I don’t have diagnosed OCD. I don’t want to diminish those who do. But I have serious OCD tendencies, and I think my father does have undiagnosed OCD, which he was not at all reticent about making us the victims of (having fits if items on the coffee table were not perfectly perpendicular to the edges, making us re-vacuum, sometimes multiple times, if the lines on the carpet were not prominent enough after we finished cleaning a room, waking me up in the middle of the night to do dishes, etc.). In some aspects of my life, I feel like tending toward OCD serves me quite well. I am extremely organized and efficient. I can often just look at something and figure out the best way to get it done (much to the frustration of *h, who has to puzzle over things while I fume that he is taking too long and I already solved the problem… poor *h- I really do test his patience a lot…)
But the flip side to this is that the greater my anxiety, the more my need to organize and clean. So I can be stressed out about X, and I will need to organize my pantry. I can be nervous about Y and I will have to clean the kitchen. And if I am already stressed out and I see things around me in chaos, woe to the person who caused that chaos, because I can be downright ornery.
Add to that my brain damage (March is brain injury awareness month, by the way), which gives me visual processing problems, and I can be very easily overloaded by clutter in my surroundings. In fact, I have instituted a new policy in my house that for every new thing that comes in, two things have to go out. I spent this morning going through my sons’ closets and posting their outgrown clothing on a community bulletin board so that other people can hopefully benefit from things that are driving me into brain decompensation. Very win-win.
What’s not so win-win is that my anxiety about being prepared in case of emergency also trips off my anxiety about having too much stuff. So I swing between accumulating things I think we need (extra food, solar-powered flashlights, etc.), and then feeling suffocated by possessions and trying to cull what we own so I can not feel like a hoarder. There are things we need, like extra blankets, but I am in a bit of a quandary over how many blankets are good to have. After going without heat for many months, I can certainly see the value in having a store of warm bedding, but back then we had power so we could use space heaters when things became intolerable; obviously if the power was down for some reason that wouldn’t be the case. However we are in a relatively temperate climate, so it’s not exactly sub-zero. But what if our friends or neighbors needed blankets? Sure we are not a warehouse for everyone else. And it does feel cold without heat. And on and on and on. This is the rat race of my mind, and I do this for every object that we have.
In watching hoarding shows, I see this is how classic hoarders think. Every single thing has potential use or value and therefore nothing can be parted with. So their houses are like trash dumps. Don’t get me wrong. I take out trash without fail. I take out recycling like it is my mission in life. I even routinely donate items we can no longer use, like clothing my youngest has grown out of, or miscellaneous household goods.
But when it comes to things I think would be of use in a grid-down (*h hates that I am “paranoid”) or other emergencies- catastrophic or otherwise- I have a real problem deciding exactly what and how much of what I should keep. A big part of this is my anxiety talking and not my rational self. I think it blurs the lines between my common sense and my nervousness. So I imagine that a person with a clearer head would just calculate how many people are in their family and figure out how many blankets to keep. They would decide how many cans of corn it would take to keep their family happy for a reasonable length of time and keep that many in stock. But for all of my research abilities and all of my organizational skills I can’t seem to get out of my own way enough to not have extra provisions. I do force myself to be altruistic from time to time and share things- like when Amazon accidentally sent us extra giant-size boxes of cereal and I gave some to a family in need in our community. But for the most part I would rather get rid of our couch (I am actually not joking, much to the chagrin of *h) than of my food stores.
I don’t think this would bother me so much if I felt like I was being more systematic about it. If I had a goal for preparedness and then I could meet that goal and say, “enough”, then I would have peace of mind. But as things are now the more unglued I feel the more I have an urge to stock up. The more I have queasiness in the pit of my stomach, the more I am checking into solar-powered lanterns or do-it-yourself medical supplies that I can stuff into secret locations around my house where they don’t clutter my line-of-sight but they will hopefully calm my pounding heart. Yet there is always something around the corner that makes me re-quease or re-pound and then it’s back to the think-tank of my mind about what supplies to lay in for the disaster that will hopefully never come.
And so. I am a bit stuck. I am 100% convinced that it is smarter than smart to be prepared. Food is useful because as long as we rotate it we can eat what’s there and put the newest things to store. So it’s not like I am throwing away money. The blankets are ones we have owned for ages and the things like toiletries are items that don’t spoil (i.e. toilet paper). What I am more troubled by right now is that, as someone who tries to be self-aware, I am aware that I am not being wholly rational and I hate that. I hate feeling like a slave to my anxiety, but I would hate having my family caught short because in my fervor to purge belongings I got rid of some crucial supplies. In summary, I don’t know what to do.
As per usual at times like these, I turn to all of you. I have been as honest as I can in putting forth a full and complete picture for you. What do you think about all of this? What, if anything, do you think I should change?
Is there a better way to be prepared but not stressed out?