Today we’re talking about fixing the “broken windows” around our houses. I don’t mean the actual broken windows. I’m referring to the Broken Windows theory. Even though it’s controversial as a predictor of crime (which I’ll explain in the episode), it’s certainly true in our homes. And since right now we’re in our homes more than usual, it’s a good time to pay attention to take action. So let’s jump into our discussion today about the theory, how it applies to our homes, and what we can do about it.
- The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
- Self Care for the Special-Needs Mom Facebook group
- Sandra on Instagram
Episode 21- April 27th- Fixing the “Broken Windows” Around Our Houses
Hi friends, this is self-care and soul care for the caregiver, and I’m Sandra Peoples. This is episode 21. Today we’re talking about fixing the broken windows around our houses. I don’t mean the actual broken windows. I’m referring to the Broken Windows theory. Even though it’s controversial as a predictor of crime (which I’ll explain in just a minute), it’s certainly true in our homes. And since right now we’re in our homes more than usual, it’s a good time to pay attention to take action. So let’s jump into our discussion today about the theory, how it applies to our homes, and what we can do about it.
The broken windows idea has been written about in multiple places, but I like this summary from Malcom Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point. He writes, “Broken Windows was the brainchild of criminologist James Q. Wilson and George Kelling. They argued that crime is the inevitable result of disorder. If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares, and no one is in charge. Soon, more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street on which it faces, signaling that anything goes. So problems like graffiti, public disorder, and aggressive panhandling, are all the equivalent of broken windows—invitations to more serious crimes.” Other people who have studied crime say this may be too simplistic of a theory and that other factors are more important, but I do think it’s true when it comes to our homes.
How does that apply to our homes? Well, disorder leads to more disorder. Clutter leads to more clutter. What we tolerate on a small level can grow and grow.
There’s a verse in the Song of Solomon that says,
Catch the foxes for us,
the little foxes
that spoil the vineyards,
for our vineyards are in blossom.
When we lived in Pennsylvania, we drove through a vineyard on our way to church. It was row after row of vines, carefully tended. But I can image how little foxes, running through, knocking things over, stealing the fruit, would spoil the vineyards. All that hard work, all those perfect rows, would be ruined.
Little foxes, or little messes, change the mood of the home. For example, we have a table near our door where we put the mail. Because there’s already a layer of mail there, I don’t think twice about putting other things on top of it. When I’m coming in the door with my hands full, I set it all down there. Usually without a plan to deal with it later. It doesn’t take long for this little side table to overflow with mail, receipts, books, and anything else that gets set down. Next to the table is the spot where Lee takes off his shoes when he comes in. That’s not really a problem, but he also takes off his socks in that spot. And one pair of socks leads to 5 pairs of socks by the end of the week. These spots usually get cleaned up when we have people over, but right now we aren’t having people over, so the piles just grow and grow. It’s a “broken window,” a spot of clutter we tolerate.
The funny thing about spots like this is they don’t take long to clean up. But still we walk right by them, not taking the few minutes required to make it right. As I thought about this topic, I paid attention to the areas of clutter around my house.
In our bedroom, the top of my dresser is a big one! There’s layers of stuff on top of layers of dust. We also have a spot in our kitchen that is a magnet for piles of stuff. I usually clean it off when people come over, but like I said before, that hasn’t happened in a long time, so it just keeps piling up. My desk area is also a huge mess. Before all this happened, I was preparing for speaking events this spring. I ordered extra books and made sure I had enough t-shirts. Well, now they are sitting in piles around my desk, along with what I usually travel with to decorate my table when I speak. My dad was cleaning out their garage recently and gave me a storage bin with wheels that will be the perfect container for all my stuff, but right now it’s sitting empty next to my stacks.
These little spots around the house may not seem like a lot of clutter, but they do act as a “broken window,” a sign that a little mess is tolerated around here, so maybe bigger messes would be too. But this week I have a plan. I’m going to attack one area each day until they are clean and organized. A couple of them, like the table next to the door and my dresser, won’t take much time at all. I could probably get the table done during a commercial break while I’m watching a Food Network show. The spot in my kitchen could be picked up while dinner is in the oven one night. And sure, my office is going to take the longest, but the payoff will also be the highest. I’ll feel more at ease when I’m in it, getting my to do list done.
What “broken windows” do you see as you walk through your house and yard? Overflowing toy bins? A pile of sheets or towels that never make it into the cabinet? Dirty clothes next to the bin instead of actually in it? (side note: how does that even happen? Do my family members miss?) Want to join me this week as we tackle them? I’ll show you before and after pictures on Instagram and in our self-care for the special-needs mom Facebook group. I’ll cheer you on as we both make progress. We’ll feel better because we are spending so much extra time at home, and our families will feel better too.
Let’s pray together as we wrap up today:
God, we thank you for our homes and all the things that fill our homes. You give us the gift of creativity, and we use that gift to make our homes purposeful and beautiful. We appreciate our homes even more now since we are spending so much time in them. But just as little foxes spoil the vineyard, little messes can take over! As we are on the lookout this week for those messes and take time to clean them, help us to do so with grateful hearts. Let this be an expression of the love we have for our families. In Jesus’s name we pray, amen.
Thanks for spending time with me this week! I’m so thankful for each time you hit play. As a special offer to celebrate Mother’s Day, you can get all the shirts I have available with free shipping! While supplies last, you can get the dark grey one that says Choose to Include for $10, the book shirt that says “Unexpected Journey, Unexpected Blessings” for $15, and the new Monday Uniform shirt for $18. I’ll get them ready as soon as your order comes through and I’ll socially distance at the post office to send them your way! You can see pictures of all the shirts and see the sizes available on my website in the show notes for this episode. Just head to sandrapeoples.com/thepodcast
Alright friends, that’s all for today. Know that I’m praying for you during this season, that you’ll take care of yourself so you’re able to care for the loved ones who rely on you! I’ll meet you back here next Monday.