After lurking for a while I feel like a freak.

Kelly_68November 30, 2005

I think I have the opposite problem that most of you seem to have, I am a compulsive neat freak. I literally get anxious if things are not just right in our home. I will not allow piles of anything (paper, laundry, books and magazines, etc) to accumulate because it causes me huge anxiety. I am working with my doctor about this, she wants me to lower my standards, but I can't see how this is going to happen. Any suggestions?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Welcome to the group, Kelly. We'll take you anyway. Since any type of disorganization causes you so much anxiety, it sounds like the help of a physician could be useful. If your current one only suggests lowering your standards (which doesn't sound like it's helping) give some thought to trying a different doc.

Has your physician suggested any type of medication or anything? Not trying to be nosey, but it really sounds like OCD. Is it only in your own home or does the anxiety happen at friend's houses or work?

Just thinking out loud here, but wondering if you could just leave one item (like a magazine) on the coffee table. Go ahead and pick up everything else like usual, but just leave one item out.

Using the term, lowering your standards, almost sounds like she is just looking at this like "house cleaning" rather than something which is causing you real stress. This must be tough, not just on you, but your family, too.


    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 12:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think that you should get another doctor. Even mild OCD can be at least partially relieved by medications, and it does sound as if you have this tendency if you are so distressed by even minimal disorder in your home. Although I don't have OCD specifically, I get rather anxious if something is out of place after I have just cleaned and tidied the house. I can be a bear to live with until I begin 'letting things go' again. During my neat phases I have to forcefully control my desire to yell at my DH if he tosses a magazine on the coffee table instead of carefully lining it up with everything else.

Obsessive neatness is the opposite side of the coin of hoarding, and from I've read and learned, a person cannot be 'talked out' of either. Some help is usually required. Have you tried tracking down support sites online? I belong to a support group for owners of cats with a particularly nasty fatal disease, and between us all, we know more about this illness than most vets!

Good luck - I understand your problem!

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 4:47AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm bummed for you that you're anxious so much. (You must be anxious a lot, bcs I bet nobody else is careful to keep stuff in order!)

One practical thing us folks here can suggest is: try hard to own less stuff.

The less you have, the less stuff there is to GET out of order. Straightening up (and thereby relieving that anxiety) will be faster, so you'll be anxious for less time.

Also, look into your tidied-up storage spaces, and try to eliminate two things from every compartment--one thing that makes it hard to keep the place ordered is that the daily-use stuff often floats on the surface, and the "seldom used and could be tossed" stuff is hogging all the storage space.

So for practical purposes, focus a bit on streamlining your home. Then that might at least help w/ the symptoms of your anxiety, if not eliminating the cause.

I wonder also if you ought to get some coaching from someone besides a physician--a therapist, perhaps, who can help you find coping techniques, like visualizing yourself putting the magazine away after supper, or something.

And, how minor does this get? Bcs getting anxious about a pile of laundry isn't SO horrible (as long as it's not debilitatingly anxious); It's not like there's some virtue in living w/ unfolded laundry (believe me, my laundry goes unfolded a lot, so I know--that's not "relaxed," that's "lazy").

and where else in your life do you NOT have control? Bcs I wonder if you fear the loss of control that piles of laundry & books signify. And if you can find that area and GET control--or RECOGNZE that you already have control--maybe your anxiety would ease.

Again, enlisting the services of a therapist of some sort might give you an effective time and place (plus some assistance) to focus on this.

I hope you can find ways to keep your home as tidy as you need it without destroying your inner calm!

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 11:16AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have mild OCD, mainly obsessiveness, that causes a lot of anxiety from the other end: I find it hard to even get started organizing because I know I can't do it perfectly, or get it all done fast enough for me to see a difference. I am working both with a wonderful therapist on acceptance, and I am currently taking meds for the anxiety disorder. When I go on a new med, I often have a kind of placebo effect - for a couple weeks, it seems to work wonderfully, then reality settles in. The first effect is because something is being done to address the problem, which with me carries its own powerful effect.

However, the anxiety med (I'm now in my 7th week) has done wonders - helping get my head clear of the distracting thoughts, which allowed me to get lots done without so much pressure. So medication has worked well for me, and seeing the therapist every 2 or 3 weeks is a great complement.

I don't really want to go into more detail on a public forum, but please feel free to email me if you like.

And welcome! - Elisabeth

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 12:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you all very much for the advice, it is beyond anything I expected to have perfect strangers writing with kind words and help for me and my situation. I am being treated for anxiety (and depression) with medications, so the next step for me I think is cognitive therapy. I'll keep you all in touch on what that is like.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2005 at 12:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I have no experience with excessive neatness, so I can't offer any advice.

One question, if you'll answer:
If you came to MY house, which at the moment is a jumble of clutter because I've been gone all week, would that make you uncomfortable? I only wonder about it because I have some EXTREMELY tidy friends and always wonder if our oft-times jumbled house would make someone else antsy.

The good news: As I go through rooms, I've got half a hefty bag full of junk to toss already! LOL


    Bookmark   December 3, 2005 at 2:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Just checking back in with you and wondering how things are going.


    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 2:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Julie, my relatives are extremely tidy and clean ALL the time. Nothing like cleaning clean things. My BIL asked if my DS was nuts to have him move around all their living room furniture every week when he helps her with the vacuuming so he could get those areas.

It's a good thing that they don't live anywhere near me because I think they would cringe at the way I live. Having said that, though, my sister has said to me she wishes she could be more like me and not so compulsive with cleaning and cleaning and cleaning... Also, when her 4 children were young, she wouldn't let them have any toys like LEGO because of all the pieces. I think I'm more normal.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 11:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I know what you mean. My house has the "lived in" look, that's for sure. In fact, it looks like we live life to the fullest, including Legos!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 11:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Gloria it was nice of you to see how things are. I think that I will always be this way, and that an untidy home will always cause me anxiety (although I have be letting the laundry slide a little, which means I was clothes almost every day, but I only iron Saturday/Sunday - yes once again freakish behavior where all of the ironing for the week is done at one time). I don't even think that any type of behavior mod. program could change this.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 7:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Don't give up, girl. It doesn't matter about the house, that's only symptomatic for you. We just want you comfortable in your own skin and home.

What's so freakish about ironing for the entire week on one day? It use to be my Sunday evening job when I had to wear dress clothing.


    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 8:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I used to iron during my favorite ten-o'clock TV show. Now I never buy clothes that require either dry-cleaning or ironing.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2005 at 8:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Kelly -

I'm a lurker here, too. Although I have posted a time or 2. I feel your pain as I get ansy when things are out of order. I don't think I have OCD because I don't freak out when things are not SPOTLESS, I only freak when things are not in their appropriate place. (I do clean twice a week, however - and it's only DH and myself)

In answer to someone's question above, yes, I do get terribly nervous when I go to someone's house and the place is not "picked up". I usually do not stay long. And the holidays seem to be the worst for me - my MIL is not what you would call a housekeeper - she thrives on clutter, but when the entire family gets together for the holidays, it's sheer torture for me! With everyone leaving glasses out and dirty plates on the table, I almost go into convulsions! And don't get me started on the wrapping paper left on the floor from gifts - Good Lord!

I really liked Talley Sue's advise for you - don't bring unneccessary things into the house. That way, maybe the things you do have will stay in their place better.

My DH was a complete clutter pig (came honest from MIL) and after 12 years of marriage, he thanks me all the time for getting him organized and neat. He has his own office, shop, nightstand drawer, closet and a basket by his chair that he can do whatever in. If his stuff lands outside of these areas, they become free reign to throw out. I try to put his things in one of the designated areas, but he understands that I am allowed to throw them in the garbage if I want and he cannot say a thing! Would it be possible to train you DH this way?

    Bookmark   December 27, 2005 at 4:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

LOL... my husband cannot be trained, I've been trying for 21 years. He thinks "organized and neat" are symptoms of disease or something.

It's interesting that I tolerate other people's cluttered houses OK (probably because it makes me feel better about my own clutter and the progress I've made). What really gives me trouble is weeds in their garden. I have to put my hands in my pocket and remind myself not to pull them. I have one friend who takes me on a tour of her "flowers" every spring... and it makes me crazy to have to look for them in the weeds!

On the other hand.... I have been known to straighten store shelves while shopping, which really embarrasses my oldest son.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2005 at 4:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I also have "straightened" shelves and areas in stores ... so at least you know you're not the only person in the world who does that!

    Bookmark   December 27, 2005 at 6:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Julie, I fight the same urge to weed other people's gardens. Our wonderful next-door neighbors had a small secondary parking area that was made up of loose stones, and over the summer it sprouted a tremendous amount of weeds. When I was out in my yard it was all I could do to stop myself from weeding it! It's now paved, which is a relief (OK, how nuts does that sound?).

I've also been known to straighten store shelves, though not too often.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2005 at 8:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Don't tell, but my next door neighbor doesn't take care of the weeds between our chain link fence and his garage. Same story--the weeds are growing through the gravel. Nobody noticed when I sent our son over the fence to pull the big ones before they went to seed, then later on I "accidentally" sprayed vegetation killer over there a couple times this summer. :)

    Bookmark   December 28, 2005 at 9:00AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm sitting here LOL because I do the same thing with weeding! Luckily, all of my neighbors keep their yards looking great, but when I go to some of my friend's houses - YEESH! I use the excuse that I'm going outside to smoke, then pull some of the weeds in their beds!

I do the straightening store shelves thing, too - my husband just walks off shaking his head. HMMMM, maybe that's why he won't go marketing with me anymore.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2005 at 9:25AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Now that we're totally off-topic, I should point out that straightening store shelves is a wonderful lesson for children who are some day going to work retail as teenagers. Lots of opportunity to point out how tidy merchandise increases sales, etc.

On the other hand, one of my sons worked a summer unloading trucks at a discount store. I made a comment about how messy the store was all the time, and according to him (take it with a grain of salt) he said that the messy look was somewhat intentional--that the discount shoppers felt they were getting a better deal if shopping in chaos with messy shelves, product not lined up neatly, etc.

Personally, I couldn't stand walking in the store, much less shopping there (and I don't think the prices were that great either).

    Bookmark   December 28, 2005 at 2:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't know about straightening shelves in stores. If someone has obviously just looked at an item and just thrown it back, I'll move it to the correct spot, but otherwise I leave things alone.

I have a friend who has a ceramics painting studio. By the end of the day, the bottles can be a bit chaotic, but she views it as a sign of a good $$ day and she pays someone to put it to rights.

Mandy, I had to think on this for a couple of day and please take it in the spirit I've trying to convey. I think you should consider getting checked for OCD. I just don't view it as normal that your anxiety would be so high in someone else's messy home that you would feel like you needed to leave.

I grew up in a terribly messy home and my mom had tons of friends. They just moved stuff over and sat down. I can understand getting anxious if a pit bull was staring me down, but not over something like a cluttered house I'm visiting.

Let's not forget to respect other peoples spaces when visiting. Sometimes my weeds might get ahead of me, or maybe I just don't care, but it's still someone's personal space.


    Bookmark   December 28, 2005 at 7:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Mandy and I must have the same inlaws; I'm willing to bet mine still have dinner dishes from Christmas Eve sitting out unwashed 4 days later. Makes me crazy, too, since cleaning up is such a simple, unobtrusive task even in a group setting (which, this year, I refused to do for them).

My other SIL leans more towards squalor than messy; even my husband (a perfect slob) was uncomfortable in her house the last time we were there. She didn't even have walking paths and we walked across who-knows-what to sit down. We considered outselves lucky (in spite of doggy doo-doo on our shoes) to escape uninjured.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 5:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I completely understand the message you were sending, no offense taken. You may well be right, but I tend to agree with Julie in that taking your dishes to the kitchen is such a simple task, why would you let them sit on the table for HOURS? Ok, so maybe they are not washed, but at least they are out of everyone's sight and out of everyone's way. I usually take everything to the kitchen and then clean the kitchen for MIL or her dishes would still be dirty and on the table come next holiday.


I think we do have the same family. My SIL's house has gotten to the point that I don't go over there anymore. Not only is there no "walking paths", there is no place to sit or even push anything out of the way to be able to sit. And, yes, with 4 dogs and 3 cats living in their house, there is dog and cat poo everywhere as well - even in their unmade bed. AND she is a stay at home Mom with a daughter in school. What does she do all day?

    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 6:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Mandy, we must have the same motto: "Right away is the easy way."

My worst-kept-house SIL had 5 kids and did nothing all day long... which is one reason Social Services went out there several times. At one point we checked on how to become emergency foster parents in case the kids were taken. Bad situation for sure, and nothing we could do about it.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 6:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

DH (who never picks up after himself without being nagged) gets upset with me when I clean up right after supper. He thinks it can wait and I should just sit down and watch a DVD. Of course, a DVD can be put in 15 minutes later but he's argued about this quite a few times. If I don't clean up immediately, I know I'll not want to do it after relaxing. Of course, he would never think to offer to help so I'd be finished quicker.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 8:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes -- I tidy -- in stores, in hotels, in restaurants -- and peoples' homes.

Friends make fun of me all the time -- and tell me not to TOUCH anything after dinner. I just like to tidy up after a dinner -- as a kindness to the host/hostess. Mum always told us to "ask if you can help!!!" and "leave things tidy -- it is a kind thought for your friends."

    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 10:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

In my pre-Flylady days, my "neat" friends would always tidy up and I can't begin to tell eveyone how offensive that was to me. It was like someone coming into my space and blatently telling me it wasn't clean enough for them.

If the hostess says not to touch anything, then please don't. I wouldn't have dreamed of going into clean homes and making a mess because that's what I prefer.


    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 10:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Marie26 said:
"Of course, he would never think to offer to help so I'd be finished quicker."


    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 8:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Interesting twist...tidying other folks' houses. RE. the kitchen clean-up-both my husband and I are unable to leave dirty dishes sitting, even stacked/rinsed. It doesn't help that we have no dishwasher!

Frankly, I *dread* the inevitable moment after one of our family parties when the meal is done and several people jump up to 'help' us. Hate it, hate it, hate it. To start with we have a relatively large extended family so generally we're talking 12-20 people's worth of dirty plates, silver, glasses etc. We have a galley kitchen with not a lot of counter space either. And we have a lady of the house who not only has my little system down for kitchen storage but hates having things put away in the wrong places.

So the scene is, 3 or 4 well intentioned people are jamming into this small space, piling and piling and piling dirty items onto one small area of counterop until it is physically impossible to even move anything, let alone clean, and then busily putting stuff away in the most random places so I spend days trying to arrange my kitchen again. I know it sounds terribly ungrateful but I really insist that people don't help. I sometimes have to get pretty firm about it. My husband is a jewel about this; our general balance is I cook/he cleans up so he will cheerfully go in and just start washing up till things are done.

And we are also people who don't go to bed till the house has been cleared to the point you can't tell there was a party. This is usually my area since he does all the dishes. I put away tablecloths and decorations, rearrange chairs or remove table leaves if need be, sweep up and wipe down etc. I guess we're fortunate to share the same outlook on this kind of household chore!

As for other peoples' lifestyles, I agree that some people really and truly just don't perceive mess or disorder the same way as others do. The best example I have of folks who are oblivious is probably one of my sisters and her husband. I visited them a few years ago and when I got there the kitchen garbage can was full to overflowing. The rest of the house was not too clean or tidy either but the full trash can was really noticeable. I assumed it would be emptied that evening-silly me. We stayed 3 days and it NEVER was. The trash was first sort of smooshed down, then eventually things were thrown at the bin where they collected on the floor around it. I didn't have the nerve to empty it myself, but at some point I told my 2 kids to please find an empty wastebasket if they had anything to discard and not throw trash on the floor (they were vastly amused of course since they sure can't do that at home). When I left the trash was still there-heck it may be there today :).

But the kicker is, my sister really truly did not seem to see it. The day I left I finally broke down and said, looks like your trash can is full. She looked mildly surprised and laughed "Oh, [Husband] really needs to take that out huh?!" ...

    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 9:06AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sorry about my posting -- of course I don't do things if the host/hostess simply says "no thanks." I simply offer help as a kindness and as a grateful guest.

I would never upset someone else's routine -- we do the same -- we tidy up after parties -- even late at night!

I remember listening to my mum and dad doing this -- after their parties.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 12:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"Sorry about my posting -- of course I don't do things if the host/hostess simply says "no thanks." I simply offer help as a kindness and as a grateful guest."

Oh no Teacats, *I'm* sorry!!! I didn't at all mean to imply that people who are generous enough to help are in any way's our own peculiarity, in large part also due to the logistics we have now. Believe me in a few years when I remodel my half-century old kitchen there will be major changes. Once I have more countertops, a dishwasher and efficient cabinetry (none of which is in place now) I will be happy to accept help when offered.

I noticed a couple of years ago my stepmother's daughters had obviously been trained to help with this kind of thing and it really impressed me. It also pointed to a glaring lack in our own upbringing; my mother died when all her daughters were very young and sadly, we really never were shown how to help out as a guest. Teacats, don't you dare NOT do the right thing because I griped. I'm the one who should apologize!

    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 5:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If I had to choose, I would wish to be more OCD, or maybe I am but I don't know it! When my children were younger, unpacking from a trip and putting everything away-clean and neat-took literally, a week at least, and by then new messes were made that I had to deal with. I didn't have the emotional energy to be demanding, I guess. That's why my van looked and probably smelled really bad for most of those early years.

Now I insist on unpacking the minivan immediately, unless we roll in after midnight, and laundry starts right away. Food is put away and the coolers are washed and dried and stored for the next outing. The day after we return from a road trip, I have the car vacuumed and washed-well worth the $10. And in less than a day, everything is as it should be. No hidden hot spots in luggage, or coolers, or compartments in my car.

I really wish that I had this sort of drive all along. It seems more natural for people to be a bit OCD about their living spaces. Trying to manage too much stuff wears down that instinct. I have also noticed that the more I organize about my home, the more I take care of myself, and am not afraid to demand cleanliness and order from the people I live with. I regret not setting a better example in the earliest years of my children's lives....

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 3:43PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Loved This Book!
I just (quickly!) read "The Life-Changing Magic...
Getting rid of part of an item- WWYD
Okay, here's the question: I have a larger, aluminum...
Designing a home office! What would you include?
We are gutting our home office .... creating a his...
Becky Berend
Meet and Greet - Please Introduce yourself!
I don't think I've ever seen that happen on this particular...
Best life lesson I ever learned
Best life lesson I ever learned was at 25 years old...
Sponsored Products
Olde Bronze Pendant/Semi Flush 3-Light
$221.00 | Horchow
Safavieh Runner: Wyndham Royal Blue/Ivory 2.25' x 9'
Home Depot
Jacques Double Nine Dominoes in Walnut and Leather Case - 56172
$137.00 | Hayneedle
Monopod Chair by Vitra
$3,110.00 | Lumens
Sherry Kline Sago Palm 20 x 30 Bath Rug
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™