Everyone, of course, has a different view of what constitutes mess, and what is good or bad form. From the perspective of my own detail focused autistic mind, I find most aspects of communal life a constantly stressful, conscious process of endurance and sufferance. While I probably cause social offense in many other ways, like saying things with such brutal honesty that people are shocked or challenged or both, I am extremely considerate in the way I use communal property. I am clean. I wash up my own dishes as soon as I have finished using them. I do not leave stuff lying around. I especially will not leave a used teabag in the sink – whether my own sink even if I have it all to myself, or the sink that everyone is sharing.
The devil, it seems, really is in the detail.
These photographs were taken this morning, at the communal kitchen and lounge in the apartment where I am staying, here in Cardiff. It is a lovely apartment complex, part of the Liberty Living student accommodation, and ours here is the Liberty Severn Point. My flatmates (we each have our own ensuite rooms, thank goodness!) are socially pleasant people – they are friendly, smiling and they say hello. They are all artists involved in the World Stage Design 2013, just like I am. We are among 100 chosen from a pool of 600 applications. So, I am well aware that my observations stem from a mind extremely tuned towards noticing the smallest, innocuous details. And my highly acute sensory system reacts accordingly.
Yesterday, I put away all the washed dishes, utensils and pots. Of course they piled up again, that is to be expected. But nobody else thought of putting things away. Today, I decided I will not do it – I am not the cleaning lady, and I am not their mum! There are plastic bags for rubbish available at the reception, we can take as much as we want, but nobody saw fit to line the bin with a bag. By the time I arrived, I found rubbish thrown into the unlined bin, and I was not about to empty that out and line the bin, no sir, it was far to daunting sensorially to attempt. So we continue to chuck stuff into an unlined bin, and I continue to feel ‘icky’ about it each time I have to. I remind myself that I am not the Saviour of the World of Dirty Creatures. Walking away is hard, but sometimes it is better for my sanity.
My current housemate / tenant, at home in Sydney, is a nice and polite chap, he is also clean and not terribly messy, but he does rile me by repeatedly usurping my space on the towel rail in the bathroom (we have a very long one and he has lots of space for his own, but he insists on putting his towel on my side of the rail), repeatedly forgetting to switch off the water heater in the bathroom (I have equally repeatedly told him to do so and explained that it is imperative because the tank leaks when it gets too full, which wastes water and uses a lot of electricity – obviously he does not pay the bills!) and he regularly leaves his breakfast knife in the sink – who does he think will wash it for him then? I do it because I use the kitchen and it is silly for me to just leave it there.
OK, so I am not good with communal life. I admit it. I don’t like having to navigate around your used teabags for days on end – who do you think should be picking it up, if not you? I don’t like the mess you create with your used glasses and cups and whatnot. I don’t particularly like your ‘decoration’ of communal surfaces with your messy arrangement of your personal food items. I create a mess inside my own private space, yes, I am not a neat freak (though I am a clean freak) – but I do not mess up shared spaces, because as much as I don’t like to see your dirty shite, I don’t want to leave mine around for you to see either. Apparently, this is not the neurotypical ethos. The neurotypical social structures would rather prefer dishonest platitudes and side stepping of important issues during meaningless and loud chitchat, than to keep a shared space clean and tidy. C’est la vie.