As a high schooler (back when we still used AOL and MTV still played music videos), I loved reading funny warning labels. Things like, “Don’t iron clothes on body,” or “Don’t use hair dyer while sleeping.” One of my favorite ones I’ve notices lately is on a lot of my underwear and bras: “Don’t dry over open flame.” I have no idea what happened to need this warning, but I like to imagine it involving a camping trip gone wrong. Beyond just being mildly amusing, these “No shit Sherlock” style warning labels were probably the first time I realized that the phrase “common sense” is a bit of a misnomer.
Lets fast forward a bit. I’ve had a lot of different living situations as an adult. It’s ranged from anywhere between living in a tiny studio alone, to living in a large home with 11 other people (it was college, we had a maid, the house was incredible, and it didn’t feel crowded at all). I currently live in an old, 4-bedroom home in Portland, Ore. I love this house—most of the time. The house has loads of space, a sizable kitchen, a great backyard, the neighborhood is fantastic, and I now have the pleasure of living in the master bedroom, which is roughly the same size as my old studio apartment. However, we also get a lot of spiders, the walls are old plaster, the washer and dryer spin at just the right frequency to make the entire house shake while doing laundry, and I have three roommates (all wonderful, but theres always pluses and minus to sharing space).
There are things I love about living with roommates and there are things I hate about living with roommates. But all the pluses and minuses aside, the living situation has once again brought into focus a valuable life lesson: Just because something is common sense to me, doesn’t make it common sense to everyone else. The place I encounter this most in my day-to-day life is in our kitchen. I do roughly 90-99 percent of the cleaning in my house. This is because I am very particular about how things are cleaned, I’m a bit of a neat freak, and I don’t trust other people to clean things the way I want them cleaned or at the frequency that I want them cleaned at. In return for me doing the majority of the house cleaning, I asked a few simple things from my roommates: Don’t leave personal items in big piles on the floor in the shared space for long periods of time and clean up after yourself in the kitchen. Being that we are a household full of adults, everyone is really good at picking up after themselves in the shared space.
In general this system works well (for me), until I walk into the kitchen. Circling back to “common sense” and “if you want something done a specific way, do it yourself,” when most people walk into my kitchen they don’t see anything wrong. Things appear to be fairly tidy. But when I walk into my kitchen, my eyes go straight to ANY TINY THING that feels illogical to me. I could pull out multiple examples of things I think are common sense in the kitchen, but I’m going to focus on one particular example that I feel is the best representation of a disconnect with common sense: the dishwasher.
There is a correct way and an incorrect way to load a dishwasher and the correct way should be common sense (it’s not; everyone loads it differently and EVERYONE thinks they are correct). A dishwasher’s layout is practically a map to how best to load it. Load a dishwasher incorrectly—a seemingly harmless mistake—and you can find yourself facing a minor inconvenience, like items needing to be rewashed by hand, or a full-on tragedy of ruined items (particular high risk for specialized glassware). Now I’ll admit that the initial emotional response that I feel when opening the dishwasher to discover it has been loaded wrong is a bit overly dramatic. And maybe I’d feel a bit less exasperated by it if I wasn’t the person who also owned most of the dishes, but what kind of a monster puts a small salad plate behind a large dinner plate?! You’re dooming that salad plate to be sub-standardly cleaned. It doesn’t make sense to put all the tall people in front of the shorter people in a group photo, it doesn’t make sense to do it with your dishes either!
I’ve digressed. It’s been my experience that you can tell if home keeping/general house care is something that comes very logically and easily to someone or if it is something someone struggles with by how they load a dishwasher. To me it is common sense to not cram all the utensils and flatware into only one slot of the utensils basket in a dishwasher but for someone else who is talented in other areas, they might not see how a crowded utensil basket is a big no no in the dish-cleaning process. (But serious, spread them out evenly so they can actually get cleaned!) We all have different things that come naturally to us or feel like they should be common sense. Likewise, we all have weird lapses in knowledge—I spent the first 18-years of my life thinking a breakfast burrito was cinnamon, sugar, and melted butter rolled up in a tortilla. Why? Because that’s what my best friend and I use to make ourselves for breakfast as kids and it took 18 year of living my life before I encountered a real breakfast burrito.
You might be thinking, “Gretchen, if you get this worked up over how the dishwasher is loaded, you clearly are not meant to be living with roommates and the solution is to move into your own place.” To which I say,”the dishwasher is a metaphor and you’re missing the point! Ahh!”
Point being, things that are “common sense” are much less commonly known than they are given credit for. So the next time you find yourself standing in a bubble soapy mess because someone put regular dish soap in the dishwasher instead of dishwashing detergent (though the two cleaning products sound interchangeable, they are not and are chemically designed to react differently in water), instead of lashing out angrily, try approach the situation with kindness. Because sometimes lessons are learned the hard way, and the next time you do something stupid (which will happen), you’ll appreciate being treated with understanding and kindness, not yelled at and made to feel like a total idiot.
To clarify, none of my roommates are actually monsters (it was hyperbole, no one is a monster for how they load the dishwasher). They are actually all lovely people.
By the way, this is my 100th blog post!!! (Cue balloons and celebratory music). It is really exciting for me that I have made this landmark with my blog. Writing has always been my job and my passion, and I never imagined blogging growing the way that is has since I published my very first post. It’s been one of the most exciting journeys I’ve made in my career, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the next 100 posts lead me. Thank you to everyone who reads my posts week after week. I can’t express just how meaningful it’s been for me to read people’s comments or have people tell me how my writing has had an impact on them.
<3 (old school emoticon heart)
GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.