I love the holiday season; it’s one of my favorite times of year. If you’re still shopping for the perfect gift for your animal-loving friends and family (as I am), check out my best picks for any budget:
1. An artful animal pillow to dress their living room or bedroom ($30; order by December 10).
I’ve realized something about myself this past week: It’s really, really hard for me to let go of “stuff.” Even if said stuff is crammed into every nook and cranny of my closets, garage and cupboards and I haven’t seen it in ages.
But thanks to the inspirational (and doable) tips from author Marie Kondo in her bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, I’m happy to report that paring down is getting easier by the day. And the benefits really are life-changing: I’m feeling newly inspired in my business. I feel mentally “lighter.” And the serenity of this experience has reminded me, again, how we have much to learn from our animals.
When I first heard about her book and the so-called KonMari method of tidying up and its connection to happiness, I immediately thought: I have to try this. But where to begin? This book is showing me the light. After just 2 days of organizing, I’m already seven large bags (ready for Goodwill) lighter, three closets more organized and two bookshelves cleaner. Awesome!
The basic idea is this: Every item in your home should “spark joy,” and objects need (and even want) to serve a purpose. We imbue the objects around us with our energy, so if they don’t bring us happiness, they weigh us down—and it’s time to say goodbye. It’s as easy as saying a simple, “Thank you,” to those objects for the joy that they brought you (or the use they fulfilled) in the past, and then … let them go. I love the positive focus the book has on the things we keep, rather than the things we get rid of. As I began the process, little did I know I was embarking on a life-altering experience full of raw feelings tangled up with old junk.
Out with the old … I started with my master bedroom closet. But my excitement for getting organized soon deflated as I realized the contents before me had transformed into a Pandora’s box of negative emotions. I’m talking really heavy emotions—emotions surprisingly attached to things.
As I dug through a too-high pile of shirts, pants, dresses and the like, the clothes transported me to places in my past. Sometimes, places where I didn’t want to go. A lot of these clothes, I realized—which I wasn’t currently wearing—were from my long months of cancer and radiation treatments. Guess what? Whenever I saw them, which was virtually every day, they sparked bad, negative feelings inside of me. They always reminded me of my cancer—and who wants to think about that?! So I got rid of them. But remembering all of that was painful.
With those dumped into garbage bags, then I noticed: Wow, a lot of my new clothes are Pilates clothes—and let me tell you, these ignite happiness within me! They make me feel strong. I never thought I’d lift weights again—but here I am, able to do just that. I sorted through everything, memories of my past and hopes for the future. Now everything in my closet is something I love (bad memories begone!). I’m so much happier when I look in my drawers now. I feel practically weightless.
It’s amazing to me how such a small thing can resonate deeply the way this has. Perhaps that’s why Kondo’s book has connected with so many people. It gives real tips to help you achieve an emotional positivity that you can’t really put your finger on. But it’s there.
My new, serene closet
Happiness in a drawer
Only books that I absolutely adore
Business inspiration This part amazed me. After cleaning out my closet, I was able to, finally, revamp my Equine Reiki Manual, which I’ve been wanting to do for a few years. I just didn’t know how I wanted to change it so it just sat in the back of my mind. But then it totally came to me in a magical moment of inspiration after going through this process, throwing out tons of stuff, and bringing more Zen into my daily living space. This is not a coincidence, my dear readers.
Again, the animals are our teachers I’ve said this before, but it’s so true: We have much to learn from animals. My dog Mystic doesn’t need to surround herself in a mountain of material items to find inner peace and happiness. She’s content with a small box of toys, a collar and leash, her brush and food dishes. And on top of that, she gets a lot of love and hugs and special doggy time from her family. This experience reminded me the importance of paring down to be more like Mystic. I cannot wait to tackle the rest of the house.
Have you tried the KonMari method? I’m excited to hear your story here.
Living with intention. Living joyfully. I try to connect with these ideals every day, though some days I’m more successful than others. The thing is, when I take the time to really nourish my inner self, I feel stronger, more balanced and, well, happier. So no matter how busy my schedule gets, I always try to make space for simple, soul-nourishing activities such as these:
1. Watch the sun rise. When was the last time you took the time to do this? (And I’m not talking about seeing the sun rise over the freeway while driving to the airport to catch an early-morning flight.) I mean, awakening in starlight, then setting your intention to wait, watch and really savor the beauty that is a new day beginning. This is not just a wonderful time to clear your mind and think, but also a special way to start your day.
2. Plant a vegetable (preferably one you love to eat). You don’t have to be a green thumb to try this one out, and you don’t have to plant an entire time-consuming or complicated garden. Just pick one veggie and give it a whirl. There is something almost meditative about working with the earth, digging and planting. The payoff—eating something fresh you grew yourself—nourishes both your body and soul.
3. Groom your animal. Brushing your dog, cat or horse feels good for them, but it’s good for us, too: It’s the kind of easy, repetitive work that lets our mind wander to a peaceful place. Strengthening your bond with your animal is another bonus. (They’ll shed less, too!)
4. Make your bed. When your bed is made first thing in the morning, your room looks better and more welcoming all day. Also, it starts your day off right by accomplishing this one small task. And at night, isn’t your state of mind in a more positive place when you can wind down in a tidy room? Try it tomorrow; it takes just two minutes.
5. Do a random act of kindness. There’s real power behind a random act of kindness. Even a small gesture of kindness can generate tiny ripple effects and help make this world a better place. Here’s an inspiring TEDx Talk on the subject. See what this woman learned when she dedicated herself to 38 acts of kindness for her 38th birthday:
6. Visit your local art museum. Most of us like to visit an art museum when we travel to a new city. It’s refreshing and almost meditative to wander and contemplate art—but most of us forget we can do this in our own city, as well. (I know, I know … it’s not The Louvre, but still.) We lead such busy lives we often neglect nurturing ourselves. But don’t think of visiting an art museum as a mere indulgence; studies have linked “artistic consumption” to improved health.
7. Channel your inner kid with a coloring book. Tapping into our creativity is very nourishing for the soul, but sometimes being creative can be exhausting. Enter the rise in popularity of coloring books for adults, which can now be found topping the best-seller lists. Like many of the activities listed here, coloring can be very meditative and relaxing (and fun!), and studies show art therapy such as coloring can also reduce stress. I like this one and this one.
8. Find your personal Zen. Maybe you love to exercise—for me it’s Pilates. Or maybe you love painting, writing, creating music, brewing an amazing cup of coffee or baking a batch of muffins. Find a place in your day to do whatever strikes you and that you love.
These are just a few ideas that are good for the soul—do you have any to add to the list?
I never, ever thought I’d get a tattoo. Not that I had anything against tattoos, but in my world, having a tattoo never even crossed my mind. Maybe because I was kind of a nerd in school. My best friend was a dog. I played on the badminton team in high school (go Saints!). I got straight As and went to a top-tier university. I worked and got married and had a kid.
In 2011, I received the shocking diagnosis that I had breast cancer. Everything started happening so fast. The pills, the doctor visits, the bloodwork, the tests, the surgery. The scars.