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Originally published Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 6:17 AM

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The ‘privilege’ of cleaning house can’t be transferred to someone else


Syndicated columnist

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Dear Carolyn

Hi, Carolyn:

To preface, I’m a fairly neat person, not Monica Geller from "Friends” clean (Read: not neurotic), but I clean up after myself in the common areas as well as in my personal space. I do a more thorough clean every two or three weeks where I’ll mop, vacuum, dust, etc.

My roommates, however, are completely unaware of this fact and probably think there’s some cleaning fairy that comes at night to clean (my) pots, pans and dishes that they use and of course don’t clean. In the past, I’ve brought up the fact, very kindly, that we’re all adults with busy schedules and social lives but that everyone should be cleaning up after themselves and keeping the common areas reasonably clean. The response I received was, “Well, on weekdays we’re just so tired after work we don’t really want to clean anything.” I’ve tried not to be too preachy or “mom-ish,” but I think at this point that ship has sailed.

They have now suggested that we all chip in for a cleaning service. Personally, I’m of the opinion that having a cleaning service is a privilege and you should know how to take care of things yourself before you start throwing money at a situation. I’m sure it wouldn’t even cost that much to have a service, but it’s the principle of it.

I’ve explained the fact that I already clean the common areas, as well as my own space, on a regular basis and it seems wasteful and frankly lazy to me to pay for something that four able-bodied 20-somethings are perfectly capable of doing on our own.

Am I being unreasonable for not wanting to contribute to the cleaning-service fund?

— Anonymous “Mom” of the House

DEAR ANONYMOUS “MOM” OF THE HOUSE: I receive a lot of questions. As I suspect is true of anyone in this position — say, a manager receiving a lot of resumes or admissions officer deluged by applications — my mind is set to “no” before I read Word 1, and I’m basically reading until something flips it to “yes.”

Here’s what has the power to flip that switch: “Having a cleaning service is a privilege and you should know how to take care of things yourself before you start throwing money at a situation.”

They “should,” should they? Says who? Momica?

You make two breezy maternal references, but that sentence exposes the truth in the humor. You’re presuming to raise these fellow adults you happen to room with. That’s the function of the word “should"; you think both that there’s a right way, and that you have standing to impose said right way on others.

I was with you on the frustration of roommates who use your stuff but don’t wash it — there’s no excuse for them on that one. But their responsibility is to clean what they use, period; they get to decide how.

Now, if you were merely saying you don’t want to pay your money to contract out a job you’re happy to do yourself, then you’d have both a good point and the standing to make it. But that’s not what you said.

So now I have to say that if they want to pay someone, then they can pay someone. If they are willing and able to conjure cleaning fairies, then they can conjure fairies. What you regard as a privilege applies to you alone, and beyond that is purely a rhetorical contribution.

It’s also a contribution I urge you not to make, lest you become the Mom and the Monica in one indignant stroke.

In fact, I say throw principle to the wind (I don’t get to type that often) and agree to the service, as long as it’s frequent enough to make a difference, like weekly. Industry isn’t the only virtue worth supporting; investing in domestic harmony sounds well worth the apparently minor if grudging expense.

DEAR CAROLYN: I’m a recent grad who just began working part time as a barista this past week, and so far I really enjoy my job. My best friend was employed by the same coffee company last year, but was fired within a month and is still pretty angry about it. She keeps asking me how work is going whenever I see her, and I feel like I can never say a single, positive thing about my experiences so far without her making some sarcastic aside. I understand her frustration, but this is making me so uncomfortable that a part of me just wants to tell her to stuff it and make peace with the fact that I’m happy. Do you think there’s any way I could approach this with her without setting off another rant or starting a fight?

— Beleaguered Bean

DEAR BELEAGUERED BEAN: “You’re still (peeved) at this company — I sympathize. I need the money, though, and so far like the job; is there something we can do to move past this?” An airing of the grievances, perhaps, or bare-knuckle boxing. Good luck.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living



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