How Broken Windows And A Robot Keep Our Home Tidy.

A Tidy Home - Find out how a stay-at-home Dad uses broken windows and a robot to keep his house clean!

Imagine strolling down the sidewalk of a run-down neighborhood. Trash, blown by the wind, is wedged between the links of old, rusted chain-link fences. Grass has overgrown the sidewalks and begun to find its way through driveways. You notice a broken window on the house ahead and wonder, “At some point this neighborhood was bright and shiny – what happened?” The answer may lie within that one broken window.

The broken window theory.

Here’s the gist: visual signs of disrepair and disrespect, for example a broken window that remains un repaired, creates an environment that encourages more of the same. Basically, when we notice one sign of disregard, a “broken window,” its then easier to accept other items of disrepair; and people tend to have less respect for the place than they might otherwise.

If you’re interested you can read more about the origins of the theory here.

My first exposure to the broken window theory was working at Camp Manito-wish during college. It was presented in relation to minor upkeep of camp facilities– picking up litter along the trails, making sure paper towels actually landed in the trash can, submitting maintenance requests, tightening loose fixtures, replacing broken light bulbs, etc.

The goal was to stay on top of minor items, fixing “broken windows” quickly and continuously displaying a high-level of respect for camp.

Applying “broken windows” to our homes.

One thing leads to another and we end up in a messy house with bathrooms that need to be cleaned, clutter gathering on the counters, and a trashcan that smells like your newborn nephew’s epic diaper blowout.

Maybe you’ve left the empty toilet paper roll, bound for the recycling bin, on the bathroom counter for two days. Or quickly swept a few crumbs from the kitchen table onto the floor – after all it’s dirty anyway right?

How robots fit in.

In early November of last year I attended a workshop put on by Jack Spirko over at The Survival Podcast. In one of the presentations, automation extraordinaire David Siegler posed this question “What would you do every day if YOU didn’t have to do it? His leading example was robotic vacuums.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday fast approaching I approached Kolie, my wife, with the solution to all our woes. It took surprisingly little effort to convince her and after Thanksgiving we pulled the trigger on our first household robot. Jetsons here we come!

Kolie and I named our car GPS, Rosie, after the Jetson’s robotic maid years ago – so we left it to our twin sons, RJ and CJ, to name this guy.

They came up with Robbie; Robbie the Robotic Vacuum!

And the little visual “wall” it came with – CJ started calling it “The Sentry”.

I try to run Robbie several times a week, so the floors stay picked up most of the time. Much better than the “I can’t stand the floor anymore we have to sweep today” schedule we were previously working with.

Rather than use the Wi-Fi features I manually assign the robot to clean one room at a time. This accomplishes two things:

  1. It allows us to pick up that one room to a state that the robot can effectively do its job – much easier than ridding the whole house of Robbie’s favorite treat (Can you guess what it is?)
  2. It keeps the digital mapping data of our home out of the company’s profile. (their website says they don’t log that data; it’s just my personal preference)
  3.  BONUS! it severely cuts down on the likelihood of coming home to this pooptastrophie – Click to see story.

Before we enlisted the help of a robot there were times when we would let sweeping of the floors go to the point that our driveway was probably cleaner. Taking this point and melding it with the broken window theory it’s easy notice how our dirty floors encourage the ring in the toilet bowls, toothpaste splatter on the bathroom mirror, projects half-finished cluttering the garage, and baskets of clean laundry being stacked upon each other.

To abruptly bring this full circle, the more Robbie cleans the more we notice how clean the floors are. The more we notice how clean the floors are the more we want to keep the countertops clean, toys picked up, beds made, trash taken out, dog poop scooped, clothes folded and put away (ok we still struggle with this one) so on and so forth. 

Now we have Robbie and The Sentry helping to clean our floors and keep our “broken windows” in check.


Can you think of any “broken window” scenarios in your life?

I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!


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