Not doing your dishes is a luxury you can’t afford in shared housing.

Being a single and somewhat adventurous and nomadic woman, I’ve had many shared housing experiences over the years, and many of them have been positive. When it works, it’s great, because sharing the housing expenses means it’s less out of pocket for everyone, making housing and traveling much more accessible — and sometimes, in expensive areas, the only way it’s possible. Plus, it can be fun, lively and even magical.

But it doesn’t always work. And I’ve found when that happens is that it’s mostly due to lack of a management system in the house. When there is a formal structure in place, such as house rules that are typically found at hostels, guest houses, and Airbnbs, you are more likely to have everyone on the same page about responsibilities, especially in terms of cleanliness of common spaces, quiet hours, etc. 

Without a formal structure like this, you are basically at the mercy of your housemates’ consciousness and respect for you and the spaces you share — and if these qualities are lacking too… yeah, not too surprising: it’s not gonna work. 

This is what I’ve recently experienced, and I’m writing about it as kind of a catharsis (I left a week ago and still have negative feelings about it), and also as a cautionary tale for anyone considering going into a shared housing experience.

My situation was temporary, and the main reason I was going was for its location — so even though I was somewhat aware that I was going to be encountering some bullshit, I still chose to go through with it, because being in that location was the most important thing to me, and I reasoned that it’s only five weeks — what harm could possibly be done in such a short amount of time? Whatever it was, it would be over soon anyway.

(In retrospect, I should have been more careful about protecting myself. Really, five seconds is too long to be around a negative person). 

I guess I have been living alone too long and forgot what it’s like to live with others — especially when they don’t have the same living standards as you. I made the mistake of not discussing this with her before arriving. I can’t say what she was expecting out of me, but one thing I can tell you is that I definitely did not drive a thousand miles across the country to do someone else’s dishes.

Especially when they have an automatic dishwasher. Life really doesn’t get easier than that.
Because I have shared living spaces so often, I am highly conscious of how I leave the space for others. Especially since I have lived with many people who aren’t conscious like this, and have had to suffer the results (constantly dealing with their mess). And apparently it was happening again. 

Look: I don’t care if your house is messy if I’m not living there myself. This is not a judgment of people’s personal habits in their own homes. I neglect dishes myself, when I live alone. It’s not a priority to me, and it’s not in anyone’s way. 

But when you leave your dirty dishes in the sink and all over the countertops every day, you are sending a message to your housemates. You are telling them that they either have to do your dishes for you, if they want to work in a clean kitchen (not an unreasonable desire), or they are going to have to work around in a dirty kitchen. 

Both of these messages are unfair and a sign of disrespect, and can even be a sign of a passive-aggressive power struggle, which is what I was picking up on in this case. Unfortunately, this is how some people have to try to bring you down when they are jealous of you. 

I decided not to waste energy dealing with this, because, if someone in their late forties doesn’t know how to clean up after themselves by now (or, more likely in this case, is using it as a passive-aggressive attack in a power struggle with a female she perceives as competition – this wasn’t in the ad, but her man was also living there — yikes), there isn’t much I’m going to be able to do for them. 

So I mostly just tried to model the acceptable behavior — cleaning up after yourself every time. Of course, that meant that she was always walking in to a clean kitchen. Yet the kitchen was dirty and disgusting almost every time I walked into it. 

I made the best of it, and used the opportunity to switch to a mostly fruitarian diet, which requires minimal use of the kitchen. Or I sampled some of the delicious restaurants in the area, something I normally don’t do, but. When in Rome…

There were other ways the woman displayed passive-aggressiveness toward me, which is why I don’t believe this was normal unconscious behavior. Plus, she was conscious about the vaccine agenda, and the alien agenda … but she wasn’t aware of the fruit flies swarming in the sink?

Anyway, it’s over, and I’m sorry to have left my beautiful beach. But when I was there (at the house), I found myself looking forward to being back in my own apartment, unbothered, again.

The moral of the story is this: next time skip the bullshit, save up $5,000 and rent your own vacation pad right on the beach. 

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