Warning: The article below is over five years old. It may be badly written, poorly considered, immature, obsolete, no longer my opinion, or simply flat-out wrong.

Student Kitchens

[Note: Since this article was written, I've moved on from the kitchen discussed below.]

I'm developing a real dislike of student kitchens.

I am not by nature a tidy person. My room pays tribute to that. You can generally tell how busy I am by the state of my room, and I'm busy a lot these days. However, I have a low mank factor. I don't mind mess, as such, as long as it's my mess. And as long as it doesn't cross the boundaries from "messy" to "unhygienic". However, student kitchens - and my kitchen in particular - trips out my mank factor.

My mank factor is my way of referring to the point where things make me go, "Ick". I'm not particularly squeamish, but there are some things I don't like to do. Like fish old food out of the sink (trips the mank factor), or take out the bins (doesn't trip the mank factor). The mank factor is the point where I say, "I'm not doing that.".

But returning to kitchens. The problem with a student kitchen is that it gets used a lot more than a family kitchen. Your standard family kitchen gets used a few times a day; an evening meal is cooked there by one parent, and breakfast may be prepared by 2 or 3 people. Lunch is probably bought, or prepared in the mornings. Contrast this with a student kitchen; you've got 4 or 5 people, who will (generally) be preparing meals independently of each other. And there's a chance people will be in during the day, so you might have lunch to contend with, too. Plus you haven't got someone who has the established position in society to keep the kitchen clean (the mother). I'm stereotyping here, I know, and I'm all for the emancipation of women. Get over yourselves. I'm not saying I'm right, I'm saying it happens.

As previously mentioned, I'm not the tidiest person. However, I have some habits that I thought were fairly standard components of a decent upbringing. These include:

  • When you take something out of a wrapper, throw the wrapper in the bin.
  • When you spill something, mop it up.
  • If you use some crockery, cutlery, or other kitchenware, wash it up.
  • If you make some food, wipe down the work surface afterwards.

I'm not a kitchen nazi. The first 2 points I'd probably expect to be done immediately, or fairly soon (we're talking minutes here). The 3rd point isn't so bad; I try and wash up within 24 hours, but have been known to stretch. I think 24 hours is a good time to aim for. And as for the final point, it can be waived occasionally, but if you're leaving visible crumbs then clean them up.

Basically, it comes down to this: I can't see any reason why someone else should be expected to clean up after me. I can't see any reason why I should expect someone else to do it. It's nice to find someone's done my washing up; it's nice to find someone has cleaned up when I've been lax. But I try my hardest to keep the kitchen neat and tidy, and clean.

Some people I live with, though, don't do this. At all. And it's come from 2 places I didn't expect. One person who I worried about turned out to be brilliant. They'd spent the past year living in halls, which means they'd had catered accomodation and a cleaner once a week. But it turns out they're great; they wash up, hoover, tidy, take the bins out, etc. They're not perfect, but they're as good as can be expected. I would not expect them to do more, and are (in the field of "upkeep of the household") superb. Another member of the household, though, had the same background, and isn't nearly as good. Actively bad, I'd suggest. My theory is that their mother cleans up after them at home, which would explain most of the behaviour. It's nothing major; they wash up after themselves, kind of (there's a subtle but important difference between "washing things up" and "getting things wet"), but don't clean up spills, crumbs, and bottle tops. And I can't get my head around it. If you've just peeled off the top of a bottle of milk, surely your first instinct is to throw it in the bin?

A tangental point here; just because you're hardly in, doesn't mean you're never in or that you never use the kitchen. If you're making yourself breakfast in it, and a bedtime drink, it means you're using it twice a day at least. So you have an equal responsibility to at least run some kitchen towel over the surfaces now and again, I feel.

Another housemate is having trouble adapting to the influx of 3 new housemates, I think. Last year they lived here with others, and cooked for them every night. In return, they never did any washing up. Which seems fair to me. However, with me being vegan, and another housemate hardly being here, they generally only cook for one other housemate. Why should that guy have to wash up every bit of crockery and cutlery the offending housemate produces? More importantly, why should I be expected to wash up things? I don't mind helping out, and generally do a drying-rack's worth regardless of whether I made the mess or not. To be fair, this housemate doesn't annoy me quite so much, as they keep the bathroom clean, the lounge clean, etc. And that seems like a fair trade-off. But it still seems unfair on the other guy.

All the people I live with are adults, and all the people I live with are students. There are certain qualities I expect people to have developed by this point. One relevant one is taking polite requests and criticisms without throwing a strop over it. If I say "If you spill something, could you wipe it up, please?" I think it's over the top to have "I can't deal with this right now!" yelled at me. I can't think of a politer way to raise an issue; it's abstract, timeless question. A simple "yes" and maybe a "sorry" and I'll be on my way. There's no element of immediacy, or specific events. Likewise, if I say "Bob's gone away for the weekend, do you think you could wash up your saucepan from your meal? I don't like washing up meaty saucepans." a grumbled "Well I don't like fishing long hair from the shower" isn't an appropriate response. It almost stands, apart from all of us in the house have at least shoulder-length hair, and I haven't gone near a block of meat for 2 years, whereas they're in close proximity to long hair every second of the day. You have the facts, ladies and gentlemen: derive your own logical fallacies.

The other thing I expect people to have developed is the realisation that the universe does not revolve around them. Everyone in the house is busy; all of us have mental health issues, I think. Generally just depression, but it still counts. Ask any psychiatrist, psychologist, or doctor. Anyway, the occasional bout of uncleanliness is allowable - we all have deadlines, and we all get overwhelmed with things. But it's not a constant "get out of housework free" card. It's the height of arrogance to presume that what you do is important to the point of expecting others to clean up after you. At least your mum or dad has parental obligations to you, but I'm not your mother. I'm up to my limit of business, all things considered, but still make time to wash up and tidy. You should too.

So, to summarise: Clean up after yourselves. Your parents aren't here to wipe up after you any more, and even if the people you live with aren't complaining they're probably seething on the inside. Don't abuse the goodwill of others just because you have a life, as they do too.