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From the time I was ten until I graduated from high school, I was a member of the local Girl Scout troop. One of the most important things I learned as a scout was to leave a place better than you found it.

I put that to practice this weekend when I stayed in the Matsudai dormitory. The place suffers from the "tragedy of the commons" as it's inhabited mainly by people staying only a night or three and then moving on. Everyone is generally neat and careful in a daily way, but longer term tasks get overlooked.

On Monday morning after breakfast but before we started our workday, I scrubbed the kitchen clean. Well, I scrubbed it cleaner. I focused on the forgotten tasks and the built-up mess: I used a knife to scrape off the grotty bits between the stove and the counter; degreased several years of crud from the backsplash; washed all the dribbles off the cabinet doors. The overall effect was still a dirty kitchen - it would take the better part of a weekend to get it truly shipshape - but not as dirty.

Next time I go up, I'm bringing what I need to fix the shower - apparently it doesn't drain. I suspect a clog of hair and grossness. I will arm myself with drain cleaner and a snake and we shall all bathe joyfully afterwards.

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