“A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!” I thought of this famous quote from Shakespeare’s Richard III when I cleaned out a week’s worth of detritus from my Prius one recent morning. I bet when Californians rode horses they didn’t try to pack a home office into their saddlebags, and there were no cup holders to fill with a variety of dirty coffee mugs and empty water bottles.

When Richard’s horse was slain, he lost his kingdom because he couldn’t escape his conquerors. We are just as dependent on our automobiles. In my case, my little Prius pony gets me from client to client. I have to admit, it has been rode hard and put away wet lately.

It started when I gleefully left a job where I’d transformed a woman’s home, readying it for the arrival of an exchange student. Backing out of her narrow driveway too quickly, I brushed the back fender against a rough brick wall. Ouch. Now I’m driving around with a scratched fender. I tried to color in the scratches with a black Sharpie, but it only looked like it had been vandalized by a toddler.

The dejection of the scratches led to negligence of the interior. I let stuff pile up in the back seat. I put off making a Goodwill charity drop and let old clothes pile up in the trunk. My mail spent a few days on the floorboards with a leaky water bottle rolling around annoyingly each time I drove around a curve, which is nearly constantly because I’m up and down the Silverado Trail 24/7.

There have been studies that show that when a place is kept clean and tidy, it tends to stay that way. A study on the Keep America Beautiful website, kab.org, states that people litter much more frequently if there is litter already present. For example, a roadway with no litter is likely to stay litter-free. But the first piece or two of litter that show up seem to grant passers by some sort of permission to add to the mess, and soon the road is full of trash. When something is well-maintained and cared for, it brings out our better natures.

The smaller and more crowded the space, the higher the benefits of order. In the tiny country of Japan, car maintenance is mandatory due to their Shaken law. In fact, it is so expensive to own an older vehicle in Japan that you can hardly give them away, making their streets look as gleaming as a new car sales lot.

I’m glad keeping my car in order is my choice, but even so there are costs — monetary, emotional, social — to procrastinating on maintenance and repairs. Even in dream symbology, your car represents your life, and mine was starting to look a little scruffy — not acceptable in my line of work.

When we let a repair or cleaning chore go for awhile, the situation almost always gets worse, rarely better. We put off getting back to “ready position” (for example, getting my car back to presentable) because we fear it will be expensive, troublesome, inconvenient, unpleasant or we don’t feel we have the time. But when we ultimately do handle these chores, the relief is fantastic and we wonder why we ever put them off.