I find these events a challenge for an entirely different reason: the presents. The problem is not that I have to buy them, but that I have to receive them.
I know; most people love getting presents. The issue for me, though, is how to fit these gifts into my immaculately ordered life. Each of my current belongings has a designated - very precise - place in my environment, and is integral to the long-established patterns that I've created around me.
If I introduce a new item, I have to re-jig those patterns to accommodate it, which is hard to do, when I'm so used to them and so unsettled by change.
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Even if I do succeed in shuffling everything around to create a different, but equally acceptable arrangement, there is a mental adjustment to be made. It takes a long time for the new layout not to jar or trigger a feeling of discomfort. This discomfort is the same as I experience if I accidentally knock something out of place, or engage in an exposure and response prevention exercise.
As soon as I've opened any gifts, I make a display of them, devising a unique pattern for each, which provides a degree of integration into my world. My OCD permits these ad hoc displays because it views them as temporary, and because they don't disrupt my existing patterns.
In fact, I often leave these in my living room for months, rather than have to find new homes for the contents. Hidden in a gift bag under a table, I still have a few cards and presents from last Christmas, Valentine's Day and birthday, which I haven't yet managed to put away.
Over the years, I've devised a way of dealing with this dilemma. When preparing the present wish-lists we exchange in our family, I focus on:
1. Things that are replacements for worn-out items - one in, one out, pattern maintained.
2. Products that I regularly use, which are both easily stored - usually out of sight - and quickly consumed, so that they won't become permanent residents, such as wine, chocolate or my favourite face cream.
3. Vouchers for 'experiences'. Events already tackled, or yet to come, this year are falconry, climbing the O2 and afternoon tea at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington.
Vouchers are my favourite kind of present. After all, whether you have ordering OCD or not, isn't it better to live life and create great memories, than just accumulate material goods?