Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Habits, Psychology, Cleanliness, Messy, Family, People, Parents, Time

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/09/29

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Habits are, “behavioral patterns enacted automatically in response to a situation in
which the behavior has been performed repeatedly and consistently in the past,” (Lally and Gardner, 2013). Most people have both good and bad habits that they have developed over their entire lives. For me, neglecting to pick up objects and keeping items that I do not actually need has been a lifelong habit. This habit was partly formed in my childhood because it was acceptable to leave items around the house. The good news is that I can use what cause me to form this habit to try and retrain myself to be a tidier person.

Habit Development

One habit I have is that I am messy. I eat from a dish and leave it in the sink without washing it. I leave bottles and junk in my. I read a book and I leave it on the table without putting it back onto the shelf. I do this over and over again and things just seem to pile up around the house. Nothing is really dirty, just messy and unorganized. I have the habit of keeping things that I don’t need, which adds to clutter. I keep things like books I’ve already read, decorative items with no place to put them, and clothes that don’t fit me anymore.

Role Models

My parents were definitely role models in this situation. My father kept everything because he thought he could use it in a future project. My home growing up was a little cluttered, but not really messy, my mother put out a lot of photos, hung a mot of paintings, and had shelves of decorative items. The exception was my bedroom and my father’s workshop, both were very messy and cluttered. The rest of the house was clean, but not because my parents were good at keeping it clean. They hired someone to come in and clean the main areas of the house once or twice a week.

Influence of Habit

My parents influenced this habit, but there were some other influences. I’ve had living partners and roommates who have also been messy, or who have not cared if I make or leave messes. Popular television and movies also promote the idea of messiness as a personality trait for certain types of people. People like professors, geniuses, artists, and other creative people are often depicted as messy and disorganized. In the article, Messy desk, or genius at work?, Byrne (2014), stated that many people think, “a cluttered desk is a sign of genius,” and, “an empty desk means an empty mind.” With this sort of influence, it’s easy to say that my messiness is not a problem, in fact, it’s a sign of my creative genius.

Why Continue

As an adult, I’m responsible for my own messes and I know that eventually I will have to clean up, sooner or later. However, there are areas that I could always leave messy, such as my desk, bookshelves, and other storage surfaces. The biggest reason for continuing the habit is because it seems easier than trying to break it. The ease comes from two areas, fist I don’t have to work on breaking the habit. Second, I can avoid the work that goes into keeping everything really clean, this includes organization and throwing away items that I want to keep, but don’t use.

Attempts to Break the Habit

I have attempted to break the habit a few times, most often when I move from one location to another because a new home is a clean slate and a chance to make sure that it does not get messy and items don’t pile up. I have attempted to create a cleaning calendar that describes what I need to tidy up and when it needs to be done by. Usually, I’ll plan to clean one small area each day, on a weekly basis, with larger cleaning on a monthly basis. These attempts to break the habit have been partly successful, but sometimes I fall into old habits.

Cognitive Habit Formation

According to Nave (2013), our mind has a limited computational capacity, meaning that it is too difficult for us to constantly make small decision. So, we develop habits in order to make everyday life easier. The first time we come across a situation, we have to think about what to do, but the second time we come across the same situation, we’ll probably think about it less. Every time we come across the situation, we think about our reaction less and less until it becomes a habit that we don’t think about at all (Nave, 2013).

Social Habit Formation

According to Lally and Gardner (2013), habits are formed first by using social cues to decide how to react to a given situation and then, similar to the cognitive approach, repeating that reaction until it becomes habitual. Habits are formed and continued because they are socially accepted, at least within one’s immediate group. This is part of the reason why my messiness habit developed, people such as m parents and roommates modeled and accepted this behavior from me. On the other side of the spectrum, people can also pick up on good habits that are modeled and encouraged by parents and peers.

Operate Conditioning Plan

Operate conditioning is habits formed through consequences, such as punishment or reward (Irons and Buskist, 2008). Right now, my messy behavior was conditioned through both rewards (I don’t have to take the time to tidy up) and no consequences (no one is bothered if I don’t clean up). In order to break the habit, I need to create consequences for myself. I will create a cleaning calendar, like I have previously, but this time I will treat myself to a night at the movie theater if I stick to the calendar for the whole month. If I don’t follow the calendar and keep clean, I won’t see a movie. Every time I clean I will remember the movie that I’m working towards. Eventually, the cleaning will become a habit and I won’t have to work toward a movie.


The question is; was my whole personality developed from social or cognitive habit formation? I think that personality is more intrinsic than learned or formed behaviors. While my social environment is part of what determines who I am, the millions of small daily decisions that eventually form habits were decisions that I made on my own. Socially and cognitively formed habits are part of a person’s personality, but they do not equal personality and could be changed through choice and conditioning.


Byrne, M. (2014, May 08). Messy desk, or genius at work? Express & Echo
Irons, J., & Buskist, W. (2008). Operant conditioning. In S. Davis, & W. Buskist (Eds.), 21st century psychology: A reference handbook. (pp. I-329-I-340). Thousand Oaks, CA
Lally, P., & Gardner, B. (2013). Promoting habit formation. Health Psychology Review, 7(sup1), S137-S158
Nave, Gidi. (2013). Habits: Our cognitive shortcut. XRDS: Crossroads, The ACM Magazine for Students, Volume 20 Issue 1.

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