Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 3 - Physical Clutter

illustration from Wikimedia 
Dragon Hoards are jewels and gold
OCPD hoards are old boxes and spoiled food
This post continues with Physical Clutter, from Chapter Three.

This series will look at a small snippet of The book on the Perfectionist Personality, aka The Obsessive Compulsive disordered Personality, aka OCPD, each week. Please follow along, leave your comments, engage more on the FaceBook website... whatever your heart calls you to do.

Too Perfect, When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeanette DeWyze was published by Random House in 1992.  If you believe you are dealing with OCPD or someone who is "Too Perfect," whether that's you or a loved one, please buy a copy of the book and read it for additional insights that will not all be covered in these excerpts.

Physical Clutter

Just as some perfectionists' speech is cluttered with too much detail, others have trouble discarding things in their lives.  They are crippled by the fear that they may make an irreversible error in throwing something away, and by their inability to prioritize.

<snip> When I met him, Karl had been living in his apartment for almost two years, yet boxes and packing crates were piled four to six feet high, filling most of the living space.  Though Karl had arranged a neat path between them to connect the various rooms, so little space was left that he had almost no furniture.  He even slept on the floor.

He told me that the boxes contained newspapers, magazines, and books he planned to read, "as soon as I get the time."  Nor could he discard old letters, broken tools, or empty containers because "you never know when something will come in handy."  Of course, Karl couldn't invite people to his apartment, where they would see the appalling clutter, so his social life foundered.  Yet each time he decided that he had to discard something, he was overwhelmed by the pressure of prioritizing; somehow everything seemed equally important.  <snip>

As we'll see in chapter 8, some obsessive go to the opposite extreme; they're too orderly.  But milder variations of Karl's disorderliness are common in obsessives.  They might generally be sloppy, or the disorder might be confined to one area of their lives - to their car, say, or to one particular closet.  In many cases the ironic underlying cause of the mess is perfectionism.  Cleaning up would require scrubbing every surface, removing every molecule of dust, finding a place to store every possession, a task so herculean that it would daunt anyone.


We've discussed the hoarding, a few (billion) times.  To those not involved with a hoarder, there's a train-wreck style fascination - how can you possibly let it get that bad?

It gets that bad because people with a hoarding partner either put up with it, hoping/praying they will get better and eventually be prepared to get rid of the clutter. The hoarder promises s/he will, "soon," but "soon" never arrives for them.  You have a better chance of standing in the yard waiting to get struck by lightning, than of a hoarder voluntarily deciding today is the day to start decluttering.

In some cases, the hoarding will break up the relationship.  This is largely why I left my ex, because he was not willing to address  the issue and get help.  (Yes, he had other issues, and became emotionally abusive, but much of the time he would "go off" in defense of the hoard when I would press the issue.)

There is every excuse in the world - I'll get to it later, there's still a use for it, do you know how much I could sell that for?  (Then why don't you, sell it?  Another excuse comes up.)

Many hoarders end up living alone (after all, there's not much room for anybody else.)

Some hoards include heaps of garbage and old clothes, some have neatly stacked boxes and goat paths, but a hoard is no way to live.  For a fascinating graphic & statistics, click here.

Yes, people who are hoarders are truly mentally ill.  But if you love them, if they totally refuse help, and you don't want to live as consort to the King or Queen of Empty Boxcity, what can you do but leave?

Your thoughts?