15 April 2013

It's not what you do, it's the way that you do it

And that's the whole point of my form of OCD. 

My obsession with order and symmetry means that I'm compelled to put everything back where it belongs. And where it belongs doesn't mean the cupboard, or the top of the chest of drawers, or the edge of the bath; it means the precise-to-the-millimetre position I've allocated to it.

In originally determining that position, I will have been guided by the lines and angles of the cupboard/drawers/bath, and other objects already located on them, to create what is, to my eye, the most aesthetically pleasing arrangement. 

Take the top of my chest of drawers, for example (may I suggest you also take a deep breath)...

The layout has as its cornerstones a box of tissues in the back left-hand corner and a fabric-covered box containing make-up in the back right-hand corner. Each of these is positioned about an inch from the short edge and parallel to that edge. 
Photo: Peter Gettins Photography

Centred between them is an open fan.

Centred in front of the fan is a bottle of body lotion.

Centred between the tissues and the body lotion is a deodorant aerosol.

Centred between the make-up box and the body lotion is a tube of hair gel.

In front of the tissues, and centred to them, is a jewellery box. 

In front of the make-up box, and centred to it, is a vase.

In front of the body lotion...

Got the picture? I hope so, because I'm only halfway through describing the chest of drawers and I have a whole flat like this. 

To those of you unaccustomed to OCD habits, this must sound exhausting. In fact, it's not that hard. If I use my deodorant, it leaves a gap. When I'm finished with it, I simply replace it in the gap, tweaking it as necessary to ensure it's centred or parallel to its neighbours.

Creating the patterns in the first place is the hard part, but I've lived in my current home for 18 years, so most of them are long-established. No one else would be able to figure out the particular physical laws governing my life, though, without the OCD equivalent of the Large Hadron Collider.

Just because it's easy for me to maintain my patterns, however, doesn't mean that I should - performing compulsions fast doesn't make them any less of an issue.

With that in mind, I've resolved to try, once again, to overcome some of them. I'll keep you posted as to my progress.


Anonymous said...

So this is all about the position of things, nothing else?

Many people find it most disturbing when they've decorated their dining room in matching shades of silver, purple and pink, when suddenly the teenage son enters the room wearing his Arsenal shirt and popping the green and orange cornflakes box on the table.

I felt truly mismatched and all wrong when I was asked to sit on a flowery Laura Ashley sofa wearing a checked skirt. On a plain sofa I would have looked a million dollars...

So to come back to my original question, it is not important to you whether colours and style of opened fan, sun cream, jewellery box, or nail varnish go nicely together or not? It's just their position on the table that matters?

All the best,

Helen Barbour said...

Yes, Bettina, for me it is all about the symmetry and neat arrangement of objects, rather than having their colours match. However, everyone's experience of OCD differs and I can well understand the issues you describe. Perhaps if my home were decorated in a more co-ordinated fashion, I would feel the same - I'm afraid it is too eclectic for me to notice clashing colours!

Thanks for your interest.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Some of what you say reminds me of the principles of shop-floor arrangement which have leaked into governance of life in our office (this is what happens when you work in a manufacturing/engineering company). For instance, your mention of the gap left by your deodorant is exactly the principle of the 'shadow board' for keeping tools handy. And the principles of '5-S' (sort, sweep, straighten, standardise, something else) are very similar as well... 'a place for everything and everything in its place'. So some aspects of OCD are considered best practice in world-class manufacturing. You may be pleased to find out. If you didn't know already.

Helen Barbour said...

That's interesting to know, Ruth. I'd already identified a number of work arenas where I think my OCD would put me at an advantage - now I can add manufacturing to the list!