Given that I’m an incoming senior, one would think that coming back to school would be pretty routine for me. And mostly, it is. I’ve mastered the art of registration and class-getting. And my mental map of campus has had most of the gaps filled in. I have friends and a job, both of which have been stable for a few years now. But in one important respect I’m not your typical UCSB fourth-year: This school year is my first in an I.V. apartment.

Despite being in Greece for a good chunk of the summer, I’ve already begun to learn a lot about apartment living, or at least apartment living with three other girls.

One of the first things I learned about I.V.: the street is my friend, an impartial conveyor of junk and treasure and my connection to both unknown benefactors and hopeless litterbugs. When my roommates and I asked the street for help in furnishing our apartment, it yielded one mattress frame, two desks, one chair and assorted flowerpots. Even now the street continues its bounty, generously providing materials for our assorted art projects.

Once the apartment is more or less in place, the process of keeping it clean can go one of two ways: mechanical or organic. The mechanical kind requires a militaristic arrangement of chore charts and people who can consistently be expected to give a damn. This is unrealistic for me and my mates, so, as in so many other things, we go organic.

The organic method is much less stable, but more delicate and fine-tuned. In an organically clean household, a perfect homeostasis of duty and cleanliness is never quite achieved, but things tend to work out via a mysterious balance of forces with different levels of tolerance for different forms of mess. For instance, I hate dirty dishes with a passion, and often find myself washing whatever is in the sink to get it back into the cabinet whence it came. As we are all too environmentally correct to even consider buying paper plates, this is very regular work.

On the other hand, it doesn’t occur to me to take out the trash until our bin begins to acquire a surrounding harem of smaller plastic bags. Fortunately, a different roommate has a corresponding trash peeve, and can generally make up the lack.

Does this work out to perfect satisfaction? Not always. My roommate once described it as “living in filth” but I chalk this up to her flair for the dramatic. In general, I like her flair for the dramatic – it puts good artwork on our walls, in actual frames. Heading to take a shower the other day, I noticed we now have a huge painting of Venice to grace our modest bathroom.

Food sharing is another domestic system that apartment life regulates in a hurry. Many people start off with a sort of vague, idealistic generosity: “Oh, we’ll all contribute to a shared food supply.” Then someone eats the last of the bread, the cereal and the ice cream, all in the same day, and that’s it. Territories are staked out, and blood and fire rain down upon the person who violates the food clearly denoted by the name in permanent marker.

The onset of fall has brought some additions to the life I’m just beginning to become accustomed to. It used to be I couldn’t hear most of the drunken orgies. Sure, my downstairs neighbors have a sound system that occasionally has all of our heartbeats thumping to the same bass line, but in general life was pretty quiet. But now, due to the jumped-up population density and the Week of Welcome, the evenings are starting to perk up.

And it isn’t just the evenings: This week, my attempts to sleep in until noon were punctuated by sorority girls marching up and down I.V. chanting Greek letters amidst a wash of other indecipherable content. It may have simply been my sleep-addled brain, but I could have sworn that one group was shouting, “P-E alphabet! P-A internet!”

The vagaries of apartment life here have been sounded by many voices, from the decades of Nexus columnists to the drunken revelers roaming the streets.

They all assure me that life will never be boring.