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Zoning in to Hot and Cold

Home on Cape Cod last weekend, I babysat for my niece, 7, and nephew, almost 4. With all of the toys kids have, I’m always amazed how much more fun they have playing without them. My niece asked me to hide an object for them to find. While they searched I said if they were “hot,” meaning close to finding it, or “cold,” meaning not close. My mother used to play this with me. “You’re getting warmer,” she’d say or “You must be freezing.” Playing with them reminded me how much fun it is to just play.

Later on I was organizing a section of the garage where my parents store extra paper goods, seltzer, coffee, etc. This section is in a very prevalent spot I call a Hot Zone, since it’s easy to reach, but a lot of random stuff got put there. Like, for instance, an old wooden high chair my youngest sister used to sit in. She’s now in graduate school for occupational therapy. And since my niece and nephew have outgrown it, I carried it down to the basement.

“Where are you going with that?” my dad asked.

“To a cold zone,” I said.

“To where?”

I began using Hot and Cold Zones with clients (mostly men) as a way for them to understand how to organize their stuff. For instance, in your closet the area you can reach easily is the Hot Zone and that’s where you should put things you wear everyday. A Cold Zone is the area up top you can’t reach without a ladder; good for off-season clothes, holiday decorations, anything you use once in a blue moon. This keeps your Hot Zone less cluttered. This is also good for kitchens (fancy plates and bowls, delicate glasses), garages (camping equipment, extra window screens) and bathrooms (extra supplies, travel toiletries).

My niece and nephew came into the garage and wanted to help so we made a game out of it. I held up an object and asked if it should go in a hot or a cold zone.

“How about this?” I said, holding up a water bottle for the bike.

“Hot zone!” my niece yelled.

“Right,” I said. Then I held up an old gallon of paint, dented all around.

“Cold zone?” she said.

“No,” my dad said, no doubt still miffed from the time I threw away a box of rusty nails. “Hot zone.”

“You’re both wrong,” I said. “Garbage.”

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