The Jar

Updated: Dec 5, 2018

How to use “The Jar”

A few years ago (cue nostalgic music montage) when I was hopping between student housing options, my best friends and I got lucky enough to find a sweet condo just outside of a hip downtown neighborhood for affordable rent and decided it was time for us to take a leap of faith and enter the bonds of roommatehood. We all had different majors, schedules, and lifestyles, but decided our shared passion for obsessive organization and cohesive rules could lend itself to a beautiful thing. We were a terrific punchline to the joke of our undergraduate studies: what do you get when you cross a high-strung introvert, a brilliant athlete, and a bubbly theatre major? How many hipsters does it take to fill a shelf with novelty mugs? A blonde, a brunette, and a redhead walk into a bar…

With three strong personalities comes a little bit of tactical planning. How would the three of us keep things light after three years of friendship and unearthing the Great Wonders of how much of a swamp witch a human can become in exam season/tournament week/theatre production week? Could we do it without driving each other nuts? The answer, of course, came from a Netflix binge and the discovery of Schmidt in New Girl. To counteract his knack for unfavorable idiosyncrasies Schmidt’s roommates created the D-bag jar to keep him in check, and it seemed perfect. In so doing, we outlined the major concerns in our radically different personalities and what we could do as an antecedent strategy to keep each other honest and approach our pet peeves with a little humor and bonus monetary value.

And so, the Jar System came to our little condo and we learned to work around it. Each roommate had a jar, kind of like a swear jar, where the expectation was to put a dollar in the jar every time we succumbed to the behavior we were trying to shape, and we would lovingly call each other on our respective bullshit whenever it presented. We basically set up our own version of a self and match program, like a systematic use of self-modeling as a behavior intervention. If a roommate called “JAR”, you could either agree and add money to the jar, or disagree, work through it, and either add or not depending on the outcome. All the funds collected at the end of the month went towards the purchase of a reinforcing bottle of wine for roomie movie night. And the amazing thing? It worked. Not only did everyone work through their differences towards a common goal and did it laughing, but we got a communal reinforcer afterwards. As the months progressed, the number of dollars in the jar became less and less; while the quality of wine we could afford also sort of went downhill, at least we accomplished something as a team.

Do you have any examples of utilizing a behavior intervention in your life? Read here for another example. If so leave a comment below telling us all about!

Love you all. Mean it.


Related Articles