The Broken Window Theory – Reclaiming One Small Area in Our Homes With Far Reaching Benefits

I have found that the Broken Window Theory applies within our homes just as much as it applies in the neighborhoods of large cities.  A few months ago, I gave an example of a broken window in my home, and a couple of weeks ago, I shared another potential broken window on the Copperswife Facebook page. Remember that?


Messy Desk - Before Pic

Those cords *under* the desk will be tackled in an upcoming project.


Though my desk was not *that* bad, I know from past experience that it was headed for complete chaos. The stack of stuff waiting to be filed, shelved or otherwise dealt with had grown to the point of toppling several times a day. This also wasn’t the ideal place for me to keep my Bible, either.


Piles of stuff on the desk

Toppling piles of *stuff* on my desk.


The book ends, holding up these books and binders, were not doing the job, and I found myself pushing everything back into an upright position often, and the boys’ *in* boxes were often overflowing by day’s end.  The desk, however, wasn’t the only problem.


Overloaded book ends on the desk

Overloaded, sliding books and binders, and messy in & out boxes.


Meet Handel, my canary. He sings beautifully, but as you can see (even in this blurry photo) he is a messy eater. At the time I worked on my desk, Handel’s cage was on the tiled breakfast bar opening between the dining area of my kitchen and my schoolroom. The shells from the bird’s seeds ended up in two separate rooms!


Bird Cage on Counter

Sweet singer! Messy bird!

I wanted to move the bird cage closer to a window, but the most likely place was already occupied.

Desk Apprentice

Desk apprentice, just taking up space, filled with stuff we weren't using.


This is my Desk Apprentice, and it is one of the most useful purchases I have ever made. The center section, and about half of the side sections, were filled with things that we weren’t really using anymore.

I emptied the Desk Apprentice of everything that was no longer in use and then took everything off my desk. Bit by bit, item by item, book by book, I was able to put all of the “stuff” that was on my desk top into the Apprentice. All of my correction manuals and answer keys can be grabbed from my desk chair. The books I’m using for the China study I’m doing with my grandkids are in one of the outer compartments, and each of my sons has an outer compartment labeled for him to put his completed school work to be corrected. Pens, pencils, Sharpies, book marks and highlighters occupy the four corner compartments, and the shelf along the top holds my tiny stapler, paper clips, tape and my beloved, can’t-live-without-them Post It Notes.


Neat Desk - After Pic

Much better, and everything is within reach from my chair.


The papers that need to be filed are now in a hanging folder in the center section, and I have a couple of times scheduled during the week to work on filing so that the folder doesn’t become a “broken window”. I have other hanging folders there for the things I take with me for my Saturday Planning Retreat (post coming soon!), as well as for the unit study guides I’m hoping to write soon. There’s even room for my Bible and the notebooks I use for sermon notes at church.

Everything is easier to find now. Though the desk wasn’t bad to being with, it’s much, much better now.


Canary in the window

Handel loves being by the window and his seedy mess is confined to one corner.


The bird is happier by the window, especially in the early morning and evenings when we can open the window. The cage looks nicer there, too. He still tosses his seeds around and makes a huge mess, but that mess is contained in one corner now and can quickly be vacuumed up.


Clean Breakfast Bar

Clean breakfast bar! Clean high chair! Happy me!


An added plus is that my breakfast bar is now clear and can be used throughout the day, or to decorate with a holiday or seasonal vignette, and I don’t have to clean bird seeds out of the highchair before my grandson sits in it.

You know, it’s important that we set the example for our children to keep things neat and organized. It’s certainly not acceptable when my kids aren’t able to find their school stuff,  and it’s not acceptable for me to not be able to find stuff I need, either. By finding a way to straighten up my desk and keep it neat and organized, I was also able to keep the canary’s mess more contained, free up our breakfast bar/counter to be useful, and keep my grandson’s high chair clean for his next visit.

I reclaimed one small area with far reaching benefits! I love it when that happens!

Are there any “broken windows” in your home? Or maybe a window with a small crack, like the one my desk had become? I encourage you take care of that one area now, no matter how small (or large!) before it effects the area surrounding it.



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11 comments to The Broken Window Theory – Reclaiming One Small Area in Our Homes With Far Reaching Benefits

  • Elizabeth Quigley

    Hi Cheryl,
    Great job. Being OCD I don’t get too many broken windows I am always lining things up. Lol
    Love your new organizer.

  • Monica

    I would call my desk a busted window! It is out of sight, out of mind kind of thing. It seems I never can get caught up on my filing! I file at work and keep my desk tiddy, but not so much at home! Thank you, you have challenged me to work on it this weekend! God Bless!

    • Monica – Keeping up with the household filing is not a task I do my best with, either. It’s helping to have the waiting paperwork in a file folder, where it can be accessed easily, and having it on my schedule to file for 5-10 minutes a couple of times a week. I’ve already made a sizable dent in the backlog without spending a great deal of time on it.

  • Looks terrific, Cheryl!!

  • Yes, I have a broken window in my almost tidy house!! I just sold a piece of purposeless furniture in my house and what was on it ended up on my desk!! That isn’t even where I keep my STUFF….that’s out in the living room under the coffee table!! I also try to be a good example to my children but these hot spots do gather junk and must be cleaned out from time-to-time!! You are an inspiration 🙂 and I should get cleaning out my junk (again)!! I enjoyed your post and honesty as we can all feel your warmth and love.

  • Susan G.

    Broken windows?! What?!? Did we used to have windows around here!?! 🙂
    I love the analogy. It makes perfect sense. I think it might help make a little more sense of how the house can slip so quickly. I think I might try duct taping some plastic wrap where the windows used to be! 😉
    Thanks, Cheryl!

    • “I think I might try duct taping some plastic wrap where the windows used to be!”

      That’s funny, Susan! I like the visual that flashed in my brain when I read that!

  • Kristi

    *sigh* A semi went through the middle of my house. Then shifted in to reverse and went back through again. I loved the encouragement here though…

    • Kristi! Think about that Jon Troast song. Find one little corner, put in order, stay there until you feel alright. Do that thing. I think it’s most important to take that time to enjoy the one little corner for awhile before setting the next little corner in order.