Sunday, September 20, 2015

Part-Time OCD

For those of you who don't have kids of your own, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Kids are messy. You may think that your roommate, co-worker or spouse is a slob, but until you have kids, you won't truly know the potential that exists for making a mess. I will admit that I am a little more impressed by the short amount of time it takes them to make a mess than their overall ability to do so. I may have gotten used to it after 6+ years of parenthood, but something my four year old said to me the other day threw me for a loop.

We recently acquired a five-person cubby and set it out on our porch to try and encourage our girls to organize their things as they come into the house. Prior to this cubby, you would find shoes, jackets and backpacks all over our porch. I am actually impressed with how well they have been doing now that they have a specific place to put their stuff. I didn't realize just how much it was affecting their organizational skills until my four year old threw me for that loop I spoke of.

I found one of her shoes on the floor in the living room, rather than in her cubby, and told her I would put it away where it belongs for her. I thought I was doing her a favor, but apparently I needed some supervision and instruction. She followed me out to the porch and proceeded to show me EXACTLY how that shoe had to be placed in her cubby. As you can see on the left side of the photo above, her shoes are lines up neatly with the toes to the front edge. I have to say I was impressed. She put a lot of work into organizing her cubby and she didn't want good ol' dad messing things up.

The part that threw me for a loop is that the living room and her bedroom both looked like the right side of the photo above. How can she show OCD tendencies with her cubby when everything else she touches looks like a tornado went through? After a minute, I realized that maybe it's not really all that strange. It got me thinking there might be a little part-time OCD in all of us. (For the record, my wife completely agreed when I gave her the 30 second overview of this blog post - so it must be true.)

Using myself as an example (so I don't throw anyone else under the bus), I realized I had some glaringly obvious part-time OCD in my life. If you were to look at my closet, you would see all my clothes are hanging neatly with like items and the clothes on the shelves are stacked neatly. On the other hand, if you were to look at the floor, your would see my shoes in one massive pile (yes - for a guy, I have a lot of shoes). You would see the same thing at the dresser. In the drawers, everything is folded and organized nice and neat. However, on top of the dresser is a pile of paperwork and bills that would spill off the dresser if I were to turn the ceiling fan up one notch.

I think my organizational skills in the garage are more seasonal OCD than part-time OCD. Taking a peek at my workbench from mid-Spring to early Fall would show you a work space that is neat and tidy with everything in its place. Having never been in my garage, I could safely say you would have no problem walking in and grabbing what you needed with minimal effort searching for it. Once the colder months of winter set in, you will find the polar opposite. Anyone who has had the pleasure of running out to the garage to grab something when it's 20 below zero outside knows that you don't like to spend a lot of time out there. That's a great reason to have a tidy work space that saves you time searching. The problem is with the "return the item to the garage" stage. In sub-zero temps, it's really easy to pop into the garage and just toss the tool somewhere near the workbench and "deal with it later." (Later means mid-Spring.)

I could go on and on with examples in my own personal life, but I will spare you tonight. I think it really comes down to the inner feeling of wanting to keep our lives organized and in order, but not having the time, or desire to spend the time to keep it that way. We pick our battles. We maintain order where we feel it is most important and let the others slide until Spring cleaning rolls around. (Not true of those who are actually diagnosed as OCD, but my point wasn't to compare typical everyday organizational habits with an anxiety disorder.)

I'm just going to sit back and be happy that my four year old has found at least one area where she chooses to make an effort to be neat. My great hope is that she will realize how easy it is to find stuff that is put "in its proper place" and will begin using that technique elsewhere. Having been a parent for a few years now tells me that the reality is probably not going to play out like that. You would think that not being able to find your toys would be reason enough to organize them, but that's apparently not the case. I'm sure the short attention span and the ability to just choose to play with a different toy that you can find has something to do with it too. Who knows? Maybe it's just something they don't comprehend until they reach the 7-8 year old age range??

I'm going to leave you with that. I just realized I have a bunch of things I have been meaning to organize for a while now and I should do it while I'm thinking about it. Then again, it's almost 9 pm on a Sunday night and winter is just around the corner. Maybe I could just let it slide until Spring cleaning rolls around. Until next time....