Broken Windows

I'm a moderation girl. I don't do fasts or detoxes. I don't exercise every day and I think the best kinds of exercise are the moderate ones – walking, swimming, yoga. A little dancing. I've never 'given up' drinking in January as I don't tend to go on a Christmas binge. I make sure I eat some fruit and veg every day but pretty much everything else I consume is what appeals at the time and meets my hunger levels. And although clutter stresses me out, I don't mind a bit of mess as long as it gets cleaned up eventually.

In fact, my modus operandi when it comes to mess is that I make one and then when I can't stand it anymore I clean it up. Typically this happens at home twice a week – once on Sunday evening, when I clean up the chaos of the weekend and once on Thursday when our cleaner tidies up the chaos of the week.

It got me thinking – is this the best way to handle mess?

If you've ever read Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point, you'll know about the 'broken window' theory. It's a crime theory. It states that repairing broken window in a neighborhood in a timely manner prevents further vandalism and therefore stops escalation into more serious crime. I suppose it equates to setting a tone. A sidewalk filled with litter is more likely to induce further littering.

I feel like the broken window theory could apply to mess in my life. If a counter/bed/chair is already littered with 'stuff' then what's the incentive to put away the clothes I'm wearing on that particular day or wash that one extra bowl I'm adding to the dishes by the sink?

Would it work to have a 'no tolerance' policy on mess? Or is that just asking for trouble?

I wonder how much of my aversion to putting things away right away comes from my overall tendency to procrastinate, and my belief that tasks are always difficult. Funny enough, bloggers Leo Babauta and Gretchen Rubin give some similar advice this week. Babauta talks about how cleaning as you go is one of the seven little things that make life effortless. And Rubin discusses how important it is to put things away where they want to be.

I always used to think that these types of techniques were geeky and I'd be even more of a geek if I was well-organized and neat, but the reality is that the more organized I get, the more time I actually have for fun things (including writing a blog). Life doesn't have to be so hard all the time. And a lot of it is being prepared to let go of bad habits – procrastination and mess are, after all, anxiety relieving in the short term, but don't do us any good in the long run.

So I'll have a go and try what I will call the 'broken window' anti-mess technique. I'll let you know how it goes. Only one question remains: who is going to tell the Hub about our new household policy?

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1 comment

  1. I live by cleaning as you - and putting things away where they want to be. In fact, since we don't have a cleaning lady any more I do a little bit of cleaning every evening because for me it's easier to cope mentally with 15 minutes here and there than two solid hours at the weekend.


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