How To Invade Space and Solve Chronic Clutter Problems in Under 10 minutes


I have been binge reading Gretchen Rubin’s books over the last few weeks. I started with The Happiness Project which I thought was interesting and it led me to Better Than Before. I am currently on to Happier at Home but not completed yet.

Better than Before gave me a whole new insight into who I am as a person and how I form habits or why sometimes I declare something and then never act upon it.

The Theory of Broken Windows

In Better Than Before, I also read an interesting concept. It is the concept of “broken windows.” “Broken windows” is a theory of crime prevention in the early 1980’s where social scientists who observed that when community tolerates petty crimes like broken windows and graffiti, etc, people are more likely to commit serious crime. Gretchen draws a parallel between this concept and her favorite theory of fixing outer order to bring inner calm. She equalizes “broken windows” to a personal setback or disorder.

When I thought about this, my mind immediately went to how clutter (my broken window for the longest time I have ever known) started affecting me. For people who know me (my family and close friends) this might definitely seem shocking.

I am the most clutter-blind person my family has ever seen or known. Or I used to be is a better phrase. I never ever was bothered ever by clutter until I had children. And then it got to me so much that I started creating systems everywhere to fix my clutter issue. I still have a few broken windows that I need to fix but my god; my closet has been in shape for the past year and a half. The toys are in place 5 out of 7 days. My clothes are folded weekly. I can find my things in places where I kept them.

But there is a slight unnoticeable thing that happened that changed the game. How did I recognize my broken window that changed my life completely as I knew it? This is where I introduce my Space Invasion theory.

The Theory of Space Invasion

I feel people are always clutter blind to their own issues but the moment someone else invades their space in form or function, they start noticing clutter more. My husband would nag me a lot to fix my closet, put clothes in their place, etc. and we would fight. That did not change me a bit. That made me unhappy about everything.

But it was not until this one day when out of nowhere (or maybe he thought it through, I have never asked) my husband gave up on nagging me and started putting his clothes out of the basket instead. It immediately blew my mind. How could a person throw clothes on the floor like that? How am I supposed to walk on the floor? That moment, just that moment, changed my whole life as I know it.

I recognized my broken window. I started putting my clothes in the basket. He still throws clothes out; I have never nagged him once about them. I am still very clutter-tolerant than he is. But since these clothes invade my space, I take them and put them in the basket right at that moment. And I make sure my clothes (that need to be washed) are always in the basket as well. We have never once fought about this issue in the last two years since this happened. Our chronic clothes on the floor problem have been solved. We are happier.

How to use Space Invasion theory to identify your Broken Windows?

Sometimes we have an idea of what is exactly wrong with our life. Others need more time to come face to face with it to accept that they have a problem.

Every problem arises because someone has invaded your personal space in some manner. You can ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Find in which way your personal space has been invaded
  2. What thoughts are the most annoying to you at the moment?

You may find these ideas invading your space in the following parameters:

  1. Actual Physical Space
  2. Time
  3. Mental Space
  4. Sensorial Space – (5 senses)

Some examples of space invasion could be:

  1. Kids toys all over the house including your bedroom
  2. Someone playing loud music when you are trying to be quiet so baby can sleep
  3. People taking too much of your time wanting you to do something for them
  4. Kids jumping on you when you are exercising
  5. Laundry baskets invading your hallway

How To Use Space Invasion Theory To Fix Broken Windows?

If someone is invading your space, you should follow my husband’s footsteps to solve your broken window:

  1. Drop nagging
  2. Invade their space subtly till they realize what they are doing wrong. 
  3. Once they have realized their mistake, more often than not the problem will solve itself, or there will be a dialogue waiting to happen to find a solution.

Question: What is bothering you a lot? Use the space invasion theory to identify your broken window. Let me know in the comments how you will fix this issue.


Disclaimer: I am not promoting retaliation. This is not a one size fit all solution and will work in individual circumstances and may not work in other cases. This is what worked for us in this particular situation and I thought was insightful to ponder about.

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