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Clutter among roommates ends in a bitter clash of clans

Trevor Whitney

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Illustration by Miles Huffman

A couple years ago, four of my high school friends and I transferred to Chico State at the same time. What an exciting first attempt at living away from home.

But once the novelty of freedom faded, our true colors appeared.

I signed on to live with two pairs of “best friends”. We’d all been in the same friend group throughout high school, but I was stuck in this awkward hover above neutral territory with one foot snagged in each camp. One side demanded immediate cleanliness with an iron fist while the other preferred to clean it up later.

To be fair, the teams weren’t exactly opposing.

The obscene actions of the Dirties left the Cleans in a subdued fit of rage that never saw the light of day. Or night, for that matter. If the Dirties were present, the outright anger wasn’t.

The Cleans could tell you how long a crusty bowl had been sitting out down to the second. They’d analyze the scene of the crime and would figure out which collection of coffee mugs belonged to which Dirty.

Eventually, I’d walk into the kitchen, and they wouldn’t even use words anymore. They’d just look at me and physically point out each new abomination.

Over time, the burden of all that suppressed aggression proved too much to bear.

And although I could see the obvious benefits that a clean, organized kitchen has to offer, I couldn’t bring myself to join forces. Stacking dishes in and around the sink instead of just cleaning them is questionable behavior at best. Leaving cups and mugs strewn about the apartment doesn’t make any sense.

But are these good enough reasons to hate somebody? Does one person’s fear of confrontation really justify the complete writing off of another? The instant people perceive someone else’s living-space selfishness and blatant obliviousness as an attack, it’s time to take a step back and think about what the problem really is.

I couldn’t get on board with it.

Near the end of the year, when it was time to have the discussion about future living arrangements, the Cleans naturally made plans to move out. The Dirties figured we’d just stay in the same place, although they’d clearly noticed their deteriorated relationship with the Cleans.

They still didn’t know the reason, though. It became apparent the we might have to find someone to fill in for the departed.

And I had to tell the Dirties.

“Yo, Dirties,” I said. “This is what this is.”

And they were baffled, to say the least. Offense was taken, of course, that hatred was allowed to brew for so long over something they viewed as trivial.

Ultimately, the overdue confrontation occurred. It might forever remain the most awkward conversation I’ve ever been a part of. It might also hold the record for least eye contact made. Nothing was solved because minds had been made up.

I joined the Dirties, but collectively we’ll never be the same friends we were back in high school ever again.

Trevor Whitney can be reached at [email protected] or @nicegrandmas on Twitter.

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Clutter among roommates ends in a bitter clash of clans