A Dirty Affair

My apartment is a dump.

It didn’t always use to be this way; in fact it has a lot of potential to not be like this. One Thanksgiving break when I was marooned by myself in my apartment, the place was spotless, there were no dishes in the sink, the counters were clean, and the floor was swept. It smelled nice. This time though, I’m not that lucky.

I came home last night to find my roommate in his parking spot on the couch, feeding his face and adding to the mess in the kitchen and living room. While the TV blared ESPN (the only station that my roommates watch) I went to the kitchen to think about a snack. Wrappers of tortilla packages, empty Top Ramen packets, dirt and crumbs of all kinds chips and bread, and salsa stains littered the floor. The counters weren't any better; no less than five cans of Welch’s grape soda stood empty-- two of which were tipped over and lying in a dried puddle of its contents. These framed the open package of chicken breast, raw meat glistening in the fluorescent light, sitting prominently on the island counter. Four used plates with its accompanying unwashed utensils sat next to three bowls, its remnants of milk and cereal long dried and crusty. As though to indicate that breakfast had been eaten here, bags of Coco-Roos, Tootie-Fruities, and Marshmallow Mateys leaned against the sterile white cinder blocked wall. Their contents too were spilled on the counter.

That’s just the counter. You can probably imagine what’s in the sink. I think about cleaning, but it's too much. It's not my mess. It's not my problem.

I used to try to fight a one man war against messy kitchens because my wise mother once told me the places that have to be the cleanest in the house were the kitchen and the bathroom. Your house should be a haven to you right? It should be a place of comfort and peace, so I would patiently wash the dishes, and put them away, trying desperately to create some cleanliness, only to come back twenty minutes later and find two or three pots in the sink, uneaten macaroni and cheese floating in them, and a mountain of plates all waiting to be washed, every time I cleaned. Gradually this wore me out, my protests would always fall on deaf ears, and apathy set in.

I think the earliest this came was on my mission, when our apartment was so dirty that I started throwing empty wrappers and letting crumbs fall on the floor beside the trash can (not in) just to see if I could make it dirty enough for the other missionaries to wake up and smell the rotting trash. It didn’t work. We had ants instead. But it didn't matter to me then either, I was going home. It wasn't my problem.

I sometimes feel bad about my apathy, thinking "I should be more charitable and do service". Then apathy rears its head and says "No, you didn't make the mess. Just wash your own dishes and you'll be fine." I usually listen to my apathy. I don't care enough to help clean up the spilled Welch's grape soda. It's not my mess. It's not my problem.

This apathy is becoming a problem. The other night our toilet got clogged and started to flood the apartment. Toileted water floated across the vanity floor and into our living room, drenching the carpet. It dripped its way through the cracks in the caulking and down into Dan's apartment downstairs. I heard it tripped the circuit breaker (Sorry Dan but it really wasn't my fault, or at least I wasn't directly involved). I watched my roommates plunge madly away at the toilet, desperately turn off the water to the commode, and I heard their shocked tones when they discovered that the toilet was somehow vomiting more toileted water across the floor despite their efforts. I offered sympathetic comments about how much this "sucked".

I watched. I listened. I didn't really help. I went next door to borrow a diseased looking gray mop, and mopped some of the water, but I didn't really care. It wasn't my problem, I reasoned. I only sleep here. I don't really spend any time here because I don't like living in other people's filth. This isn't my home, this is just where my bed is. One of my other roommates tries to clean a bit, hoping to be a good example, but he too knows it's a losing war. Deep down I want to help too, but you can't help people that won't help themselves right? So my apathy speaks again: It's not your mess. It's not your problem.



T & J said...

Great images, Ivor. The picture I have in my head looks just like Travis' apartment when we were engaged. (I'm glad I knew that he was never home and that the mess was his roommates, or that would have put a damper on my enthusiasm of marrying him.) It was disgusting. I can smell that smell again after reading about what you have to live in.
You've brought up an interesting paradox between being apathetic and not being a door mat. Where's the line? I haven't figured it out yet. Let me know if you do.

Chan said...

Loved the kitchen images, Ivor, especially the soda cans framing the raw chicken. Yuck, yuck, and yuck. The worst is when you need a spoon or a bowl or something and they're all dirty and you know darn well that you clean your dishes.

Dan said...

This almost perfectly describes my apartment last semester. But there were three of us who cared--only one didn't. He was disguting. He made a bigger mess than any single person I've ever seen in my life. And he never once cleaned. We failed clean checks more than we passed.

Kaitlin said...

Ivor, I feel your pain (and apathy). I don't know how many times I've first lovingly joked with my roommates about their 4-day-old messes, then left post-it notes on the microwave calling for collective repentance, then cleaned the kitchen in their presence to a rhythm of either tired sighs or angry pan clattering, and finally ended up leaving the mess to molder (sometimes for an agonizingly long time) until someone else showed some initiative. I'm so used to things being this way that it doesn't even make me truly angry anymore. Anyway, maybe my brother's tactic will work for you. He had a roommate who never did his dishes, and so finally Daman started putting all of them into a laundry basket and putting them on his bed at the end of the day. It kind of sends the message that they can pollute their personal space all they want but not the public domain.

meg said...

Wow. I'm sorry to hear I'm not the only one living in a toxic waste zone. Now multiply that image by two. With 9 roommates, besides myself, there are not four plates and bowls on the countertops, there 17 of each. Every dish is balanced atop the other in the order they were used that day: bowls and spoons (9) create the first layer or two, and then cups fit somewhat conveniently between those. Lunch comes around, and plates stack on top of the already unbalanced bowl-spoon pile. By the end of the day, a dozen pots and pans join the precarious tower. Of course, it makes sense to have the large metal items stacked on the ceramic dishes.
I get home at night and open the cupboard to get a glass, and it's empty. I open the dishwasher, and the only thing inside is my cereal bowl and spoon from my breakfast. With a sigh, I examine a glass hiding under the pasta-encrusted sauce pans to see if I could wash it, but a quick glance at the orange-stained scrub brush with soggy bread stuck between all the bristles changes my mind. So I just don't eat. I leave the kitchen and act like I didn't ever see it. I used to clean too Ivor, but this takes an hour or two to tackle, and who has that time?

These are your future wives.

Dan said...

Are any of them cute?

iBo said...

Wow Meghan, that was a depressing thought. Yay for messy future wives eh? SOOO much to look forward to in marriage. Well on the plus side for you, you're getting out of that in a couple of weeks. Your own place, your own mess. Your own problems. :) ahhhh one can only dream.

E. Anona said...

When Austin and I were engaged, he lived in a place called "The Mineshaft." That's seriously how it was listed in the ward directory. It basically fit the description of Ivor's apartment, and Austin (who supposedly 'can't function' if things are too dirty) had the same dilemma as him. We ate out a lot.
But it makes my life easier now that we're married. I can stop doing dishes for weeks and it still looks better than the Mineshaft.

Anonymous said...

Your description matched perfectly the state of most of my former apartments. It's disgusting. And I would do the same thing as Kaitlin, and then after a while, like Meghan, I just wouldn't bother to eat.
Ironically, one of my messiest former roommates is working as an au pair in Switzerland right now, where one of her main jobs is to keep the house tidy.

At night, I dream about a clean house with no one in it but me.

andreabones said...

Anona, Where was your fiance living when he lived in "the mineshaft?" Was it in Provo? -Because when I was living there last semester, that was one of the boy's housings in our ward. Sorry that's a little off-topic, but I dispise messy roommates too. There, now I'm good