Chores: do your bit (not everyone else’s!)

cleaning chores

By Yashi Banymadhub,

When I moved in with my new flatmates last year, it seemed at the time that I had ended up in a dream student flat. Conversations flowed easily, there was constant laughter and best of all, everyone was keen to do their fair share of cleaning around the flat. Whilst the neighbouring flats had empty cans of beers and pizza boxes from the previous night littering their new home, our pristine flat did not fit in with the conventional image of a student flat. Ours was the perfect flat where dirty dishes did not exist, where packaging and milk bottles were recycled and where the Henry hoover was our most regular visitor (apart from the fast food delivery guy).

Delighted by the considerate efforts of my new friends to keep the place clean, I was more open to my flatmates’ money-saving tips, wanting to show that I too was cooperating. This included swapping Andrex’s quilted toilet roll for the Tesco Value one and using a (somewhat fluffy) car mat from the pound store as a bath mat (which to nobody’s surprise didn’t last long and had to be replaced with a proper one).

So dismissing my family’s claims that the rest of the year would not run as smoothly as Fresher’s week and that proper arrangements had to be made on whose turn it is to clean the bathroom, I took comfort in thinking that my nightmare of living in a flat that smelled like booze, vomit and young-adults-away-from-home-for-the-first-time would remain but a nightmare. My mum, profound as she is with her metaphors, had even told me to think of the exuberance of Fresher’s week as ‘the honeymoon stage of a marriage’, warning me that once the lectures started, keeping the flat clean would be a wholly different matter. I would not hear of it. But as we ultimately find out (often through the hard way), mums are always right...

It started off with a growing pile of dirty dishes by the sink that slowly started making its way along the length of the kitchen counter. The promise to ‘do it later’ was repeatedly broken and ‘I’ll be right back’ really meant disappearing off the surface of the earth for a few hours so as not to help with cleaning the flat. At first I didn’t mind washing an extra bowl or plate, thinking it would make me pass for a good flatmate and maybe someone would be kind enough to return the favour. But by Christmas I was fed up of trying and decided that I would no longer be the only one to clean the bathroom and kitchen and that I’d leave it to someone else for a change. By then layers of grease and grime had formed on the kitchen counters, the stench of overfilled bins greeted you as you walked in through the main door and an entire eco-system seemed to be evolving in the shower, growing, ignored by my flatmates, day by day and spreading its furry black mould across the bathroom surfaces. Everyone waited for someone else to notice it first and sort it out. Which of course, no one did. Subtle hints about the worsening condition of the flat had long stopped working so determined not to be the one to put on the Marigold gloves again and get scrubbing, I took to showering and cooking next door (sometimes even joining in when my friends in the adjoining flat would all clean their flat together, just to feel the team spirit again and reminisce about ‘the old days’).

As with most horror stories, there are no happy endings and I ended up being the one to clean the flat weekly until the end of the year in order to prepare for my exams with some peace of mind. But I did learn some valuable lessons in order to stop it from happening again this year. Here is what you can do to avoid taking full responsibility for the chores in your flat and make sure that they are fairly divided between you and your flatmates.

As nice as they may seem in the first week, your flatmates will prioritise their agendas rather than the house work once their lectures start. A thoughtfully devised rota can help keep track of who is on top of the house work and who’s been slacking. Regular meetings with your flatmates - under the pretext of having a meal together - will allow you to discuss anything you are unhappy about concerning the chores. Be sure to tell them everything you have been doing around the flat so that they know you have been working hard to keep the flat clean and that it hasn’t been magically restored to its former glory, making them more appreciative rather than taking your efforts for granted. This will cause them to evaluate their own input.

Last but not least, creating a Facebook group for your flatmates where you can post about maintenance and repair issues and chores is a good idea. You won’t have to chase anyone up about doing their bit to help and posting about it online can help you express your frustration if you do not want to confront them in real life. Not only that but the nifty ‘seen by’ feature can tell you who has been ignoring your remarks about the division of chores around the flat, leaving no excuses for people to avoid doing their share throughout the year.