Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The "Broken Window" Theory

December 14,
Today, during my mid-morning slump I brewed another cup of coffee ate a cinnamon roll (I’m sure I’ll regret that later!) and read for about 10 minutes from “Home Comforts” by Cheryl Mendelson about the “Broken Window” theory of keeping house. (It’s a wonderful section in an extremely helpful book, if you don’t have it – get it, you won’t regret it. The first few chapters are worth the price of the entire book. I have a wonderful sturdy hardbound copy but I saw it for less in a paperback copy at the bookstore recently) I don’t have time to write the whole thing about neatening but let me just write a brief quote here: “the domestic equivalent of an unrepaired broken window can result in a chain reaction that eventually sees the home in complete chaos. It happens like this… [he leaves his things out] Now the “window” has been broken. Anyone who walks in will feel untitled to add more disorder because the room is already slightly, even if pleasantly, disorderly… Or say one person does a lackluster job of cleaning up after a meal. Some dishes or pots or countertops are left unwashed. Everyone who walks into the kitchen afterward feels entitled to add to the mess, leaving a glass and a plate on the counter or more crumbs on the table. (After all, there are already a dirty cup and bowl; two more won’t matter.)… the household is soon entirely out of control.”
I have seen this concept work in my bedroom this week. On Monday I neatened most of the bedroom (except for the indomitable mess on the desk) – I hung up all of the cloths that we’d left out “for later”, parked all our shoes in the closet, vacuumed the carpet and made the bed. Since then I’ve made an effort to put my clothes away at night, and any others that are lying around on the floor before I go to bed and Daniel is following suite (and I haven’t said a word)!! Now for the rest of the house!

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