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July 2, 2024 5 mins

A little tip to help any space stay clean

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
Welcome to Before Breakfast, a production of iHeartRadio. Good Morning,
This is Laura. Welcome to the Before Breakfast podcast. Today's
tip is to limit the stacks of stuff. Often a
small stack turns into a big stack, but a stack

won't start where there isn't one. This insight can help
you make any space look more orderly. My family moved
into a new house about two and a half years ago.
We threw out or donated a lot of stuff before moving,
but plenty of things still made it into the boxes.

As we were unpacking, we found stuff that didn't have
homes or still needed to be donated. So I put
some donation boxes in the upstairs hallway. That's also where
I stored some boxes of things that didn't have a
home or needed to be put away some time. And
there those boxes sat for quite a while. Curiously, they

began to attract other random items. The piles in the
hallway stayed there, slowly growing and just generally looking like
a mess. Then a little over a year ago, we
took the donations where they needed to go and found
homes for things and dumped everything else. The empty boxes

went out with the recycling. The hallway was suddenly clear,
and then a funny thing happened. No one has stacked
anything in the hallway since then. Since everything got put away,
everything stayed put away. No one leaves the random items

sitting on the floor in the hallway. If they did,
it would probably look so out of place on a
completely clear floor that I or somebody else would put
it somewhere else immediately. While stacks of stuff attract more stuff,
an empty surface tends to stay pretty empty. Maybe it

is related to the broken windows theory of crime. The
idea is that if people see broken windows and the
windows don't get fixed, they figure no one cares, no
one is watching, more vandalism happens, whereas if the windows
get fixed, people wind up behaving better. They know that
order is expected. Now. I don't know if the evidence

is completely clear clut on that as matter of police policy,
but I do know that in my house, the existence
of a big pile of stuff indicates that people don't
really care if the stuff piles up, so people put
more stuff there rather than taking the extra a few
seconds to find things real homes, the pile gets bigger,

whereas if the surface is clear, people think twice before
putting a random sock or a broken toy or a
piece of trash there. Someone is going to wonder why
there is a broken toy sitting right there in the
middle of the hallway. It gets noticed in a way
that it doesn't when it is merely thrown on top

of a box of random donations or items with no homes.
So if you would like a space to look more orderly,
try clearing off stacks of stuff as much as possible.
Maybe just put the stacks in a box and put
the box in a closet. It doesn't really solve the problem,
but people will think twice about creating a new stack.

You might even combine small stacks into one stack, so
more space is clear, and so it is harder to
stack stuff on top of the taller stack. I have
done this with mail and magazines. If people see piles
all over the counter, they just add to it. But
a single stack that's a bit more precarious in height
invites a pause. Do I want to add to this

and risk the whole stack toppling? That moment of pause
isn't a bad thing. Now. To be sure, this doesn't
always work. I try my best to keep certain kitchen
counters clear, but certain members of my family will see
the empty counter as an invitation to throw their stuff
completely across it, as if six other people don't live

in the house with them. But the evidence from my
hallway suggests that removing the stacks does have something of
a positive effect from a clutter perspective, so it might
be worth a shot. In the meantime, This is Laura.
Thanks for listening, and here's to making the most of

our time. Thanks for listening to Before Breakfast. If you've
got questions, ideas, or feedback, you can reach me at
Laura at Laura vandercam dot com. Before Breakfast is a

production of iHeartMedia. For more podcasts from iHeartMedia, please visit
the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to
your favorite shows.

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Laura Vanderkam

Laura Vanderkam

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