If you're living in any kind of student housing with other people, you're eventually going to have to work out the cleaning. If you're unfortunate enough to live with four other guys like I did, cleaning will most likely be explored only in a strict hypothetical sense, like "We should really clean one of these days," or "I seem to have contracted botulism somehow."
As five guys coming from five upper to middle-class families, we'd each been given boxes of dishes from our concerned moms, who envisioned their baby boy eating food with his bare hands off the floor. We consequently had an embarrassment of plates and glasses "" the entirety of which we, with a laughable lack of foresight, crammed into the cupboards when we moved in.
By the two-week mark our sink overflowed. Cups and pans found their way to nearby flat surfaces "" so as to reach them more easily, we presumed, when we eventually got around to washing them. The top of the stove, in the fridge crisper "" as the real estate shrank, creativity took over. I remember hiding some glasses behind the curtains and feeling pretty proud of myself.
Eventually our promises to clean up were laid bare for the hollow, shame-faced lies they were, and the dishes were moved directly onto the floor, which seemed easier. The cleaning schedule on the kitchen wall had by this point gone from being marked up with notes and arrows ("Monday JERRY FUCK THIS MEANS YOU!!!") to being ignored entirely, the illusion that any of us were even remotely paying attention to it having long since been buried under an enormous pile of beer-smelling mixing bowls.
After four months, every one of the 12,571 dishes we owned was stacked in precarious filthy mountains in the kitchen. Like anyone faced with an unpleasant job, we rolled up our sleeves and adapted our lives around it. You could still root around for a fork or a plate when you needed one, after all, and clean it under the hose in the back yard. (Our one-dish-at-a-time washing technique was uneconomical, but I'd argue you really get the cleanest dishes that way "" each one plucked out of a pile when needed, lovingly bathed in dish soap and given the focus it deserves.)
After six months it became impossible to find the more useful items (forks, plates, cups) under the growing pile of useless dish detritus (whisks, woks, frying pans, Burger King collector's mugs, long-lost TV remotes). Essential dish staples found their way up to bedrooms, where they languished under beds, forgotten and unused.
We welcomed the challenge. It's once thing to pick a fork off a pile of dishes, after all. It's another entirely to stick your arm into a sink full of rotting spaghetti noodles, old toast and Tom Collins mix in search of a serviceable plate. Eating had become an adventure.
Anyone unfortunate enough to be visiting could expect to find one of us in the living room watching TV while lapping rum out of a saucer, or mangling a steak into smaller pieces with two giant stirring spoons. It's freeing somehow to sip at a beer mug full of soup, applauding your wisdom in freeing yourself from the tyranny of spoons entirely.
The lowest ebb was reached "" for me anyway "" when I was forced to abandon dish technology altogether. I'd simply drop whatever I'd cooked onto the coffee table and rend it apart with my hands, cleaning up the mess afterwards with some Lysol and a paper towel. Here we had enough dishes in our house to serve sixty people, and yet I'd find myself in my living room, barbecue sauce coating the lower half of my face, eating a chicken leg like a coyote. Something had to be done. That very week I began eating out all the time, and didn't enter the kitchen for the rest of the semester.
One of my housemates one-upped me, deciding it best to move in with his girlfriend and stop living there entirely. Since he never bothered to tell anyone he was going, his disappearance was a topic of hot debate for days to come. Some of us figured he'd moved onto greener pastures, where the dishes sparkled like water and hung, antiseptic and glistening, from leafy boughs.
Others of us feared the worst; that he'd had entered the unmapped dark lands of the kitchen in search of a spoon, pulled out a lode-bearing pan, and was crushed to death by the results of our apathy. Talk of a search party was broached but never materialized, as wrestling was on, and we wanted to watch wrestling.