GRETCHEN RUBIN> Happiness Through Fixing Small Things

In crime-fighting, the broken windows theory holds that signs of vandalism and petty crime foster more crime and anti-social behavior; fix problems like broken windows, graffiti, or trash when they’re small, and people will behave better and remain in their neighborhoods.


This theory is controversial, but whether or not it’s true in a municipal context, I’ve been trying to apply it in my own home, by trying to do a better job of fixing small things right away.


Just yesterday, a light bulb burned out in my office. My instinct would be to put up with this for weeks, while half-heartedly reminding myself to replace the bulb, to little effect; instead, this morning, I marched myself over to the closet where we keep light-bulbs, grabbed one, and swapped them out.


This issue is familiar to me. In college, my roommate and I would joke about the fact that we were the kind of people who, when some very necessary light-bulb in the living room burned out, would just resignedly say to each other, “Oh, well, now we have to learn to live without that light-bulb.” It took us forever to take care of those kinds of tasks.


Just the other morning, I got a ridiculous sense of accomplishment from this small act. And now it’s done, and won’t consume any more precious mental energy.


I find that when the little things in my home are out of order, I feel restless, anxious, and overwhelmed. When I take care of the little things, I feel more ready to tackle the large things.


How about you? Do you find that taking care of seemingly inconsequential tasks makes you feel happier and calmer? Am I the only one who has this strange resistance to light-bulb replacement?