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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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Hidden Dishes

I often wonder what the real purpose of the dishwasher is…to clean the dishes or to be a storage unit for clean/dirty dishes or other items.  And is the dishwasher actually the time saver it is professed to be?  I personally see them as a procrastination technique…hide the dishes and forget about them until tomorrow…or the next day…or the day after that.

So many people I  know, especially if there are just one or two in the household, eventually get to the point that there are no more dishes in the kitchen cabinets because everything is in the dishwasher…and they hate to empty the dishwasher. (it’s almost as bad as getting someone to take out the garbage).

I clean houses and I can’t tell you how many times the sink is full of dirty dishes and the dishwasher is full as well.  No dishes left in the cabinets and no cutlery in the drawers.

Why the aversion to washing dishes?  Personally, a sink of warm fragrant sudsy water is kind of nice…you can daydream a bit, talk with whomever is drying the dishes or just think about your day.  I also have a collection of vintage dish towels that I love and use.

Today’s pots and pans are fairly easy to clean and if you do have a stubborn pot/lasagna pan, simply put hot water, vinegar and a spot of dishwashing liquid in it for a short while and it will come clean.  If the pot is really awful, put the three items in and heat the pot up and the grime will peel off.

The Flylady(www.flylady.net) advocates the “shiny sink”.  Basically, you never go to bed unless your sink is clean and shiny.  (if you have family members who tend to eat/drink after the kitchen has been cleaned up, “train” them to put the dirty items in a bin that you keep under the sink).  There is something so satisfying to come into the kitchen the next morning to a shiny sink.

If you have certain cookware/bakeware that traditionally is difficult to clean, determine if you really must live with that constant aggravation.  Then use foil, cooking spray or buy a new one.

A friend of mine uses paper plates when she has company, simply because she hates washing dishes for a crowd.  She bakes her items in foil throwaway pans as well.  If that works for you, then go for it.

We all have busy lives.  Take some time to determine what works for you.  If you feel irritated with your dishwasher, try washing your dishes by hand for a week…it basically takes the same amount of time…and you can use your dishwasher for valuable storage space(I store my pot lids and plastic containers in it).

Try the Flylady’s shiny sink technique as well…and you will have a whole different feeling about your kitchen.

til next time….Eva

The Art of Hyggelig

003aPhoto by Eva, 2015

As Autumn’s leaves settle down on us, we tend to stay indoors more.  We search to bring more comfort into our daily lives with warm colors in our homes and clothing, warm food and drinks and lights  being turned on earlier in the afternoon.

The Danish language has a word that covers it all and more…Hyggelig.  The English/Danish dictionary I have states that the meaning is simply “cosy, enjoyable, homely”  But Huggelig encompasses so much more.

Just imagine…it’s dark and cold outside already and you step into your home.  Coffee is brewing, the table is set with a cloth tablecloth, baked goods just out of the oven, candles on the table, soft music and a fire in the woodstove.  Your heart and soul absolutely swells at this point.  This isn’t just “cosy”…this is over the top cosy…this is “hyggelig”!

We aren’t talking a romantic dinner for two kind of situation…in most cases, that’s not our idea of cosy…it’s more in the “romantic” frame of mind and soul.

It takes practice to make your home “hyggelig”.  It’s the small added touches in life…maybe real cloth placemats or tablecloths in rich homey colors, napkins, candles, music instead of the tv, softer lighting, etc.  Even breakfast by yourself can be hyggelig.  I take a tray, make my soft boiled egg and toast with my coffee.  A jar candle and Zowie, Kitty and I have a quiet 15-30 minutes before I have to start my day.  It’s a state of mind that stays with you all day.

At night after dinner, sitting down with my cup of coffee or Earl Gray tea and a cookie or two(or three), the candle burning, possibly the woodstove at this point, it softens the end of the day.

Hyggelig covers all of your senses…you feel comfort deep in your soul.  I always know that if I give a deep sigh, it has touched my soul.

I know many people’s homes have a huggelig feeling over the Christmas season but they aren’t able to sustain it the rest of the year.  Maybe that’s why so many people love the Christmas decorating so much…for that huggelig feeling.  I have been guilty as everyone else…letting the speed of life take away my peace of mind and soul.  As I get older, I realize it’s a necessary part of my daily life…to internalize the bits and pieces of huggelig.

I’ve started small…instead of not eating breakfast most mornings, I know make my tray…sometimes a soft boiled egg and toast, sometimes oatmeal with applesauce on top.  I then light a small jar candle I have and sit in my comfortable chair and eat with Zowie and Kitty close to me.  I do the same ritual at night…peach and quiet, a cup of coffee or Earl Gray tea and the candle.

I grew up on hyggelig but after my parents both passed, the only time I’ve had hyggelig has been at Christmas and I didn’t know what was missing…I’ve realized just recently that I need it each and every day.

til next time…Eva