Despite all of humanity’s adaptability, it often comes down to one issue when you talk about the nuts and bolts of communal living. The bathroom. A lot of people just don’t want to share a bathroom. Not even with their life partner.
Personally, I don’t mind sharing bathrooms. It can be groddy, and there might be fights about who’s turn it is to clean or who keeps leaving their towel on the floor, but by and large, I like it. And I like it because I don’t like cleaning bathrooms. Hear me out. The more people there are on a bathroom cleaning schedule, the fewer times each month you have to be the one scrubbing the toilet. If you have a reliable group who all have a similar tolerance level for dirt, it is the best. (See exhibit B.) Of course, if you have a chaotic group with tolerance levels all over the map, frustration burn-out, and you happen to share your toilet with a cafe and music venue, well, yeah, it can get icky.
Our last community. Around 17 residents. Somewhere between 10 and 200 guests showing up for the cafe or concerts or lectures or whatever each week. A lot of event organizers who don’t bother cleaning the bathroom.
As that description might hint, the bathroom was pretty much always on the tipping point between tolerable and too-gross-to-use. Though it got to me on the rare occasion, I wasn’t too phased. I only went in there once a day, and for those few minutes I could always just hold my breath and close my eyes. Tooth brushing, face washing, showering, peeing, grooming—all of these things happened in other places, in other, comfortable, clean rooms. It would have ceased to be tolerable as soon as Pickles needed to start using it (I mean, I’ll put up with that, but making her put up with that? No thanks), and that is part of why we decided to move.
But the bathroom was a constant point of contention. Who doesn’t like a clean bathroom? But who is willing to play maid for lazy party and concert organizers? Someone was always complaining about the state of the bathroom, but the situation never changed for more than a week. The situation felt hopeless; it was like a battle against kipple. We could make cleaning schedules until we turned blue and concert organizers still wouldn’t bother. Maybe it would have worked if we had gotten a separate bathroom for residents, but, as the Germans say Hätte hätte Fahrrad Kette (aka what ifs are useless).
The biggest reason for our move (besides wanting a change and lessening my commute) was that our former community space wasn’t terribly kid-friendly. The bathroom was a mess, the parties were loud, people put their cigarettes out on the ground, and there was random junk and scrap metal laying around. It might not have bothered me, I might have been able to find beauty and magic in a pile of rusting metal, but neither the Beard or I wanted to raise Pickles among it. How would we even begin to teach her to clean her room if the rest of the “house” was a a chaotic mess? Enter community B.
I don’t talk much about our new place because the group is generally very resistant to any sort of publicity. But the bathroom! Oh my god. It is amazing, and I can’t resist a good gush. Even when things aren’t going well with the group, I look at the bathroom—clean, unspoiled, stocked with toilet paper—and I remember why we wanted to move here.
The cleaning schedule works here for a number of reasons. Though we have more people using the facilities than we did in Mainz, we do not share them with a venue (though the venue toilets here are also sparkling). We have a detailed cleaning schedule (with an even more detailed list of what exactly you are expected to clean). Each person is assigned one week. During that week you are expected to take out the trash; refill the toilet paper, gas, and cleaning products if they are running low; and generally make sure things are running smoothly. You do a mini wipe down on Wednesday, a big full-out clean on Sunday, check off your name, and symbolically hand the bathroom over to the next person on the list.
But even the best laid plans fall apart if nobody gives a shit. (Ho-ho! Now there is an awful pun waiting to happen. I didn’t plan it, I swear.) And that is where this group excels. Everybody gives a shit. Many of them also have children. Someone will say something if you miss your turn. And now, when it is my turn to clean I find myself almost enjoying it. After all, there isn’t that much to do when the bathroom looked good before you got there, and I only have to clean once every two months.
How do you feel about sharing a bathroom?