Tuesday, 6 September 2011

I thought I was supposed to have OCD?

Disclaimer - This post is not meant to make light of mental disorders.  Well actually, it is, but only mine.  Please stop reading if you are likely to be offended by OCD humour, and respect and understanding to people really struggling with this condition.  Political correctness over, moving on...

So I don't have OCD proper, I have OCD tendencies. Its simply really - I need to be in control of my environment, and I achieve this by tidying things away into their correct places and keeping the surface appearance of everything perfect. If it looks under control, it is under control.  The more stressed, nervous or worried I am about something, the more I tidy up.  I have been this way ever since I was a child.  I never had to be told to tidy my room - it was always tidy.  However, in my case, the old duck analogy is true (smoothly gliding along the surface while frantically paddling below the surface) and my mother will tell you that if you needed to find any of my stuff, the place to look was under my bed, and that you took your life into your own hands if you opened the cupboard doors.  But man, my bed was neatly made and the carpet was clear of clutter. Appearance was everything. I also used to pile things up, neatly and squarely, but not actually put them away.  I remember, as a 5 year old, making a pile like this just to the right of my bedroom door.  Every time I had to put something away, I added it to this lovely growing tower of books and puzzles.  Eventually it grew so tall that, as I added Old Hat, New Hat to the pile, the entire thing toppled over onto me and I hurt my nose.  For some reason my mother was unsympathetic and told me I would not have happened if I'd only put things away.  But I had - surely?

As I grew up, I become far more obsessive with my bedroom.  The posters on the wall (Michael Stipe placed firmly next to New Kids on the Block and Morrissey - I've always been eclectic) were evenly spaced and at right angles to each other.  My throw cushions on my bed were placed, not thrown.  I even remember once tidying my sisters room to the same degree while she was out.  She came home and messed it all up.  I was gutted...  By the time I went away to University, I couldn't sleep if the cupboard door was not shut or lecture notes were not centred in my folders.

Then something changed - I met Mr Messy.  At the time DH and I met his room was so messy that his cleaner refused to go in there, and he had resorted to bribing his house mates to clean his room for him with his leftover Easter eggs.  There were piles of paper, shoes, dirty and clean laundry on every surface.  First time I saw it I was quite tempted to ban him from my personal space on principle.  When we started cohabiting, I discovered that all he had to do to mess up a room was take his shoes off (he is a UK 13, US 15).  And he thought it was funny to leave the cupboard slightly open just to wind me up.  And so I started to relax, a little. And then a little more. And more.  However, I still had to have areas that I was in complete control of - like the kitchen counter and my bedside table. I tidied these particular areas before I went to work each morning. At the end of the day, when I walked in from a long day - my areas were perfectly organised and tidy - and all was good in the world.

Then we had kids, and controlling things became even harder.  The houses got bigger and bigger over time, and filled with so much stuff. And my time for straightening nick nacks became less and less as I had a full time job and 1, and then 2 and now 3 kids to pick up after, plus a husband who still seems to find the concept of a laundry basket challenging. Added to that the kids were at home with a nanny, who didn't have OCD tendencies.  I'd put everything in the right place, go off to work and come home to chaos.  Once DH started working from home the crumbling defenses of my psychosis were completely destroyed.

Slowly however I adapted to my new situation - by lowering my standards. Instead of having matching shoes next to one another, (toes in heels out) I changed to having matching shoes on top of each other, then near it each, and then finally to just being able to rest easy if my shoes were in my cupboards.  The kitchen counters now have all sorts of things on then - although I know exactly where each one should be, how far apart they should be spaced, which one lives in front of which etc.  I've gone back to stacking things - they are known as crap piles, and about once a month I get all manic and have to sort through them and put everything in the correct place.  I have given up on the home office and garage and have let them descend into complete chaos. Being OCD in a playroom is impossible too, and I settle for all toys being in A box, but not necessarily THEIR box.

However, imagine my suprise this morning when I realised that the *shudder* dreaded under-stair storage seemed to be full, floor to ceiling, with reusable shopping bags. As one of my friends said - did I perhaps misunderstand the meaning of the term reusable? Whats more - they had just be thrown in there willy hog butt. No system. They were not stored inside one another and hung on the hooks there for that exact purpose. Nor were they in the tasteful plastic bag holdy thing my MIL brought from South Africa.  No - the luxury hessian bags from Waitrose were flung on the floor right next to the brown paper bags from Primark.

I had a full break down. How did it come to this?  Does this mean I'm better? Does this mean I'm worse?  To be honest, I think it just means I'm normal...


  1. Oh, I really feel your pain. I keep asking my husband, "Did my townhome (that I had when I was single) ever look like this?" When you are the only one picking up after everyone, you are either going to kill yourself trying to keep up with it or lower your standards. I have lowered mine too, but I thank God I have limits still. I feel inspired to clean when it gets overwhelming for me. It is the only thing keeping me from appearing on an episode of Hoarding- Buried Alive. Thanks for leaving a comment on my post at Bloggy Moms!

  2. Did I write this and forget about it?!? Holy gravy, this is sooo me!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Kerry at housetalkn.blogspot.com