Flatmate. Stalemate.

Anyone who has ever lived in a shared house will be all too familiar with the following scenario: the main bin – the one in the kitchen – gets filled, as one would expect it to in the normal course of modern life, and yet in spite of there being multiple adult humans, all in fully-functioning physical and mental order, living within said house you seem to be the ONLY one who ever believes in the notion of emptying the damned thing. Especially when the contents start breaking out of the physical confines of the limited capacity that a fixed volume space permits – ie. the pile of trash grows ever taller, with more effort being exercised in removing the lid, carefully balancing said detritus on TOP of the existing matter before ever-so-carefully replacing the cover, which now balances precariously inviting the next unwitting user to cause everything to spill out onto the floor.

trash & sink
The Growing Tower of Trash (& washing up)

If this is NOT a scene familiar to you then you are either still living at home with mum to clean up after you (much as many of my flatmates seem to believe they are) or you are fortunate enough to have never had to deal with the unique challenges of shared living. If so then I envy you! The rest of you will be nodding away in recognition and fully aware of the seething fury that even the most minor of shared-living transgressions can invoke. Because it is the little yet important aspects of shared living that can turn what should be an enjoyable, harmonious, rich experience into a daily series of “f$*k them all” moments!

I am fortunate enough to be able to say that we have a cleaner who does come in once per week and so the shared spaces do get to look semi-respectable for about fifteen minutes each week and for that I am grateful (although I do pay handsomely for it so I guess I needn’t be that grateful) as it means one major bone of contention commonly experienced by shared house occupants is avoided – the question of a ‘cleaning rota.’ Why it is that intelligent, hardworking, go-getting adults, successful and proactive in other areas of their lives, seem totally incapable of the small act of recognising a full bin, lifting said bin out of it’s receptacle and then – I believe this is the resistance point – walking the twenty meters it takes to get to the main bins outside dumbfounds me. It can’t be that it is too heavy – no-one, as far as I have experienced, has taken to disposing of lead weights in there yet – nor is it that the bins are too far away – most have to walk further to get to the kitchen from their rooms. All I can conclude then is that it is simply bone, utter idleness and the collective thought that “someone else will do it.” After all, eventually someone else usually does end up doing it, principally because they just reach their ‘filth tolerance breaking point’ and that someone is usually me.

What is the solution? I guess there are several options:

1. Move out & find somewhere else – whilst this might lead to the discovery of a group of people with similar attitudes to communal hygiene and decency the fundamental counter to this is “why the hell should I?!” I like the location of where I am and anyone who has moved before will appreciate how much of a ball-ache it is to up sticks.

note2. Write a note – as tempting as it often is to leave some creatively sarcastic note pinned to the bin we all know that it does little more than add to the trash pile whilst just ensuring that you become known grudgingly as the “note writer.”

3. Voice your disgruntlement to the next flatmate who happens to be in the room at the same time – I have done this a couple of times and all that generally happens is that said person rolls their eyes, tuts in agreement, says how annoying they also find it and laments in unison with you about how you’re both the only people to ever empty the bin, and then continues to do absolutely nothing to change. Empty rhetoric. That’s all it becomes.

4. Remove the bin and leave it in the kitchen for someone else to at least shift it the last stage to the actual bin – nope. It just ends up sitting there and instead of leaking that shitty bin juice into the enclosed space of the bin simply does so onto the floor. You know you’re going to be the one to shift it anyway!

5. Complain to the landlord – yeah! Like they really care.

6. Post a ‘bin log’ or some kind of rota/ record – document in plain sight who it is that actually a) buys bin bags, and b) empties the bloody thing. I am soooooo tempted to trial this but can just imagine the ensuing excuses: “I do empty it but just didn’t have a pen on me!” Doomed to fail I am sure but might be worth a go. Who knows, it may stoke up some friendly competition in an Andrew Carnegie-esque manner.

7. Give up and resign yourself to be the ‘binman’ – some might argue that it is better to just accept that you live with child-people and that no counter measure or training effort is going to change their behaviour, in which case just sucking it up and being the bigger, more mature adult is the key to a happier, stress-free life. True but like so much in life it then ends up boiling down to principles. And I can end up being like a dog with a bone when I get a principle between my teeth.

Trash
Can’t be arsed to buy bin bags? No worries. Who needs them anyway?!

With so many more people opting to rent rooms in shared houses, either on account of the flexibility and freedom it affords or the economic realities of housing just being too darned expensive to buy nowadays, living like a student is something that more of us get to experience for longer periods of our lives. It seems that regardless of age and professional stage, the same old issues that accompany a shared space are as common later in adult life as they are when young.

Anyway, have to go and empty the bin now…..

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