Butler: The good, the bad and the smelly

Uh oh, stinky! Photo by Grace Hensley.


Going to college is a massive undertaking, one that requires commitment to lifestyle changes, whether that’s sleeping, your diet or studying habits. One lifestyle change that students seem to struggle with the most is hygiene. Bad hygiene can range from leaving hair in the sink to not showering or washing sheets for weeks, which is a well-known occurrence among college students. With that being said, taking care of yourself shouldn’t feel like a chore, but it should be prioritized over partying or pulling an all-nighter.

As a college student, I know just how dirty people can be, especially students with new-found freedom. The list of unhygienic habits is endless and can definitely be found on Butler’s campus. The grossest things college students do range in scope and degree of nastiness, but we’ve probably all done something gross more times than we can count. It’s not uncommon to enter a friend or potential partner’s room and see the mess that exists within. From the dirty dishes to Atherton takeout boxes piled up in their room, it’s enough to make you question how others feel when they enter your living space. With that being said, it could also be the little things like re-wearing a hoodie or jeans or waking up late for class and forgetting to brush your teeth.

Specifically, in larger communal settings such as kitchens and laundry rooms, people tend to create the worst messes.

First-year arts administration major Brychan Livingston, who lives in Irvington House, has experienced everything from foul odors to rotten food in the shared Irvington kitchen.

“People don’t have any regard for the fact that they’re sharing [a kitchen] and that it gets disgusting,” Livingston said. “You open the fridge door, and there’s a horrible smell that wafts in your nose. People leave food rotting in the fridge. People leave their dishes out in the sink with mac and cheese crusted to the side of their bowls. And they leave it there. They don’t even take it back to their dorm.”

Additionally, living with a roommate can already be stressful, but when they suffer from awful hygiene, the experience can be a lot worse. It can be a struggle to share a space with someone messier or cleaner than you.

Sarah Glaser, a sophomore psychology major, says that her roommate situation and the levels of cleanliness have changed drastically from her first year to her second.

“Last year, my roommate was a neat freak, and she just wanted everything her way compared to me and my [most recent] roommate,” Glaser said. “[My most recent roommate] and I were both very messy, and we both just kept our messes to our side.”

Though I can understand why many people are comfortable with their mess as long as it’s on their side, the tension this can create between roommates, partners and friends is unfathomable. 

Bad hygiene can cause tension and unnecessary stress in a living space and create an unhealthy living environment. Students from all different walks of life all fall into the bad cycle of poor hygiene, but the true definition of good hygiene is up for debate. For instance, how often should you take the trash out or make your bed?

Some people believe that there are many interpretations of what good hygiene means and what constitutes or prevents it. Personally, I would consider myself a clean person, but that doesn’t stop me from indulging in re-wearing the same pair of sweats.

Glaser believes that as long as your mess doesn’t intrude on your roommate’s space, you’re pretty clean.  

“I mean, as long as [the mess is] not bad,” Glaser said. “I made sure to keep mine to my sense of space and make sure that mine is in a controlled area because I know I’m a mess, but at least I don’t put it onto other people.”

With different understandings of what constitutes a clean space, we should hold off on snap judgments when we don’t know what is happening in someone else’s life. 

Skylar Ashcraft, first-year criminology-psychology major, sees the different aspects of a mess that can arise in the bedroom of a college student and believes that before criticizing others’ messes, we should be more aware of our circumstances.

“I do think that college can get overwhelming to the point that it’s hard to take care of our belongings and take care of ourselves,” Ashcraft said. “That’s why I stress self-care.”

Livingston believes that the freedom of college and a lack of time management skills causes students to forget to do the simple things. Trust me, I push off vacuuming to finish an assignment that’s due at 11:59 p.m., too.

“I think there’s some people that the moment they’re not being monitored by their parents, they let it all out,” Livingston said. “The freedom really gets to them, but I think a lot of us are considerate to our roommates and have basic manners.”

College is a breeding ground for poor hygiene, but it also breeds self-awareness. Many students are aware of their hygiene and areas that they can improve in when it comes to taking care of themselves. Personally, I know that I can get better at cleaning the bathroom and making sure I’m changing my sheets appropriately. So next time you find yourself criticizing your friend for not washing their sheets, stop and ask yourself, “when was the last time I washed mine?”


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