Organisation - June 20, 2019

Diary of a caretaker - The annoying little man who pesters you about hygiene

Beschimmeld eten op de keukenvloer, stapels stinkende vuilniszakken. Idealis-beheerders komen heel wat tegen bij hun inspectie van afdelingen, schrijft Christoph Janzing.

Christoph Janzing works for Idealis as a caretaker. He writes about his experiences for Resource.

‘Oh, so you are the annoying little man who always pestered us to clean our flat.’ That was the response of a friend who used to live at Hoevestein when I told her I’d taken a job as a caretaker with Idealis.

It is indeed part of my job to inspect more than 100 student flats to see whether they are more or less clean and habitable. And I sometimes wonder why I bother. Who am I to tell grown adults that they should do some cleaning? I’m not their father, am I? And yet I do think there’s a role for this kind of ‘annoying little man’.

Leaking rubbish bags.

You recognize the filthiest flats by the sour smell of piled up, leaking rubbish bags that meets you at the door. Apparently every resident of such flats expects that someone else will take out the rubbish. Shared responsibility can mean that no one takes action – the ‘bystander effect’.  On a recent inspection tour of Asserpark I found a complete meal for about eight hungry students in the middle of one kitchen floor. When I asked what the pile of food was doing there, I was told it had already been composting there for four days. ‘We don’t know who threw the food there, so we left it.’

You recognize the filthiest flats by the sour smell of leaking rubbish bags


So this is where the irritating little man comes in. The one who says this is really not acceptable and that the residents had better get to work. They are then united by their irritation with the little man, which is good for their bonding as a group.

I was subtly thanked by a student recently after I had failed a flat and came back for a second inspection. ‘It was really fun to clean the place together, actually. And afterwards we had a meal together in the clean kitchen.’

Phew. At least that makes me a usefully annoying little man.’