FIRST comes the mess: an overflowing bin; bags on top of bins; bags on the ground beside the bins. Then comes the mayhem: a ripped-open bin bag; a trail of half-eaten takeaways; an infestation of rats.

Bin strikes have an instant impact that only gets worse as the negotiations drag on. In Edinburgh at festival time, the impact is magnified further, but with strikes planned all across Scotland in the coming weeks, few of those reading this will be spared the inconvenience and unpleasantness. Unless of course someone reading this is a fox.

Not every human will be equally affected either, as levels of tolerance for mess, dirt, disorder and outright chaos vary, even within the same household. Sometimes, to put it mildly, they vary considerably.

This mismatch of expectations comes to mind every time I read a list of ways to save electricity this winter that makes mention of washing, drying and cleaning. If you think public-sector pay disputes are ugly, consider how much worse a housework strike has the potential to be, with financial strain compounding ancient grudges and threatening to spark new mutiny.

READ MORE: Labour slammed for being 'asleep at the wheel' in Edinburgh as bin workers strike

The two sides might not be able to get round the table even if they want to – because the table might be covered in crap that someone refuses to tidy away.

“She divorced me because I left dishes by the sink” is a headline that sticks in the mind, so no wonder it tends to intrude whenever a well-meaning finance expert starts talking about the economic benefits of waiting until the dishwasher is full to start a cycle or – perhaps even more globally controversial, if Twitter is any guide – using a plastic basin in your kitchen sink.

The advice tends not to specify whether the plastic basin should be full of dishes when the precious hot water is added, or whether washing up just a few cups and plates at a time is economical.

Advising people to wear three jumpers and USB heated gloves while living in a single room all winter is one thing, but supplying ammunition for deployment in long-running feuds would be an incendiary step too far.

“Every time she’d walk into the kitchen and find a drinking glass by the sink, she moved incrementally closer to moving out and ending our marriage,” wrote Matthew Fray in that 2016 article. “I just didn’t know it yet.”

The dishwasher was only inches away, but Fray had two reasons for declining to load it: one, he might want to use the glass again before washing it; and two, he was not remotely troubled by the sight of it sitting there – so near and yet so far – on the worktop beside the sink. He would only be inspired to move it if they were expecting visitors.

The problem with household strikes from the point of view of the cleaner, tidier household member is that while some people (and by people I generally mean men) expect to be waited on hand and foot by their partners, others genuinely could not care less whether a large quantity of housework gets done at any particular time If dishes pile up by the sink, they simply take fresh ones from the cupboard until there are no clean ones left to use. If laundry piles up in the basket, it can just be similarly ignored until the clean shirts run out. They do not aspire to live in an Instagram reel, or feel like a failure if they aren’t performing the homemaker role to a high enough standard.

While in recent years there’s been a push for influencers to let their followers glimpse the chaos of real life as well as their artfully staged interiors and storage solutions, there’s been a simultaneous trend towards pathologising those who don’t prioritise keeping things tidy.

Anything from a clothes-strewn bedroom to a chaotic cutlery drawer can be cited as symptom of ADHD by a fast-talking TikToker who knows how to work the algorithms.

Mrs Hinch, the celebrity influencer who rose to fame posting cleaning videos on Instagram, has been open about how domestic chores help her deal with anxiety, and pokes fun at herself for getting such satisfaction from cleaning, but she unwittingly became part of a “cleanfluencer” industry that leaves some women feeling extra pressure to perform as housewives – even when they are already burdened with full-time jobs.

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Fray’s eureka moment did not involve the realisation that he was a dreadful slob, or that leaving dishes beside the sink was a moral failing.

His realisation – which came far too late to save the marriage – was that he didn’t need to believe in the importance of the glass going straight into the dishwasher, he merely needed to perform the task to demonstrate to his wife that he cared about her feelings.

He has now re-invented himself as a relationship coach, and six years on he is still fielding feedback from readers who insist his wife’s expectations were petty and unreasonable and her nagging manipulative.

Before the price cap rises and battles break out over when to justify switching on the washing machine, tumble dryer, dishwasher or vacuum cleaner, I have a suggestion: draw up terms and conditions, and perhaps some key performance indicators.

Someone will need to clear the table first, of course.