This was a phrase of my parents -possibly more so my Dad- that was heard fairly frequently during my childhood. To the point that it has become ingrained in my brain. So much so, that it has become part of my wiring or default to do so; without consciously being aware of it, or instructing myself to do so.

Interestingly, it came consciously back to my mind the other day, as I endeavored to regulate my irritation at some cross-cultural differences. It actually spontaneously came out of my mouth, as the verbal expression of a crescendo of internal mutterings,

Leave things how you found them.

At which point it dawned on me, that this phrase -and associated principle- could cover a number of minor irritations, and should possibly be a cross-cultural tip. Maybe even a ‘life in general’ one.

As it cuts out whether putting the knife tip down, squeezing the toothpaste from the middle, leaving an item in the middle of the room or on the floor, and so on are right/wrong; makes/doesn’t make sense etc. You don’t have to get or agree with the preference of others, you don’t have to muse on why they can’t see that it should be “this way.” You employ one of my life lessons, “it’s not wrong, or strange, it’s just different,” keep calm, and carry on 🙂

If you leave things how you found them, then whoever originally put them that way doesn’t end up being miffed, put out, annoyed… As it’s not just about form and/or function, but the meaning or value we put on things. Depending on the meaning we attach to things, when others don’t do, use, or leave things in the way we do, it can be seen as a lack of valuing or respecting someone’s choices.

The lessons that we learn in childhood and in our formative years -most particularly from significant figures- tend to have deep roots. The socialisation we experience significantly shapes who we are, and who we will grow to be. Even though, many of us during adolescence and adulthood, will have times when we challenge, disregard, re-evaluate or re-frame these. Deciding whether we want to continue to accept them as part of our ways of being, personal values and practices. Some of us also probably revert to others. For example, me realising that what my Mum said about,

packing your bag from the night before,

really is the best way.

So what do you reckon, could “leave things how you found them” be a cross-cultural tip contender? I’m definitely not suggesting it is a one size fits all concept, as there are serious issues in life that should definitely not be left as we found them. But for some of the more everyday stuff of life, maybe, just maybe, it’s a good one to consider…