Why don’t people clean up after themselves?

the discarded trash that didn't make it into the canPerhaps I’m in the worst town in America for this observation, but I’m baffled why people don’t clean up after themselves in public places. I’m sitting at a busy Starbucks in Las Vegas, Nevada, on a bright Sunday morning so perhaps it’s something to do with hangovers after staying up way too late and drinking way too much alcohol Saturday night in Sin City, but still…

From observation, it seems like there are two types of people who aren’t good at cleaning up after themselves, the clueless, and the uncaring. You probably see both of them all the time too, with the former characterized by dutifully grabbing two cups off their table and throwing them away as a good citizen would do. Except there were three of them and the third cup is now sitting, waiting for another customer to ignore, toss or for an employee to clean up after them.

It’s the latter category that bugs me more, however, See that plastic wrapper on the floor right next to the trash can? I watched a woman walk up to the trash and shove all their refuse within. That fell and she watched it slowly float down to the floor, then walked away without picking it up. I noticed because I absolutely expected her to pick it up. Wouldn’t you?

I wonder if it’s symptomatic of a greater consequence of the increasingly narcissistic world we live in: just outside the door is a kiosk where they’re selling selfie sticks. You know, extending poles that you can use to take arms-length self portraits without the bother of asking someone else to help you out. If it’s all about me, then I can just rely on someone to run along behind me, cleaning up after my mess, right?

dirty table at starbucks

Certainly that seems like a parenting issue because goodness knows I can talk until I’m blue in the face without my kids recognizing that putting the milk back in the fridge after using it is smart, or that dishes belong at least in the sink after a meal, if not in the dishwasher itself. I sometimes dream of an OCD child who is obsessed with having the house be neat and clean. As mental illness goes, at least that seems somewhat beneficial to the family.

Just kidding, I don’t mean to make light of any mental illness, of course. But still, compared to having violent mood swings or looking for sharp objects to practice self-mutilation, washing the dishes seems a lot easier to handle. 🙂

It’s hard to find good statistics on how often children clean up after themselves, but I am pretty sure I’m not alone in having children who are more than a bit clueless about household and community cleanliness and who enjoy and appreciate a clean home without realizing that their contribution would be a mitzvah and much appreciated.

How about you? Are you one of the unwashed masses who expects someone else to clean up after you or would you have bent down to pick up the errant plastic refuse rather than expect someone else to do so? And what strategies do you have for helping encourage your children to learn how to be clean and help maintain a clean living space?

Oh, and for the record, I picked up the plastic wrapper after I took the photo. 

8 comments on “Why don’t people clean up after themselves?

  1. Public property is nobody’s property, which means nobody but a neurotic has any incentive to take care of it. That’s why socialism is stupid, dude.

    • I clean a lot because my mother forced me to, she was very frightening and would force me to spend hours cleaning. Now I’m very neat and will clean up after others if they are too stupid/lazy to do so for themselves. Previous commenter is a jerk who thinks that people will do everything for them. Some of us actually want the world to be a nice place to live in.

      • No, public property is just a bad idea. People shouldn’t have to be ‘tricked’ into taking care of things. If someone has property they will take care of it, or they will suffer.

        If Starbucks cared they could throw out anyone who littered. But they’re dealing with a mass of incorrigible retards. Such people need to suffer for their mistakes, which is why ‘public property’ is fucking stupid.

        It’s also why people SHOULD trash public property, because otherwise they’re just propping up a broken, idiot system (much like morons that vote).

        • “Nah”, your comment makes precious little sense. Are you saying that all property, all land, all parks, all open spaces should be privately owned and that it’s just the owner that should be responsible for keeping it clean?

      • Clearly he’s in the latter of the two categories.
        It’s just the right thing to do. (Pick up)
        It is upsetting that people don’t care, but unfortunately it’s the world we live in. Just do your part and carry on. It does get frustrating at times especially when you witness it firsthand, but does no good to get yourself upset. It doesn’t accomplish anything. (Accept if you use your frustration and anger to clean your house top to bottom— )

  2. I agree with Kate, I found this article because I was frustrated with how lazy and unclean people can be. I like to come home and see a clean home. I don’t expect perfection, but I’m tired of leaving it clean, going to work, and every evening coming home to mess. It’s not cool, dammit!

  3. Very interesting posts. We are supposed to have morals, intellect, self respect, respect for others, hygeine, etc. We all have to tread are way through the many arenas “airports, hotels, city streets, sidewalks, parks, etc.” in life. Yet so many people are lazy, disrespectful, disgusting slobs. Check the crumbs, dirt, wrappers, ground in food and sticky beverage spots on the seats in all these areas, or perhaps the wrappers, paper cubs, cans, bottles, plastic or paper bags you might see on the ground. Then take a look at the many items spilled “soda, milk, juice, melted items, condiments, etc., spilled on the floors of many of these places.
    Most people leave these behind, failing to clean their respective messes because they don’t care. To say it’s because they don”t have ownership or incentive is laughable. Check their homes and find they are slobs in the very place they own and have incentive to take care of.
    They don’t care about any property or possession.
    The human race is truly divided into attitude, image, deception, discontent, laziness, greed and selfishness, and there those that are any combination of the preceding list. Those that trash this planet have complete control over there decisions and actions. They chose to be lazy, disgusting, disrespectful slobs. Just call a person out the next time he or she leaves a mess behind. Oh wait, that’s right, he or she will be insulted by your insinuations, or will offer multiple excuses, or my favorite, tell you to clean the f?$*#** mess. Not many will apologize, take accountability, or responsibility for their actions. I rest my case..

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