Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 16: What’s on Your Walls?

by Michael on April 6, 2010 · 0 comments

This could work...if you're Banksy. (Photo by unusualimage)

Ultimate Spring Cleaning is a project to clean and declutter not only your house, but your life. Each day you’ll get a housecleaning assignment, an assignment that involves the world around you, and a project to clear your mind. You can start anytime at the Ultimate Spring Cleaning main page.

With your bathroom cleaning wrapping up, today’s home task is more food for thought than work. And our other two tasks, while vital to your well-being, are really the first step to something larger for both your physical and mental health.

Your Home: Find Inspirational Art

Look at each room in your house. Does it inspire you or set the proper mood? Let me give you an example of the art in my house: in my dining area I’ve got a framed print of Van Gogh’s “Café Terrace at Night,” and on the opposite wall a giant French coffee poster mounted on art board. The living room features a couple of mounted guitars (I can take them down and play them) and some framed original photos. In the bedroom I’ve left the walls clean except for a large framed original photo of clouds that I took from a plane several years ago.

In other words, my dining area has a café-style ambience, the living room portrays my personality and interests, and the bedroom is restful.

A few days ago we worked on your overall decor, but today look through books, on art sites and in your own photo collection for art that will give your rooms personality. You can make a statement, set a mood and tie the colors of your room together with art—if you’re feeling artistic you might even create your own canvas.

Don’t feel restricted to printed or painted art: anything you can hang or fasten is fair game. If a room feels claustrophobic, you might try putting up a curtain rod and hanging light-colored curtains over a closet door—they’re a subconscious signal of a window, even when there isn’t one behind them.

Write down your thoughts (perhaps in your journal) and as you’re able, acquire, frame, mount and hang the art that suits your rooms.

Your World: Plan a Trip

Travel is important. Going places you’ve never been and doing things you’ve never done will round your personality, broaden your mind and give you fresh perspective on both the outer world and your inner world. Immersing yourself in a foreign land can really wake you up to the fact that the world is full of diverse people, opinions and customs. Even a weekend road trip can offer experiences you’ll remember for a lifetime.

Studies have found that travel can lessen or erase stress, and well after returning from a vacation most travelers sleep more soundly and have fewer stress-related symptoms. One nine-year study found that men who didn’t consistently take annual vacations were 20 percent more likely to have a “nonfatal heart event” and 35 percent more likely to die from coronary disease.

So with spring here and summer approaching, it’s a good time to think about your next trip.

Do you have an idea where you’d like to go? If so, start researching the details. Where would you like to stay? What kind of costs should you expect? Are there any details about the local area you’ll need to know, or a language to learn? Check sites like Lonely Planet for details about the area you’re looking at, TripAdvisor to get opinions on hotels and restaurants, and TravelZoo to search multiple locations for airfares and hotel rates.

If you’re new to travel and planning an ambitious trip, or are going overseas to an unfamiliar country, you might consider using a travel agent. In the US, AAA has physical agency branches in most cities, where you can pick up literature and discuss your needs. They also have a toll-free phone number for assistance.

A few tips to making your travel experience a great one:

  • Don’t take a lot of stuff. In fact, see how little you can bring while still having fresh-smelling clothes each day. Take advantage of local laundry services if possible (even hotel laundry services can be inexpensive, depending on the country). Keep your gadgets at home if possible. And you can always buy emergency necessities at your destination.
  • Don’t plan every minute. The best approach is to schedule the things you most want to do, and make sure there’s a large buffer of time before and after each event. Give yourself time to just walk around and take pictures, or laze on the beach, or meet locals while enjoying a drink. I’ve found that the spontaneous events are what I remember and cherish most.
  • Bring enough memory cards or film and batteries. It would be disaster to miss a great photo because your card is full or power is down just as the perfect sunset hits the water off the Italian coast.
  • Take lots of photos and/or video. They will jog your memory and help you relive some of the greatest moments of your life.
  • Be ready for anything. Just like at home, good and bad things happen on vacation, and how well you handle the unexpected could make the difference between a vacation-from-hell and a life-enriching experience.

Get started—even dreaming about your destination counts.

Yourself: Get a Checkup

How long has it been since you’ve been to a doctor? If the answer is more than a decade, it’s time to get checked up.

If you’re under 35, feel fine in every way and have no family history of heart disease, you may only want to get a basic once-over (blood pressure, testicular cancer check, quick listen for heart rhythm and maybe a cholesterol screening). This is also an opportunity for you to establish a relationship with a general practitioner (aka “primary care physician”). Having a trusted doctor makes it easier to go in if you have symptoms down the road.

If you’re between 35 and 40, a cholesterol test is a good idea. Age 40 is where you should get the full suite of tests. These will include the tests I’ve mentioned already, plus a PSA (prostate cancer) screening, blood sugar tests, eye exam, and a physical check for various signs of cancer, including skin cancer.

And at any age, if you’re sexually active you should have a complete STD check. When I went in to be “certified clean” a few years ago I was surprised to find out that I specifically had to ask for an HIV test and complete a separate consent form. Make sure you’re getting all the tests you think you’re getting.

The health insurance debate will hit home for you when you go in for your exam: the first thing you’re asked for at the front desk will be your insurance card. Normally a basic consult/checkup without blood tests is relatively inexpensive even without insurance, and about the price of a new DVD with insurance. If you’re stone broke, there are clinics that will examine you for whatever you can afford—in any case, remember that catching potential health issues early could save you from financial ruin later.

The steps to getting a thorough checkup:

  1. Find a doctor. Ask friends, family and co-workers. If you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor you can always switch. Something to keep in mind: this person may be doing prostate and genital exams, so you may feel more comfortable with a male doctor than a female.
  2. Consult with the doctor to determine the tests you need. Make sure to be honest about any symptoms or unusual physical “issues” you’ve had. Write them down in advance so you don’t forget when you get to the exam room.
  3. Be willing to pay for additional tests, such as STD tests. While insurance covers the initial office visit, for some reason insurers would rather leave up to you the decision to pay hundreds to have a full suite of blood tests. Again, it’s financially smarter to pay now than to wait until a condition becomes a life-or-death issue.

It’s not hard, and it shouldn’t be scary. Men are much less likely to get the checkups they need, for multiple reasons. For an honest review of those reasons, see this article titled The 10 REAL Reasons Men Don’t Go to the Doctor.

Go to the doctor. Get on the phone today if possible.

That’s it. Planning and dreaming. See you tomorrow.

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