22 July 2013

My world order

People often ask whether I'm compelled only to keep my own environment 'just so'. The short answer is yes. I'm concerned solely with maintaining order in my flat, in my car and on my desk, not the wider world. It's precisely because I can't control the wider world - people or events - that control of my own is so important. 

Controlling my surroundings serves to reduce my anxiety levels, so I need to be sure no one can undermine my efforts, as that would only exacerbate my stress. You can be sure, I won't be lining up labels on tins in a supermarket, just for other customers to mess them up again...and again...and again. 

My flat and car are, of course, subject to some interference from others, ie visitors and occasional passengers. Now, though, I'm able to resist my compulsions long enough to put up with temporary invasions - it hasn't always been the case. The discomfort is tolerable, when I know I'll soon be alone again and able to restore order. 

My desk is another story. 

I sit in the middle of a row of three, with another row of three directly opposite. My colleagues either side know not to cross the dividing line between our desks and are quick to pull stray items back across the border. I'm trying to be more tolerant, though: I recently allowed half a plastic fork to infiltrate my territory for a whole afternoon.

Colleagues coming to speak to me present a greater problem. They tend to perch on the edge of the desk or adjoining cabinet, blithely shoving stuff out of the way to make space. Sometimes, it's all I can do not to shove them off. The second they've gone, my priority is to re-establish order, irrespective of any work that might be screaming for my attention. 

As in other situations, the more stressed I become, the tidier my environment has to be. When my workload is out of control, I seek refuge in straightening my papers and stationery. The irony is, when people see a tidy - or virtually empty - desk, they assume the occupier isn't busy. For me, an empty desk is a warning sign to my colleagues: approach at your own risk.

Often, when friends find out I have OCD, they respond along the lines of 'You must think my house is a tip? Don't you want to tidy it up?' Actually, no, and no. If it's cluttered to a normal, homely level, I'm likely, instead, to be envious that they're able to live that way. Even friends who confess to being particularly messy provoke a degree of envy.

So, while I can't imagine living with anyone permanently, I'm happy to visit other people whose environment is nothing like my own. Such as my boyfriend, whose chest of drawers and sock drawer look like this:

Photos: Peter Gettins Photography

While mine - as you'll have seen from earlier posts - look like this:

It's not what you do, it's the way that you do it
There's method in the madness (sometimes)

In fact, the next time someone asks why we don't move in together, I think I'll just show them these pictures.


Lindsay said...

I was very grateful to the lift you gave me to Swanwick last year, as I knew this was potentially an invasion! I tried to behave in an orderly fashion and was mortified when my bottle of water leaked!

Can't resist letting you know that last night I saw a photo of a sock drawer every bit as tidy and organized as yours! Although as it's owner admitted the colour co-ordination could have been better.

Helen Barbour said...

I don't remember the bottle leaking, Lindsay, but water is pretty harmless as spillages go. And, as I recall, you were a model passenger!

My colleagues are convinced I must have bought new socks for the photo shoot, and ironed them, as they looked so pristine. That's 'finger ironing' for you. Since publishing that post, I've stopped doing that, which saves a lot of time, though I still put them in piles, sorted by type/colour.