Confessions Tuesday #2: My OCD

One of the steps in any 12-Step Recovery Program is admitting that one has a problem. Well, I am a packrat. I have a hard time throwing things away.

It’s not to the extreme that the house is bursting at the seams with junk and overrun with vermin (like in those reality shows), but I have pockets throughout the house where I hoard my shtuff, which I know HB would be thrilled to see disappear. And maybe since Father’s Day and his birthday is around the corner, I’ll present him the gift of a less-cluttered home. Maybe.

Scrap paper. I like to hold onto scrap paper if there is significant amount of white area to work with. It’s my way of doing penance for being a print designer. I use the scrap paper until everything is covered with ink or pencil. I do some math problems longhand to keep my mind nimble. I doodle. But most of the time I write out my schedule—the most pressing activities/events of the day and lists of items I’d like to get at some point this week or lifetime. I love when I can cross things out. Resolution: Get rid of all scrap paper that cannot be use a second time by the printer. Consider using April’s method and stick with notebooks and computer.

Use to the last drop/sliver. I have this incorrigible need to use a product to its end—sliver of soap, final drops of detergent/soap. Before I put any of the plastic items into the recycling bin, I rinse the bottle well and use any residual detergent/soap to clean the sink or perhaps as part of the presoak before a wash. But really, is this necessary? Resolution: It’s OK not to be so extreme.

Collecting hotel soaps, shampoos, and conditioners. I should date stamp these things. I hate to admit it, but I even have some goodies from our honeymoon (c. March 2002). Really, I should toss that out. Resolution: Toss out old stuff in bathrooms—things that have separated and/or expired. Donate usable hotel goodies to homeless shelter.

Makeup. As for makeup samples I’m notorious for keeping those, too, even though I know I’m not supposed to keep eye makeup for more than 6 months, mascara for 1 month, lipstick for no more than a year at most. The thing is, I wear makeup maybe once a month depending on the number of “special events” that happen. I figure if I haven’t gotten any infections/breakouts, I should be OK, right? But then I remember watching a few minutes of a Tyra Bank’s talk show when they featured makeup—how long one should keep it and why. They had a microscopic close-up of what’s on the lipstick as well as the makeup bag, and let me tell you it wasn’t pretty—Flotilla City. Ewwwww! Resolution: Time to go through makeup drawers/bags and ruthlessly/routinely toss.

Objects that can one day by used for an art project. One of the projects that I did really well in my sculpture class was to create something with found objects. But it’s time to remind myself that I’m not in school anymore and that it’s very unlikely I will be having a gallery showing of my found objects projects anytime soon. Yeah, reality bites.

To HB’s chagrin, we have big bags full of empty cardboard rolls left behind from paper towels and toilet paper, egg cartons, and the plastic fishnet that holds citrus fruits/onions. Fortunately I have the Princess to use as an excuse as her classroom/art teachers have requested these items. Resolution: I will just bring them over to the school once the bag is full.

Wrapping paper and pretty pages from magazines/ads. I recycle wrapping paper and pretty pages from magazines/ads. I use them to wrap other gifts, make them into envelopes or envelope liners, or even cash gift holders. Unfortunately, supply is overrunning demand. Resolution: Start writing more letters or giving cash gifts (ha! as if…), and be more selective of what I keep.

Information (useful and useless). I confess that I like to hold onto the Sunday paper until I finish going through it. I start off by pulling and tossing out the sections that I’m not interested in—Sports, Rides (Auto), Classifieds. I actually like looking at ads in case I see something I might want to buy. Then I read/skim from my favorite to my least favorite sections. Sometimes I’m not able to get through to the end because I get interrupted or have a lot going on that day/week. Unfortunately, this leads to stockpiling. But not anymore. I’m giving myself a 3-day window for the Sunday paper—if it’s not read by Wednesday, it’s going into the recycling bin. No backward glances or regrets.

Knowing that I have such a difficult time throwing out “information,” I’ve been trying to limit my magazine subscriptions and have decided that I might discontinue them altogether. The problem for me right now is that most of the magazines that I do have aren’t “time-sensitive”—i.e., they contain information that I can use anytime—like exercises, recipes, helpful tips. I know, I know—time to be ruthless. Resolution: Take a tough love approach—read quickly and toss.

Sentimental Shtuff. The Princess is a prolific artist. I want to be supportive of what she creates, but her stuff is taking over the house. Resolution: gather everything in a huge box and bring them to the basement, and have a family pow-wow where each of us are allowed to pick 10 of our favorite things of hers and let go the rest.

Another suggestion I read in a Sunday paper—take a photograph of sentimental item before tossing/giving away/selling. I’ll just have to remember to categorize and/or print and put away those photos away immediately. Otherwise they’ll be yet another burden to worry about.

Bad gifts. I don’t know if I should be offended or concerned, but what is it with people who buy me perfumes and gift packs with perfumes plus lotion/soap/talc powder? (Do I smell bad or something?) Let’s face it—I know they only bought the Estee Lauder stink pack so they can get the free cosmetic bag or whatever. I almost want to tell them to just keep whatever they bought me for themselves and spare me the guilt of when I have to throw it out. Note to gift-shoppers: Don’t buy scented gifts unless you’re absolutely sure the person loves it and will wear it.

The worst part of it is that they should know better than to give someone with allergies and a child with severe allergies something scented and possibly containing a nut-based compound. Anyway, I have a cabinet full of these perfumes/gift packs that I’ve received and never used. Although I know Nordstrom has a generous return policy—even taking in merchandise that they clearly haven’t sold—I do have some sort of conscience to not want to abuse the policy. Plus, I don’t want to be blacklisted.

What to do? Try to dump them on eBay or CraigsList, or simply toss? I’m leaning toward the latter. A clean break is the best way to go.

OK, self. Repeat after me: “A clean break is the best way to go.”

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3 thoughts on “Confessions Tuesday #2: My OCD

  1. hey sophia – i scan all the artwork that the girls do at school so i can keep it electronically rather than in a growing number of boxes – and then i just keep a few that i really love.

  2. I am the opposite of a pack rat, but I figure I will comment on only one thing–the hotel soaps, etc. Just use them! A friend of mine once told me it took a heart attack for her to realize that special stuff (like lotions and soaps that sit around a bathroom, waiting for special occasions) should be used every day. And now I totally agree. Maybe instead of throwing them away outright (although I like the idea of donating them to a shelter), you can also consider “treating” yourself by using them up… every Monday, open one up and try it. If it sucks, you don’t have to feel bad about tossing it; if it’s great, you’ll have something that’ll last for a couple of days and keep things interesting.

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