The “Broken Window Theory”

I read about the “broken window theory” a while ago and just came across it again in a marvelous book by Cheryl Mendelson entitled, Home Comforts, The Art and Science of Keeping House.

The “broken window theory” states that any sign of social or physical neglect in a neighborhood makes it more likely that various crimes and pranks will be committed.  If there is one broken window that is not fixed, it suggests to others that no one cares or no one is around who is responsible.  What happens next is that people then feel they can write graffiti, break other windows, litter…which in turn develops in more serious crimes for that neighborhood.

One window not taken care of immediately will lead to deterioration.(This reminds me of the old saying, “a stitch in time saves nine”).

This “broken window theory” also works in your home as well.  For example, Cheryl Mendelson gives the example of a clear chair or countertop.  Usually no one will put anything on a pristine clear space.  But, watch what happens if you put something on the chair/tabletop and forget about it…other family members will pass the space and inadvertently the belief system  now becomes, “oh, it’s now ok to put stuff on the table too.”  If this isn’t taken care of, you will soon have a table full of papers and other items.

The “window” has been broken in this room…and the disorder will soon spread to another room with the result being eventually your entire house will be in disorder.

Cheryl Mendelson gives three habits to be cultivated in order to keep your home neat.

1. Rules for the family leaving items out…items are to be picked up at the end of the activity but definitely before bedtime.

2. You may leave out uncompleted activities/projects so that you may return to them later on(examples are reading material, art/craft project/ homework/work on table, a game not finished, etc. )  You are allowed materials for one activity at a time.

3. Have a temporary “holding station” for common hot spots.  A place where family members know where the mail is, school/work papers, coats/shoe.  s/hats/gloves, bookbags. etc.  Determine where your family just “naturally” leave their things…if there is room close to your front door area, make this into a holding station.

Another suggestion is having a basket for each family member for all of the found items…in which they then know where to look if they are missing something.

So many of us have “broken windows” in our homes…the kitchen counter space that never gets cleared(or it’s never clear for long), the kitchen sink that everyone dumps dishes in but never wash them, the chair beside the bed that is full of clothes and whatever, the front door area where everyone leaves their stuff as they enter house and can’t find anything.

Hope you will find your “broken windows” and use some of Cheryl Mendelson’s ideas.

til next time…Eva

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