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The Broken Window Theory

Posted 6/6/2016 5:17pm by Shiloh Avery.

Jason whipping the landscaping into organization

Two social scientists, James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, introduced the “broken window theory” in the early 80s.  I’ll paraphrase the theory.  Broken windows beget more vandalism and other petty crimes.  So if you fix the broken window promptly, it is a lot less likely that more windows will be broken or more vandalism will occur.  If you clean up the streets promptly and daily, people are less likely to throw their trash in them.  Let me say it in the positive: clean streets beget clean streets and neighborhoods that people feel safe in.  

We employ a similar theory in our lives here on the farm.  The appearance of disorganization and chaos begets disorganization and chaos.  If the house is messy, our whole lives feel messy, and we’re more likely to approach farm management sloppily.  So we try to make the bed every day, keep the “office pile” relegated to one big magnet on the fridge (sometimes it takes two), clean up the kitchen as we go, etc.  

We try to keep our fields relatively “clean” of weeds (hey, I said “relatively”!), the field borders mowed on a somewhat regular basis (hey, I said “somewhat”!), and the packing shed neat and organized.  Everything in its place.  

We feel strongly that the appearance of organization and cleanliness leads to real organization and cleanliness.  Besides, there’s a huge amount of satisfaction involved in the appearance of organization. Or perhaps it's just me.


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