It’s the first place we go in the morning and the last spot we hit at night. We use it to get clean, to find some alone time, to refresh. It may just be one of the most sacred rooms in the house.
In an ideal world, most of us would have our own bathroom. (Heck, if I could afford it, I’d buy a separate one for my boyfriend and relish in my own mirror-and-sink space.) Whether it’s with siblings, dorm-mates, friends-turned-roommates, or a significant other, many of us share that precious showering and getting-ready space. As some know (and some are about to figure out the hard way), compromise in the bathroom is absolutely necessary in order to keep the people we’re sharing with from seething when they see us.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
There are two approaches to dealing with bathroom messes. First, we could grumble behind the messy party’s back and begrudgingly clean up his debris. Problem? The messy party never gets called out and has the ongoing luxury of having his mess magically disappear. The second option is to just ignore it and hope it goes away. This is another no-go for obvious reasons, as anyone living amid the germs and gag-inducing griminess of a dirty bathroom knows. Communicating—with reasonable words, justifications, and suggestions for compromises—allows offenders to understand how their actions affect their roommates and work together to rectify the situation. This means bringing up ongoing nuisances and pet peeves as they happen. Pronto. Got someone who continually lets the trash overflow? “Approach her and let her know you want to speak with her about bathroom cleanliness,” says Dayna Davis, a former sorority house adviser at UC Berkeley. “Come prepared with a positive plan for rectifying the situation.” Maybe you’ll empty the trash on Wednesdays and she can do it on Saturdays. “Just be sure not to approach [the person] combatively,” she says. Going at it with a let’s-solve-this approach will allow you to move forward before mold starts growing on that undrained bathtub.
Share the Space
“Dealing with space hogs is one of the most common problems for new roommates,” says Davis. The bathroom is the smallest room in the house—and the only one that everyone’s gotta use. It’s the space where otherwise civil people’s flaws are magnified and they become dirty, selfish, and disrespectful. While it’s likely that we all possess at least a little of each of these flaws (no use in denying it), we’ve got to deal with the space-sharing factor carefully. This doesn’t mean tossing all of the offending person’s stuff in a corner when we get in the shower. It means (back to that whole communication thing) taking the time to designate areas for every person’s toiletries—and making sure everyone’s on board. This way, all are committed to enforcement if someone gets a little lax. And can anyone really argue if he helped come up with the system in the first place?
Pick Up Unmentionables … Every Time
The trauma caused by seeing someone’s dirty underwear as you step out of the shower is arguably irreversible. Will you picture them every time you see the undies’ owner? Yes. Will you step around that area of the floor from now on? Oh yeah. Whether they belong to someone you just met or to someone you’re in a long-term relationship with, no one wants to see dirty undergarments, used personal hygiene products, tissues, or makeup-remover pads strewn about the area she’s using to get clean. You established your space, so use it. Keep things in it clean and put dirty things in the trash and soiled clothes in the laundry bin. Period.
Contribute to the Cupboards
Part of setting those ground rules should include establishing a system that ensures everyone replenishes the supplies they never want to run dry?unless they don’t mind begging the next passerby for some extra TP. “Creating a shopping rotation works,” says Davis. “Post a list where each person initials and dates after they purchase something new, then everyone knows when it’s her turn to buy.” Other workable systems include designating one person?whom the others all pay back right away?as the supply buyer. Good etiquette requires that everyone keep an eye on basics like toilet paper and spread the word to whoever is supposed to buy it when there are just two or three rolls left. Better yet? Just go pick some up if you notice supplies are low.
Clean … the Right Way
Of course, you’re all contributing to the cleaning. But whose standards of cleanliness do you aim for? It’s another circumstance in which all parties have to compromise. If you don’t care whether the toilet is clean but everyone else does, you’re going to find yourself scrubbing the porcelain when your turn rolls around—at least, if you want to avoid being ostracized. Regardless of whether it’s your turn to clean, general neatness has to be an ongoing part of everyone’s routine. If you caused something nasty (on purpose or not), you should clean it up. Immediately. This goes for showering, too. Take time—every time—to wipe down mirrors, floors, and counters and to straighten mats, so they at least resemble their appearance prior to your arrival, says author Sue Fox in Etiquette for Dummies . Still confused? I can be more specific. The toilet: flush it. Double-check that it all went down, and then check that nothing’s lingering on the seat. Next (stay with me here), put the seat down. The sink: wipe it out. Guys, this means all those little hairs after you shave. Girls, this means strands of hair cannot be left lingering. It’s gross. Ditto on the hair for the shower. Also, wipe down walls and put products back in your corner.
Any good teacher knows you can’t expect a student to perform a skill they haven’t learned. If you’re concerned about cleanliness (and I’m assuming you are if you’ve read this far), call a roommate meeting and lead the group toward setting and agreeing upon cleanliness rules. Some things are worth fighting over. Toilets? Definitely not one of them.