Breaking the Clutter Habit

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How to Break the Clutter Habit @ AVirtuousWoman.org

A Time to Clean: Day 24

Maintaining clutter is about more than just “doing” – it’s about changing the way you think. It’s really hard to “do” when your “brain” is still in clutter mode. We all have our comfort zone. Some people are comfortable with more visual clutter than others. I’m not saying this is wrong, but if your desire is to have a neat home with less clutter, you need to create new habits that will promote your new way of thinking.

I know I’ve struggled with this over the years, although my habits have improved considerably since I was a young mom.

The Broken Window Effect

So there’s this theory called The Broken Window Effect. This theory is a criminological theory of the how neighborhoods deteriorate into vandalism and anti-social behavior.

From Wikipedia:

The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments to prevent small crimes such as vandalism, public drinking and toll-jumping helps to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes from happening.

So, what does this have to do with clutter in your house? 

Well, basically, we all have “hot spots” in our homes that just seem to collect clutter. For some of us…. every surface may be fair game for clutter and others may notice that the kitchen counter, the dining room table are the primary targets for clutter.

How to Break the Clutter Habit @ AVirtuousWoman.org

So, let’s say you do a good job of getting rid of all the clutter on your dining room table and you can finally sit down for a meal with your family. It stays clean and clear of clutter for … two days. And then someone discards the mail on the table. And then another family member {seeing that the surface already has some clutter} mindlessly sets down a book. Then you walk by with your arms full of laundry and you think, “I’ll be right back to get this put away,” but you forget or get busy and it doesn’t get done. Now, within less than 24 hours you have a pile of clutter that, if left unchecked will grow even larger tomorrow.

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The Broken Window Effect basically means that once a window in a neighborhood is broken – it breeds more broken windows, more decline in the neighborhood until the whole area is full of broken windows, graffiti, and crime.

In the example I used above, the first family member to set the mail down on the table “broke the window.” Now everyone else feels {subconsciously} that they have “permission” to add to the “broken windows.”

How to Break the Habit

You can’t change everyone in your home overnight. {Maybe never.} But you can begin to train yourself and your family to follow this simple rule:

Don’t set it down, put it away.

Once you have decluttered your home of excess belongings and found a place for those things you need or want to keep, it’s time to get serious about keeping your house free of visual, mental, and physical clutter.

If you see your child set something down where it doesn’t belong, repeat the old adage and ask them to put it away. But then you also need to say this to yourself! To really create a new habit, you need to do it for at least 28 – 30 days consistently. You may have setbacks, but that’s okay. It’s part of learning and growing. The important thing is that we are on the road to success!

Today’s Goal

  • Pray and ask God to help keep clutter at bay and to learn to deal with clutter when it happens so it doesn’t pile up.
  • Pray about making hard decisions – about what things you should keep, preserve, or let go.
  • Pick up a journal and write down your thoughts about what He has shown you or print my free prayer journal.
  • Choose an area in your home you want to tackle.
  • Fill at least one bag or box full of stuff to give away.
  • Take a picture of your bag. Share it on Facebook, or Instagram – use hashtag #atimetoclean2017 {optional}
  • Leave a comment below about what you chose to get rid of and anything else God has laid on your heart.
  • Do your best to wake up early tomorrow and spend time in prayer. Use your prayer journal.

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  1. Wow! I just had a huge realization! I keep clearing the same hot spots because of the broken window effect! I used to say the clutter multiplied like rabbits once the first odd item was set down. I really need to adjust my goal. Yes, I will clear the hot spot (for the 100th time), but I will set the goal to keep the hot spot clear for 28-30 days and track that in my monthly habit tracker. Thanks, Melissa! This is a decluttering game changer for me! I am so excited!
  2. My problem is that I don’t have a car and I have a lot of boxes big boxes so it’s hard for me to get rid of the things that I want to donate and I know people that have cars but they don’t volunteer to help. I also live in apartment by any chance do you know of a company that will came and pick these things up.

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