Like many New Yorkers, I am currently struggling with a cockroach problem. Actually, I think it’s more of a roommate problem. My kitchen (particularly the dishwasher) is totally infested. I haven’t used my kitchen since the first week of September, mostly because I was travelling for several months, but also because even when I got back in early November, I was so disgusted by the state of my apartment that I spent as little time in it as possible. I certainly wasn’t going to prepare any food in there. However, now that I’m back for an extended period of time, I can no longer turn a blind eye and run from this problem. Plus eating out for every meal is getting really expensive.
So I started cleaning the kitchen.
Over the years I’ve discovered that my definition of clean is somewhat different than most people’s. It’s certainly at odds with those of the occupants in the other three bedrooms of my large, four bedroom, pre-war apartment. When I say ‘clean’ I mean ‘every single surface and every single item that touches said surface gets a full scrub.’ Meaning, I empty every cabinet, scrub the cabinets (and in this instance, spray for bugs), then wipe down every item that goes in the cabinet before putting it away, hopefully in a more organized manner than when I started. I move the stove and the refrigerator so I can scrub the floor and walls behind them, then scrub the insides. (My dad and I call the process of cleaning out the refrigerator, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Food Groups.’) I start from the top of the highest shelf and work my way down to the floor where I scrub the grout between the tiles with an old toothbrush.
This is precisely why I don’t clean very often. It takes days just to get through one room. Typically I only have to do this sort of deep clean once a year and just keep up with regular maintenance. Trouble is, when I’m gone for several weeks (never mind several months) the maintenance part never happens. Mostly because my roommates are all deadbeats. Nice, well-meaning, super fun deadbeats, but deadbeats all the same. (And I should know, because I used to be one of them. That is, until my best friend and long time roommate Alexis, beat better habits into me. Although in my defense, even when I was at my messiest, we never had an infestation.) Somehow my roommates don’t seem to mind living in filth. This has been a major cause of discontent in the apartment, at least for me.
The worst part is that it never used to be this way. For a long time, I had the most incredible living situation. I was still in this same apartment, but I lived with three of my best friends. The place was by no means spotless, but everybody cleaned at least a little bit. We all contributed to the purchasing of cleaning supplies. We were respectful of one another’s things. Looking back, it was blissful compared to my current situation.
Even when my current roommies try to clean, they seem to miss the material point that you can’t wait five days to do it. If so, that’s five days worth of free food for any enterprising mouse that happens to come along. I used to laugh at people who washed their dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, but that was before I started living with the kind of people who think it’s a good idea to take a knife out of a jar of peanut butter and put it directly into the dishwasher, then wonder why there are so many cockroaches in there.
On my most desperate of days, I seriously consider subletting my room and using the money to move into a cleaner apartment. But this is not that day! Today I will don my pink rubber gloves and scrub the shit out of my kitchen, all the while trying to come up with creative ways to get my roommates to clean up after themselves.
For instance, every time one of them leaves a dirty pan on the stove for days on end, I could simply wash it, dry it and remove it from the kitchen. Like a small child who breaks his toys, sometimes you have to take them away until they learn to use them properly. Though I fear that if I take this route there won’t be much left in the kitchen by week’s end.
Another option is to take whatever mess gets left behind (dirty dishes, coffee grinds, food that somehow never makes it back into the fridge or the cupboard) and put in the offender’s bed. That could be problematic though because everyone is so messy, it’s often tough to tell who’s mess is who’s. Besides, that could start a passive aggressive war the likes of which have never been seen.
So today I will scrub. And tomorrow I’ll start saving my pennies so that one day I’ll be able to afford to live on my own and I’ll never have to put up with other people’s bullshit ever again. At least until I get married.