New York’s mayor in the 90s, Rudy Guiliani and police commissioner William Bratton were famous for their ruthless execution of the broken window theory.
It proposed that if there was an abandoned building with a few broken windows, this would inspire vandals to break more windows, fill it with graffiti, litter the footpath by its side and use it for squatting. The means to prevent this escalation is to quickly fix the building’s few broken windows, which in turn, deters other acts of petty crime and vandalism. Several studies in the United States and the Netherlands have established the correlation between visible signs of disorder such as broken windows, graffiti and litter with petty crime.
The broken glass theory implies that our environments communicate with us through sub-conscious cues. The broken window theory is yet another evidence of the predominance of our environment in shaping our behaviour. This is why a clean sink encourages us to wash a vessel or two rather than leave them inside just as a locality filled with litter attracts more filth.
Our environments are more persuasive than we think. Therefore, it pays to order our wardrobes, organize our tables and dust our shelves every once in a while.