Roommate thinks I'm dirty but it really isn't me...
October 18, 2013 11:39 PM   Subscribe

I recently moved into a place with three other girls. They've all been there for a while - I'm the new one. We have a bug problem in the kitchen which was there even when I moved in. However, recently, we've seen an increase in fruit flies. Turns out, someone was throwing trash into the garbage can and I'm fairly certain the girl who cleaned it out thinks it's me. She left a note. How do I tackle this? I'm innocent!

She was cleaning today and she asked me, while I was on my way out, whether or not some over-ripe bananas were mine. They were, and I offered to put them in the freezer after she said there was a lot of fruit flies. I really don't think they were from my bananas - they were really ripe, yes, but they weren't rotten and they were still fully in their peels.

Later, when I came home from work, I noticed our dirty recycling bin outside. A note was inside saying that she found garbage and lots of fruit flies in there and asked that we don't do that and that whoever was doing it should clean the recycling.

I feel like it was directed at me... because I'm the newest girl there and she's best friends with one girl and she's lived with the third girl for a while already so the use of 'whoever' can only be directed at me... right? Plus, she was pretty pissed at my overripe bananas. However, it really wasn't me. I use the kitchen like once a week and I can differentiate between a recycling and a garbage can. There's no cleaning schedule or anything, but I've made a point of cleaning the kitchen once a week even though I don't use it as much as they do. Should I say anything? I think I know which girl it was but she's incredibly dirty. We share a bathroom, and she never takes out the garbage, and I don't think she will even care about this whole thing.

Anyway, should I just clean the recycling as a sign of good faith and then let her know it wasn't me? Should I ignore it? Does it even matter? I don't want her to hate me for something I didn't do... It may sound stupid but this sort of thing bothers me.
posted by cyml to Human Relations (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Ignore the note - you don't know if it was directed at you, and you do NOT want to send a message to your brand new housemates endorsing this sort of ugly passive aggressive communication.

Take the high road and clean the damn recycling though. Immediate problem solved.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:48 PM on October 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

1. Clean the bin even though it wasn't you.

2. If at all possible, mention it to the Banana Complainer, in personal, without making anything of it -- just tack in onto the end of a conversation, "oh by the way sorry about my bananas, no idea who put them in the recycling but I cleaned it out, no biggie", then drop it. It's worth saying sorry even if you have nothing to be sorry about. Absolutely do not write any notes or send any emails about this: too much danger of being interpreted as passive-aggressive even if that's not your intent.

3. As a lover of ripe bananas, I can attest that they can breed fruit flies even when not rotting, and even when still in their peels. I would defuse the situation by keeping the bananas in your room and using some kind of mesh food cover (or similar) to keep insects out. My bananas currently live in a cotton reusable shopping bag with the top securely knotted. Note also that some people really dislike the smell of ripe bananas, and you may be living with one of those even if nobody's mentioned it.
posted by pont at 12:04 AM on October 19, 2013 [14 favorites]

If you want to go a bit beyond the immediate high road gesture of cleaning the recycling while saying that it wasn't you, as pont suggested, you can make a very effective but simple fruit fly trap. Take a plastic container that food comes in, the squatter the better, and cut a small square hole in the top. Inside, put some basalmic vinegar, a bit of dish soap, and some water. Voila! Fruit fly trap--they're really attracted to the vinegar and the dish soap makes it so the water surface has no tension, so they drown. The container makes it harder for them to get out once they are in.
posted by foxfirefey at 12:08 AM on October 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

Nthing flies are attracted to fresh fruit, too, and all fruit (and sugary foods!) should be kept in the fridge for a little while until the problem clears up.

Clean the bin and forget it, move on. It's not that big of a deal.

Sorry about the note. Living in shared space is hard sometimes. Don't take it to heart.
posted by jbenben at 12:20 AM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think you're being a little over-sensitive here: a note to 'whoever' HAS to have been directed at you, just because you're the newest? Sorry, but no: you're doing some pretty athletic jumping-to-conclusions there.

If one of the others is indeed "incredibly dirty" and never takes out the garbage, then after living with her for a while it's a good bet the others know she's a slob. Clean the recycling bin as a gesture of good will, keep cleaning the kitchen as you have, and store your bananas differently --- even in their peels, they're still attractive to fruit flies.
posted by easily confused at 2:35 AM on October 19, 2013 [10 favorites]

Plus, she was pretty pissed at my overripe bananas.

She seems fun!!!

People who leave notes like that and act like that never do it once. It's always a career. Next time it'll be toothpaste flecks in the sink or mud in the hallway.

I think say to her directly that it wasn't you but that you'll clean it anyway. Otherwise you'll be coming home every day for a week and noticing it hasn't been cleaned yet and feel some gathering tension or at least irritability about the whole situation until finally Banana Girl does it herself and leaves another bitchy note about how she cleaned it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:46 AM on October 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

Like others have said, fruit flies show up even without rotting fruit. We had a serious fruit fly problem in the dorm one summer and had some success with building some fruit fly traps (in 2007, the internet told you to use orange juice, not apple cider vinegar). We may have forgone fruit for a week or kept it in the fridge--I don't remember.

I think A Terrible Llama is right about saying it wasn't you, but you're going to clean it. I'd also say "Let's try and solve our fruit fly problem. I'm building some fruit fly traps." (you can buy commercial ones, but that's less fun).
posted by hoyland at 5:35 AM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I noticed our dirty recycling bin outside. A note was inside saying that she found garbage and lots of fruit flies in there and asked that we don't do that and that whoever was doing it should clean the recycling.

Do you live in a house, or a building? If you're in a building and the bin was outside, the note probably wasn't directed at you at all. She might have been the one taking out the trash and cleaning the stupid bin for ages, and is getting sick of doing it, and the fruit flies are the last straw. (I may be projecting.)
posted by mgar at 6:03 AM on October 19, 2013

I'll second hoyland's fruit fly traps, but with an even simpler variation that works very quickly in my kitchen: take a shot glass, fill half full of apple cider or balsamic vinegar, and add a couple drops of liquid dish soap (stir, but do not froth). Within 24-48 hours, fruit flies will find this, feast, and sink due to lack of surface tension. Hooray.
posted by zachxman at 7:17 AM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'd probably clean the recycling bin and then put it back in the house with a note that reads: "I don't think it was me that messed it up, but cleaning it so we can all use it again is way more important than assigning blame for something that was probably an accident, so I cleaned this."

But, uh, there's a reason I don't live with roommates.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:41 AM on October 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

I have never lived in a house where notes were used to change roommate's behaviors. I have also never lived in a house with roommate drama. I think those things might be related, as notes are not an effective communication method for housing policies.

-If there's a problem, go and speak with them politely keeping in mind that both people have to share the space and there will be compromise. ("I saw your note. I am not the one who put garbage in the recycling bin, but if you would like, I will help you clean it out.")

-Ask your roommates for changes in their behavior, don't tell them to change their behavior. ("If there's a problem like this in future, could you please just speak directly with me about it?")

-Don't both trying to deny that your bananas may have been the sources of the fruit flies. There's no way to know, and proving it takes more time than putting them in the freezer like you did. Also don't accuse another roommate of putting garbage in the recycling bin, it will only add to the drama.

-"...she was pretty pissed at my overripe bananas." Don't clean the bin without directly speaking to the note writer. You need to open up communication with her in a friendly, positive manner and from the little you've written about her, I suspect she may not be very good at communicating. It will be up to you to make up for her deficiencies. Overripe bananas are not something worth getting pissed over. Be calm, treat this drama as the nothing it is, and give it the 15 minutes of attention that it deserves.
posted by 517 at 8:45 AM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

You may also want to pour a bit of bleach in the drain after using the sink if you have a problem that won't go away. Fruit flies like to reproduce in drains. Get a mesh dome for your fruit, or a cotton bag like the one mentioned previously.

Your roommate sounds like a peach. I'd probably clean the bin, but make it clear that I didn't throw food in it and that it can be someone else's turn next time.
posted by quince at 9:11 AM on October 19, 2013

Notes aren't fun, but the writer isn't necessarily a terrible person for writing one. Give her space to communicate with you (e.g. don't run straight to your room as soon as she gets home, do gently bring up the issue in person). That way you know the letter isnt for you next time.

Also before making traps I would say "hey are the flies still a problem? Let's try this solution." That way it doesnt feel like you unilaterally decided anything.
posted by nat at 1:15 PM on October 19, 2013

Take a deep breath.

This is so not a big deal and you're making it into one. For all you know, this is how she communicates with her non BFF roommates (the notes) and it isn't actually directed at you. And if it is, so what?

If it were me? Just clean the recycling bin. No need for notes. No need for offhandedly or directly mentioning that you didn't make it dirty but you did make it clean. She probably doesn't care who did it, or why, or how, she just wants someone to step up and clean the bin.

and it may go without saying but if she really does think it was you, it's not like you are going to convince her otherwise, verbally, anyway.
posted by sm1tten at 3:36 PM on October 19, 2013

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