Meet Cheryl: Your coliving nemesis

She's the worst.

[Inspired by this Tweet]

Cheryl is the worst.

She leaves out dishes, she steals your headphones.

At Radish, we invented the notion of a “Cheryl” to be the repository of all those disrespectful things that people do in a communal living environment. When no one takes responsibility, we say “Cheryl did it.”

Let’s unmask Cheryl.

Cheryl is the law of large numbers

Suppose you live alone and cook 10 meals for yourself per week. And suppose you are quite conscientious: You clean up all the dishes 97% of the time.

What this means is once per month you’ll find a dish in your sink in the morning. No big deal, every month or so you find yourself saying “silly me, forgot to put away this dish last night.” And then you’ll clean it.

Now suppose you live with 12 people, each of whom cooks 10 meals per week. And suppose those people clean up 97% of the time.

How often will you see a mess in the kitchen? Mathematically …. Every two days.

That’s Cheryl. She is always leaving a mess!

Law of Large Numbers

I clean up 97% of the time. You clean up 97% of the time. Cheryl is the one who is a slob.

(Forgotten: Last Tuesday I was Cheryl for one night, on March 14th you were Cheryl for one night. Back in January, I had a visitor named Janet who was Cheryl for one night)

How to let Cheryl win

It’s tempting to say that the way to eliminate Cheryl is to increase clean up compliance from 97% to 100%. But this just isn’t realistic. No one is perfect. Shit happens. People have guests over who do the wrong thing. Etc.

Creating a system that requires individual perfection is a system that is guaranteed to fail. It is not a resilient system. It’s a system that will inevitably breed resentment. Even your microprocessor screws up once every 10 years or so.

The formula for letting Cheryl win is a) “always” cleaning up after yourself b) not cleaning up for others because its not “your” mess b) allowing yourself to get frustrated when see you a mess (“why don’t people clean up after themselves??!?”).

The problem is your “always” is never actually an always. And the person you want to blame isn’t always an actual person — it’s the law of large numbers. It’s Cheryl.

“Clean up after yourself, always” ← Non-resilient, ineffective, Cheryl wins.

How to defeat Cheryl

“Clean up when there’s a mess, always” ← Resilient, effective, Cheryl loses.

Never leave a dirty kitchen, regardless of whether you made the mess. It’s a simple rule that acknowledges that Cheryl will always be with us.

And don’t let it be a source of frustration. Let it be a source of pride. Brag! Tell people “There was a mess. It was Cheryl. I cleaned up.”

Don’t get upset. Don’t shame into the night air. Cheryl isn’t listening. She’s not an actual person. She’s the law of large numbers and she will always be there.

Cheryl is with us. I am Cheryl (sometimes). You are Cheryl (sometimes). Don’t let Cheryl win.

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