We want a happy home.
We intuitively know there is peace when there is order. We want our homes to be peaceful, organized and a joy in which to live, love and play.
In a book called The Tipping Point, the author, Malcom Gladwell, really grabbed my attention when he wrote about the Broken Window Theory. It was the brainchild of criminologists James Wilson and George Kelling. Kelling wrote, “Crime is the inevitable result of disorder.” Getting organized reduces crime.
I’m not saying because your house is a mess you’ll inevitably rob a bank or shoot your husband, but it’s a fair guess you’ve been late for church because you couldn’t find your car keys and broke the speed limit to get there on time, or you’ve been pulled over for driving under the influence when really you were just trying to put a little lipstick on while getting to your meeting.
Wilson and Kelling claim, “If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge.” They tell about the horrible crime in the New York Subways in the 90s and that by cleaning up the graffiti on the outside and inside of the cars, crime plummeted! A cluttered room, among other things is like graffiti. It’s symbolic of the collapse of a system. It sends a message that no one’s in charge and no one cares.
Here are 6 simple household tasks that convey the same message as the graffiti-free subways did.
Is there a broken window in each room?
Let’s use the metaphor of the broken window in each room of our homes and make “repairs” that will take you less than five minutes each. That means that in about 20 minutes you can fix five windows and you’ll show yourself and your family that you are back in charge and that you care.
1. Orderliness in the Kitchen: Empty and shine the sink.
A sink full of dirty dishes, wallowing in cold and gooey mystery water says the dishwasher needs to be emptied and the residents don’t have the time or inclination to empty the dishwasher and clean up after themselves. On the other hand, an empty and shiny sink welcomes the family to easily take care of their own dishes after a meal.
2. Orderliness in the Bedroom: Make the bed.
An unmade bed promises a less than peaceful night’s sleep. It predicts you’ll spend a lot of the night wrestling with sheets that aren’t tucked in and covers that are unevenly distributed. An unmade bed says you don’t care about your sleep. A made bed welcomes you at the end of the day to rest easy.
3. Orderliness in the Living Room: Fold the load of laundry on the couch.
A load of clean laundry on the couch with the cat sleeping on it says, it has been there too long. When the family starts using the pile to dress from, it suggests their drawers are stuffed and there’s no room for clean laundry. I believe behind a family that doesn’t put their laundry away, are bedrooms stuffed with unworn, outdated and outgrown clothes. A laundry-free couch says, come and sit on me and enjoy this room that’s called a living room, not a dressing room.
4. Orderliness in the Bathroom: Brush the Big Tooth (toilet).
A dirty toilet says there’s not a daily habit in place to clean and disinfect the toilet. A toilet you use every day should be cleaned every day. I make it part of my evening routine and when I’m through brushing my teeth, I brush the big one. I pretend it’s a big tooth and I’m a dentist there to examine it for decay and tarter.
5. Orderliness in the dining Room: Set the table.
A dining room table piled with papers, crafts etc. says that the family is not sitting down to share meals together. Start setting the table and sending the message that you value family time together and sitting down to at least an evening meal can bring the family closer together. It’s also where table manners are learned as well as learning the art of conversation.
6. Clutter: Declutter daily.
Clutter is the biggest broken window of them all. Clutter reproduces when you’re not looking. When you leave the fingernail clippers on the kitchen counter, it won’t be long before a coffee cup, sewing scissors, junk mail, crayons, your bank statement, gardening catalogues and miscellaneous receipts will join the party. Clutter is like tarter on your teeth, if you don’t brush daily, it collects and causes decay. We can’t organize clutter and it can slowly snuff the peace and joy right out of us. When we establish a habit of regular decluttering (5 minutes a day) we give ourselves the gift of a happy, peaceful home.
The presence or absence of broken windows in your home all have to do with habits and routines. When you have good habits and routines your home will be free of broken windows and full of peace and joy.
If you learned from this blog, check out http://blog.housefairy.org/7-elements-to-a-happy-home.
If clutter is a problem in your home, I’d like to give you a chapter from my book, The Joy of Being Disorganized. The chapter, I’d love you to have is called, There Arose Such a Clutter, and I think you’ll love my unique approach to the handling of clutter.