September 25, 2020

Clean up, clean up, when everyone is nowhere

Although ideal, promising to take turns with chores inevitably results in frustration and laziness. (Illustration by Keryn Brenzel)

Remember that maid your mother always claimed didn’t exist? Well, presuming she or he exists in your off-campus house is even more delusional and disastrous.

With no one to threaten car privileges, you’ll rapidly discover that the dishes will pile up and the bathroom will transform into a veritable jungle of dropped toothpaste and clogged drains. ?What happened? You aren’t slobs! You and your housemates are relatively clean-looking people. Why, then, do you live in filth? It’s an enigma, really, but with thorough investigation, may be unraveled.

No one’s ever taken out the garbage because there are designated garbage days, all of which were missed. Who knew? The kitchen should be condemned. You just discovered you have a lint catcher in your dryer. Now would be ideal to locate the fire extinguisher. Do you even know if you have a plunger? Sooner or later, you’ll find out.

Ordering people to clean is a dangerous game, one that delves into you’re-not-my-mother territory into full-blown where’s-the-goddamn-Windex wars. Diplomatic divisions of work may seem like the logical next step. Charts or chore wheels may prove an organized, clinical approach to the disaster at hand. Except they don’t work.

You may make a colorful wheel of work and believe that dividing and alternating tasks is perhaps the most beautiful concept in the world. Everyone agrees, the chore arrow/olive branch is positioned and figurative handshakes abound because, really, who shakes hands anymore? Week one comes and ends and, lo and behold, nothing has been done. Week two, the wheel is stagnant. Week three, and portions of the wheel have “disappeared,” leaving the now insulting contraption like a mediocre grade on the refrigerator. “A” for

effort, I suppose.

If you are able to make variations of the “wheel” work, you’re a saint. Otherwise, a slightly less-organized rhythm must be established. If you clean up after yourself and clean common areas periodically, you are above reproach. Hopefully, others will follow suit. If it seems ages since you cleaned something, it’s most likely your turn.

When someone doesn’t seem to be pulling his or her weight, it’s always better to discuss this issue directly with said person, without seeming like you are attacking or lecturing the person, rather than voicing outrage to everyone else. It may seem an obvious system but easily strayed from.

I’ve heard, second-hand, of a house that

handles similar issues by holing a periodic “Real Time,” where the housemates discuss any issues — thereby “getting real”— in a casual, beer accompanied setting. I haven’t experienced “Real Time,” but it apparently works. House meetings don’t seem as successful. Perhaps due to connotation or a deficit of “real.”

Katie Brenzel can be reached at

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