By Lucy Ewing
Saturday morning chores may have been a regular part of your student’s childhood, but that’s no guarantee the ritual will remain in college.
Besides, those routines may have fallen by the wayside towards the end of high school when you stepped in to do laundry as your student’s workload increased. “Oh, she is so stressed with school and college applications… The least I can do is take housework off her hands!”
That approach can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to domesticity in dorms and campus apartments. These cautionary tales suggest you take a different tack — and fast! Or suffer your own shock when you visit your student.
Connor shared his parents’ puzzlement when they inquired about his deep greige toilet bowl when the rest of the appliance was white. “I know,” he said. “There’s something wrong with the water here.”
It turns out that Connor had never made the acquaintance with a toilet brush and, in fact, did not possess one. After a sleepless night in her motel room, Connor’s mom dashed into a Rite-Aid near campus for a toilet brush and cleanser. She could not locate the hazmat suits. Moral: Shake hands with a toilet brush.
An engineer at birth, Tony thought it was clever to construct his own tower of late night pizza boxes in his room. By midterm exams, it was eight feet tall. By end of term, he told his parents he was having a cockroach problem in his room. Though enrolled in a biology class, Tony saw no correlation to the pizza boxes — until his dad opened a statistical sample of boxes and discovered leftover pizza slices crawling with vermin. Moral: Toss leftover pizza — and the boxes.
Aja brought a lean wardrobe to campus. It consumed only a ¼ of the closet she would share with her roommate. Her roommate gladly used the other ¾ of the closet, and some of Aja’s as well, squishing Aja’s clothes into the dark recesses. The same went with the drawers.
With so many outfits at her disposal (20 pairs of jeans alone), Aja’s roommate never did laundry. Mounds of stinky clothes took over the room, driving Aja to the brink of withdrawal not only from her room but from college. Moral: Limit your clothing, and launder it.
Caroline and her three roommates shared a two-bedroom walk up, one tiny bathroom, and 16 hair care products on the floor of their shower/bath in their urban neighborhood. When Caroline’s mom mentioned the fetid quality of the tub, her daughter took umbrage: she was handling her independence just fine.
Her mom later excused herself to “use the bathroom,” dumping the entire contents of a smuggled can of Comet into the tub, scrubbing as quickly as she could, shampoo bottles slipping and sliding in their own scum. She emerged a few minutes later, sweatier and ruddier, but smiling. Moral: Scrub the tub, and your toes.
A brand new dorm apartment on a west coast campus became the favorite meeting place of football fans and Frito Lay products conveniently purchased on the first floor. With NFL and collegiate games every day but Tuesday, there was little time or need to clear the area of chip bags, pretzel boxes and soda cans. It might have been idyllic if not for one roommate who was neither a fan of sports nor corn chip carpeting. He wrote a six-page manifesto promising serious penalties for his slovenly roommates, taping it to the warm flat-screen TV. The couch potatoes locked their bedroom doors in fear for several days and nearly missed the Super Bowl. Moral: Suspend the action and use the trash can.
When Rosie visited her brother in the prestigious Chapel Alley dorms at Notre Dame, she noticed a whole different kind of “holy.” There were several holes in Kevin’s carpet. He explained that his roommates had determined the best solution for food and beverage spills was to literally cut them out of the rug. They owned a vacuum, but only used it to prank hungover students by running it early in the morning at the head of their beds. Moral: Don’t cut holes in the carpet.
Do your part to transmit the virtues of cleanliness and consideration to your students while they are home with you (and your cleaning tools and products) over vacations. When possible, slap the rubber gloves in your student’s hands instead of slipping them on your own. Have courage, and good luck!
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