Ask Mr. Edwin: Hot Mess in Montana

ask mr. edwin

You asked for Mr. Edwin’s advice, but I never, ever do. Somehow, I always end up getting it anyway, along with a bemused head shake.  Now it’s your turn, suckers.

This is how it goes: You write in your questions about librarianship/the universe. Mr. Edwin answers them, because he knows SO much better than you do.

Apparently Lisa E. is a glutton for punishment, because she wrote in with the following query:


My co-worker is messy. Really, really messy. To the point where I sanitize the desk every single time we switch off.

Food smears, crumbs, leftover dishes and glasses, and (god help me!) any sort of microbes from unwashed hands and uncovered coughs/sneezes.

Can you recommend a way for me to speak to him about this, in a way that doesn’t amplify my OCDish habits?



Lisa, let’s call your coworker Hot Mess in Montana. You’re not from Montana, I don’t think, but it gives the column a nice Dear Abby kind of feel, no? Personally, I’d just throw all this dude’s stuff into the parking lot and then set it on fire, but not all libraries have parking lots and this isn’t Ask. Ms. Ingrid (although it should be). Whatever. Lisa wanted Mr. Edwin’s input instead of mine. Fine. Here goes:

Hi Lisa.

Ugghhh. I am sorry to hear about your unclean co-worker. If it is any consolation, you are not alone. I don’t know many people that haven’t encountered a similar situation at some point in their adult life. In fact, Forbes published an article last year citing a study that found that a nearly half of the Americans polled were “appalled” by how messy their colleagues were. Here are two suggestions on how you can confront this problem.

Method 1: “The Wing Way”- Leave suggestive literature & signs
I named this method after the way my co-workers in the Youth Wing broach sensitive subjects in our department. It is simple and non-confrontational.
If he worked here, he might walk into a copy of Clean-up Time or Toxic Co-workers sitting on his chair. Maybe a post-it note saying, “This space is to share, but germs aren’t” on a box of hand wipes behind the reference desk OR “Make yourself at home. Wash your dishes!” in the staff kitchen.
Hey… I work with a bunch of Children’s librarians. What did you expect?
You’d be surprised. Sometimes people DO catch the hint.

Method 2: The Mr. Edwin Way- Take it head on!
Obviously, this is my preferred method. How about this? The next time you clean up and he comes behind you and makes a mess, catch him red-handed (or brown-handed-or green-handed or whatever) and confront him on the spot. Explain how it is not fair (or sanitary) to leave waste around. Especially when you always have to clean it up. Don’t be nasty, just stern. Be sure to do this when it is just you two around. You don’t want to make a spectacle of the situation or cause any extra embarrassment.

Let me know how it works out.
You’re welcome.

Alright, Lisa. What do you think of Mr. Edwin’s plan of attack?

Readers, have you had a similar experience? Want to weigh in?

Remember, leave your questions for Mr. Edwin in the comments, or drop me a line at magpielibrarian at gmail dot com with the subject Ask Mr. Edwin.

I can't take a non-blurry picture to save my life.
I can’t take a non-blurry picture to save my life.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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