading in the right direction.

I had taken the day off. With my surgery the next morning, I wanted to tie up loose ends in order to feel grounded and centered by nightfall. Mom and I planned to spend the morning decluttering closets and the afternoon shopping for button-down and zip-up tops. It was recommended that I wear them during recovery, since I wouldn’t be able to get my arms overhead for a while.

As we stepped into my car, I heard the distinct, “Birdie, Birdie, Birdie” call of a male cardinal right above my head. I’ve always loved cardinals. I looked up and said to my mother, “That’s a good sign.” She agreed. We humans are meaning-making beings and I was taking in all the positive signs I could get.

The next morning, he greeted us again. I told my family that he was “cheer-ing me on” as we headed to the hospital. Hey, doses of humor are helpful.

A while later, I arrived in the pre-op bay. I put on my hospital johnny and socks and got onto the bed. On the wall to the right of me was a framed picture of a male cardinal. Was he following me?

The day after surgery, I went downstairs to my living room. I had turned this into my

cardinalfriend

View from my rocker: Mr. Cardinal perching

downstairs “sanctuary space” where I could meditate, read, journal, relax and visit with friends and family.

I sat in my rocking chair (read why rocking is so good for you HERE!) and in less than a minute a male cardinal flew onto the holly bush directly in front of me. I let out a little laugh and smiled. I spent a few moments admiring his beauty until my two indoor cats came into the room. Within moments of their arrival, they headed straight to the window to let out their own unique chirps and chattering.

As days moved into weeks, I enjoyed seeing (and hearing) more birds arriving with the warmer weather. In addition to the cardinals, there were chickadees, yellow-rumped warblers, pine warblers, evening grosbeaks and many more. Buds and blossoms were bursting into being. The season of renewal and new beginnings perfectly aligned with my healing.

In the mornings, the dawn chorus would temporarily wake me, signifying another day

dieselbywindow

Diesel wondering where his scarlet friend went…

had arrived. For the first couple of weeks, I’d drowsily listen and then fall fast back to sleep.

I began walking right away, as per my surgeon’s instructions. I alternated stillness and movement to harmonize optimal healing. Short walks turned into longer jaunts. Hills were added. The birds graced me with their musical serenades, aerial acrobatics and architectural creativity.

I once heard that the most important thing we have in common with all of the creatures of Earth is our breath. We are all breathing right now. We are Life. Try and be a little more present in yours today. I know that I certainly will.

What helped: Watching birds through the window and on my walks. Listening to the dawn chorus and giving thanks for the new day ahead (before falling back asleep!).

What I wish I had at the time: If I had a bird book or guide, I would have been able to identify even more of my visitors. 

Some things you can do or think about right now:

  • Set an “early bird” intention. The next time you wake to the dawn chorus, ask yourself how you are going to choose to move through this new day. If you want to go back to sleep right afterwards, that’s fine, but set an intention. What will you add to make the day ahead better? What will you remove?
  • It’s a busy world. Take time out to be still. Listen to the peepers, crickets, birds and squirrels. Taste the wind and feel the sun’s warmth on your face. Notice and appreciate the different types of beauty in your environment. Remember the movie (but real life!) wisdom of Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
  • Be curious about what’s going on in your own backyard. Who’s visiting? Who are the day trippers and who are the night owls? What are they doing? Why are they doing it? Can you aid them in any way? Click HERE to learn about bird-friendly native plants in your area.
  • Go outside and benefit from the pleasing and stress-reducing effect of nature’s fractals. Really take in what surrounds you through sitting still in your backyard or moving on a mindful walk or jog.
  • Road trip! Visit a local Audubon Center or nature center and learn more about our high flying friends. Here are some educational events (nature walks and workshops) in Vermont.

Next Up: Books

Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at http://www.FullyPresentwithYou.com.