Hot Spots.

Over the past few months, I've been watching my mood very carefully. I'm really interested in how it is affected by weather, food and other factors in my life. So far, the only real correlation I have made is between a good mood and a tidy house. Maybe that seems obvious, but when our house is messy and the shutters are closed, I feel very blah. And when the shutters are open and all of the surfaces are clear and tidy, I'm bouncing off the walls. The problem is keeping it that way.

K and I are not inherently messy people, but we are lazy. Any visible surface becomes a dropping point for mail, my purse, our phones, my gigantic collection of name it. We walk in the door after work and leave a trail behind us of stuff, laying wherever we leave it. To our credit, we don't just drop it on the floor...that would be worse...but we do find ourselves eating off our laps on the couch more often than we should, simply because our table is covered in crap.

A few years ago, I made the huge mistake of joining a website dedicated to organising. I don't recall the name (or I have conveniently blocked it from my memory), but it was almost like a program that you followed to get your life in order. Every day, my inbox would have at least one tip or reminder from the site, telling me to organise my tax papers, or polish the silver (?), or some other task and the idea was that you do them, tick the box and collect points or something like that. While I usually respond well to reward systems, this one just made me feel like a slob because sometimes I wouldn't WANT to polish the silver (you know, that gigantic silver service that every 20-something has), and eventually I started feeling the urge to reply to those tips and tricks with a big EFF OFF and continue on with my life. I eventually did this, by cancelling my subscription (though, this didn't stop the site from spamming me for the next two years). While the concept, in theory, is a good one, it just didn't work for me at all. However, one thing stuck with me: the concept of Hot Spots.

Hot Spots are the places in the house where things get left. They can be a hall table, a kitchen table...pretty much any surface that is begging to be covered in crap that you don't feel like putting away at that particular time. Most houses have a few of these Hot Spots and once you identify them and focus on them, you should be able to overcome the urge to just drop whatever, and find the 30 seconds it would take to just put whatever it is away. Operative word: should. Our apartment is a Hot Spot haven. Between the door and our bedroom there are gigantic surfaces everywhere. The kitchen counter, the dining room table, various chairs that we never sit in...all just dying for us to drop something on them. And after you do this enough times, you start knowing to look there for items that technically belong somewhere else. For instance, I know that my favorite green scarf is NOT in my designated pile of scarves/wraps in my bedroom, but is draped over the back of a kitchen chair 95% of the time. My sunglasses are next to the phone, beside my other pair of sunglasses, because doesn't it make sense that I would at least stash them together if I'm not putting them away? My iPod is somewhere between my laptop and my purse (both the purse I'm using and the back-up purse, if the one I'm using doesn't match what I'm wearing), which is on the dining room table.

After a spring cleaning frenzy on Sunday morning, I sat on the couch and surveyed my work. The floor was swept, the bathrooms sparkled and the ongoing war of Kristin vs. Cockroach in the kitchen (a sad fact about life here: no matter how clean your kitchen is...cockroaches will still visit) seemed to have come to an end. For now. However, what stood out most was all of those clean, bare, shiny surfaces with not a thing on them. Sunglasses, scarves, purses and iPod were properly put away and you know what? It felt awesome. So awesome that I have committed to not letting those Hot Spots get the better of me again. Every night, after dinner, I'm going to spend a little bit of time putting things away. This might sound easy but for two busy people who basically come home from work exhausted and crash on the couch, this extra effort will take a bit of getting used to. I think it will pay off though...what's 2 minutes? That's less time than the opening credits for the show I would be watching on the couch, so I think I can handle it. In my quest to become a more organised person, I think that a consistently tidy house is at the top of my list of priorities. It was so nice to come home to after work yesterday and I noticed that I felt much calmer.

Here are my mini-goals, going forward:

- keep surfaces clear by picking up/tidying each night before bed.
- keep kitchen clean and tidy (we're already pretty good at this one)
- open all mail as soon as it arrives, separate bills and statements
- once bills are paid and statements checked, add them to the shredding bin (I shred almost everything except tax documents)
- make the bed every day and put all clothes away (the dresser top is a notorious Hot Spot)

I'm two days in and so far, the surfaces remain totally clear. Let's see how this goes...


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