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, July 26, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chapt 3
Not So Perfect Relationships
Cutting the Clutter

This post continues with Rising Above Perfectionism: CUTTING THE 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.

Rising Above Perfectionism

Streamline your life, from your verbal style to your physical surroundings.  <snip>  The irrational worries mentioned earlier will keep trying to assert themselves.  They are habits.  Don't let them in.  Imagine them pulling you away from the current and, just as in completing a task, slap your hand on the desk, and say "Move!" take a deep breath, relax and refocus, then get going. 
If it is excess belongings that are cluttering your life, make the effort to pare them down.  <snip>  Another hidden rationalization for hoarding items goes like this: you want to do certain things with the items someday (sew that torn dress, read that magazine, repair that car), so you're saving them until you have more time.  To get rid of them would be to admit defeat - that you'll never do those things you feel you ought to do.

Once again, look at your personal history and ask yourself how likely you are to have a lot more spare time in the foreseeable future.  If the answer is"not very likely," then why are you saving these items?  Is it to avoid facing the fact that you can't do everything that "should" be done - that you're not perfect?  Wouldn't it be better to face that fact than to continue living with a useless pile of clutter?

It would be better... but hoarders can't do it.  Most non-hoarders will look at a scrap of paper with a mystery phone number written on it, shrug, and toss it, with perhaps a momentary twinge of loss/annoyance.

From Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost & Gail Stekete
Even losses that were not emotional were troubling, particularly the loss of a potential opportunity. I got a sense of this one day as we excavated in Irene's TV room. She came across a piece of paper with a telephone number written on it. Judging from its depth in the pile and the fact that it was yellowing, it had been there for quite some time, possibly years. Clearly, she had written it in haste on whatever she could find. As was the case for most of the information in the pile from which it came, she had not taken the time to identify it or put it in a phone or address book — it was just a number on a piece of paper. When she picked it up, she exclaimed, "Oh, a phone number! I'll put it here on the pile where I can see it and deal with it later."

"Why do you think it is worth keeping that number?" I asked. She said, "Well, I made an effort to write it down, so clearly it was important to me. And it will just take a minute to call and find out what it is. I don't want to do it now, though, because it will interrupt us." She hadn't made the call in all the years the paper had sat in the pile. Whether making the call would have helped her make a decision about keeping the number is uncertain. Perhaps the idea of a potential opportunity that the number provided was better than the reality provided by making the call.
Irene would churn - sort through the same stacks of paper, newspaper clipping, etc., over and over again.  To a lesser extent, I know I do this myself.  For whatever stupid reason, it bugs the hell out of me to "do" file folder labels, so I'll wait until I have at least a dozen or so to do, then prepare them, slap them on the file folders, and only then do I put everything neatly away.

I can relate to the "getting stuck," not wanting to admit I will never finish that cross-stitch project or read that magazine which contains some really good articles.  But I can - and do - get over it.  I may have a cluttered desk, but most of my home is not cluttered.  I keep things I need & use (food, clothes, shampoo, etc.), things that make me money (computer, software, reference material), and work on keeping the things I love (books!) to a reasonable level.

People who share moderate amounts of "stuckness" have recommended FlyLady as a helpful resource.

My ex still has jeans he wore in high school, with busted zippers, in a size he'll never wear again.  A large collection of scarves, gloves, and hats (we live in SoCal, and never went skiing.  Surely one, or even two sets, would have been plenty.)  The videotape collection, previously mentioned.  A non-working street motorcycle last registered in 1978.  So much stuff that did not make his or our life any richer, that he spent twenty times as much time churning over as it would have taken him to put them up on Craigslist, and goodbye!

I would be very interested to hear of anyone who has had long-term success in treating a hoarder.  It seems like all the success stories I have heard relate to those whose tendency to hoard is nipped by a partner in the beginning stages, not reversed in someone who already had piled up too much "I could find a use for that!" stuff.

If you have any links, please share, below.
Or, if you have stories of how YOU have battled hoarding tendencies. 

P.S. check out MIL Still Between Us, Tetanus Burger (both with wonderful pictures.)