Trying to fix those “Broken Windows”

Broken and Not Broken Windows

A few of my broken windows on display

During work this week I ran across this blog post by Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project about “Broken Windows”.  I’ll let her explain:

The “broken windows theory” of policing holds that when a community tolerates minor examples of disorder and petty crime, such as broken windows, graffiti, turnstile-jumping, or drinking in public, people are more likely to commit more serious crimes.

As a law-enforcement theory, it’s controversial, but whether or not it’s true on a city-wide level, I think it’s true on a personal level.

My “broken windows” are the particular signs of disorder that make me feel out of control and overwhelmed.  – Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

Looking around my apartment, and my mind, I recognized a whole pile of “broken windows” staring me right in the face and I have a feeling like I’m a slob who can’t get her shit together.  Not at all a woman who is closer to 30 than 20 and wants to feel like a real grownup.

My broken windows seem to include:

  • Dirty dishes beside and in the sink
  • Random bits of garbage sitting on my desk and coffee table
  • The box for my new electric toothbrush under my desk
  • The blocking mats on my floor, the blocking pins in my window sill (both of which have been there since I unpinned a shawl on Feb 14th)
  • The amigurumi in need of repairs sitting on the floor where they got tossed when Carla visited 4 weeks ago.
  • My notoriously unmade bed
  • The laundry drying rack with a few items left on it from doing my laundry, also a month ago (I have done laundry since then, but that pile is also unsorted, unfolded and half on my floor)
  • And about a half dozen things I’m not quite as keen to make public

However, it is not hopeless.  Gretchen herself mentions how spending little seconds to prevent the window from getting broken, in my case, spending the 10 minutes to put away my clean laundry, or to wash out my two or three dishes and wipe down the counter, can make a big difference in your mental health.

I think this is the other half of what I was thinking about when I talked about letting go of my FIFO knitting mentality.  I think I need to let go to the idea of a system in my crafting life, letting go of “have to” and “must” when it comes to yarn and fluff, knitting and crochet, spinning and weaving, and apply some of that mental energy to dish doing and bed making.

Despite the fact that it will take me a half second to pick up the box of tissues that fell on the floor 2 weeks ago, I have managed to pretend it’s not there and kick it around my living room several times. And when there is a box of tissues on the floor, why does it matter if I just leave that mug there on the coffee table, oh and that tupperware bowl that used to have leftovers in it, it can just stay at my desk for a week.

While I’m feeling this surge of ” have to ” and “must” I’m going to spend the better part of the weekend putting away my clutter and getting my apartment set up in such a way that I have a much tougher time “breaking the windows”.  However, this is an on going process.  I’m putting this here as a way of being accountable to myself, by telling you about the work I need to do I feel more obligated to myself to actually do the work.

So what are the “broken windows” in your life?  Do you have any in need of fixing?  What tricks do you use on yourself to stay on top of your clutter?

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