Happy Mom Secret #2: make your bed.

Or keep your dining room table clear. Or sweep under your dining-room table regularly. Or make sure your dressers aren’t overstuffed with clothes so they don’t shut all the way. The point is, all of us have that one thing (or half a dozen things) that drives us crazy. Whether yours is crumbs on the counter or rooms where half the lightbulbs are burned out, taking care of your biggest crazy-makers (BEFORE they get to the point of making you crazy) sets the whole mood for the day.

For me, that one thing happens to be making my bed. I used to roll out of bed in the morning, look at the rumpled sheets and blankets and think “eh, what’s the difference? I’m just going to be messing it up again in 15 hours.” But I spend a lot of time in my bedroom, even during the day, and I found that every time I went back in, the sight of that unmade bed made me feel…slumpy. It made the house feel messy even if the house wasn’t particularly messy. It made me feel disorganized. And every time I sat on the bed (like I am now with my laptop) I would feel like crawling under the sheets and going back to sleep.

I’m far from being a neat freak, but I began to realize that I require a certain level of cleanliness in order to function. I spend most of my day in my home, and if it feels too messy or cluttered I just want to retreat and watch bad TV instead of being productive. I also realized that it pays to stay on top of mess by constantly straightening up instead of saving it all for some mythical 2-hour stretch when I’ll be able to do a big clean. So four or five years ago I started making my bed every day, as soon as I could after waking up. What a difference. It took a couple of weeks to really get into the habit, but soon I found myself looking forward to making my bed–it feels like tearing out a fresh sheet of notebook paper, clean and crisp and full of possibility. Now, no matter how the rest of the house looks, my bedroom is a neat and pleasant retreat. When I go to bed, it’s so satisfying to pull back the smooth covers instead of climbing into a tangled mess of sheets. And it really makes a big difference in my mood.

I have other “must do” chores, too. For example, I really like my bathroom to look clean (with four boys this means wiping down toilets at least daily) and it’s important to me to have a clean kitchen sink (which I realized after doing FlyLady many years ago). I also Can. Not. Stand. to have couch pillows and throw blankets all over the living room so I stop a few times a day to toss pillows back on the furniture and fold blankets. I call these things my “triggers”—I’m actually crankier to my kids and anxious when my sink is messy or there are sofa pillows on the floor. So I try to stay on top of it through the day—and it all begins with making the bed.

One note, though: I have my older kids do a lot of chores, but I almost never put them in charge of my “trigger” tasks. It’s too important to me that they’re done right–not to mention promptly.

Do you have housecleaning “triggers” that can make or break your mood? What are they? How long did it take you to figure them out?

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