If you’re ever unlucky enough to eat a Thanksgiving turkey dinner with me, you’ll understand just how anally obsessive I am with my food. My Thanksgiving plate is very beige and completely segregated. None of the foods touch each other (gravy and other sauces and condiments are completely out of the question) and each group is generally eaten before the next group is touched — no mixing and mingling of foods in my mouth, thankyouverymuch.

The plate on the left is a (mostly) properly segregated plate. The plate on the right is just so horrifying that I can't bear to look at it.

Interestingly enough, I don’t have the same fastidiousness in most other areas of my life. (Can’t really be a hoarder if none of your stuff can touch other stuff, you know?) But I learned today that it does subconsciously carry over to my Facebook account. I recently created a Friend Wheel, which maps your friends’ relationships with one another and creates this lovely little string art like image.

This is what mine looks like:

My Friend Wheel

Looks a lot like my dinner plate. The spokes of the wheel are the names of my friends. For most people, the names on their wheel form a basket-like string art picture, with links crisscrossing the circle. Mine, as you can see, does not do that. My various groups of ‘friends” do not interact with one another and stay nicely and quietly in their own little compartments. (And, yes, I realize that this shows I have under 80 “friends” — I could have hundreds, but I choose to limit my connections in Facebook.)

The OCD Gods would be proud.


Round and round she goes…

…where she’ll stop, no one knows.

Spinning in endless circles, revisiting the same issues over and over and over again. Sidestepping them rather than dealing with them, only to meet them again on the next spin around the dance floor. Good evening, Mr. Clutter. How are you tonight, Mr. Procrastination? So kind of you all to stop by. Well, must dash.

I have a lot of, well, let’s call them “challenges” that I am trying to work through. Or rather, that I’m considering trying to work through. (Mr. Procrastination is a persistent suitor who keeps distracting me from actually doing much of anything, and I let him. Mr. Clutter reaps the benefits.)

The one common root running through almost all of those challenges — financial, health, career, spirit, life — is clutter. Clutter in my environment, clutter in my head, clutter on my computer, clutter in my life in general. Stuff. Loads and loads of unnecessary crap. I’ve let Chaos run rampant through my life, providing me with a ready (though pathetically transparent) excuse: “Oh, I’d could fix <whatever> if only I didn’t have this clutter problem. Oh, well. Too late now.”

I’m calling “Bullshit!” on myself.

It’s been over a year since I completed stage one of dehoarding. You won’t be surprised to learn that not only haven’t I moved on to stage two, but I seem to have gotten worse. (It’s much like dieting — you lose 20 pounds only to gain back 30.) I forget too easily how nice, how much lighter it felt after stage one, how much better I feel without the clutter. (If you’ve never been a hoarder, you can’t understand. It truly is like being a drug addict — you know it is bad for you, you know you’d feel better if you stopped, but you just can’t; the pull of the drug is stronger. And it feeds upon itself. The more clutter, the worse you feel. The worse you feel, the worse the clutter gets. )

I was sitting here today, thinking of all the things I need to do and all of those thoughts led back to this intense need to declutter first. I can’t properly concentrate on anything else while the clutter exists so I’m doing a half-assed job of everything else in my life. That can only lead to heartache, so it’s time I smartened up. (How many times have I said that?) Instead of thinking about all of the other stuff on my mind — job hunting, freelancing, health stuff, my mother — I need to spend the next week (or however long it takes) just concentrating on the one thing with the power over all the rest, the 500 lb gorilla on my back.

Edited to add: Ha, just noticed that my Jonathan Cainer horoscope for today includes the following:

You’re tempted to do whatever’s easiest. But if the path of least resistance leads round in a circle, it may be time to embrace the possibility of change, regardless of how much courage this difficult decision demands of you.

Well, there you go.

Down to the food dregs

Unsurprisingly, I have a food obsession. Some of that comes from being Taurus, Taureans being very fond of food at the best of times. And some of that comes from the OCD peeking through, from the oral fixation, from the food issues, from just being obsessive in general.

I ran out of the Fun Food — and money — on Friday, and won’t have any until Monday afternoon. Had I remembered and actually managed to get my butt up in time to go to the bloggers breakfast yesterday, I would have had to go to the bank first to empty out the couple of dollars sitting in my RRSP to do so. Wish I’d done that, ‘cos then I wouldn’t be sitting here jonesing for something I don’t have.

So I’m down to the least fun of the “real” food: yogurt, juice, canned fruit, frozen fish, KD, cereal, rice, cheese slices, etc. Solid, serviceable food. And, don’t get me wrong, most times I like all of the above. Occasionally, I even crave them. But it’s all about choice and knowing that you have none that makes it difficult to love them when they are all you have.

I’m not starving. Hell, I’m really not even hungry. But for the life of me, I can’t concentrate today at all because I really want something that I don’t have. I don’t know what, I just know it doesn’t exist in my apartment at this very moment. If I had it, I probably wouldn’t even want it. But because I don’t have it and can’t have it, it has become my entire world. You know that feeling you have when you’re waiting for a really important phone call that never seems to come? It’s like that. No matter what you do to try to focus yourself on other things, it’s a niggling distraction that you can’t get rid of.

You don’t grow out of it

I was one of those kids that mothers curse their children with when they get older, a challenging child “just like you”, who will make you apologize to your mother for all the grief you put her through. Full of the curiousity that killed the cat, stubborn, determined, too smart for her own good and eager to make sure everyone knew (correcting teachers was a favourite pastime).

I was — and still am — a very fussy eater. I could happily eat the same things on a regular schedule and never get bored. I don’t want to experiment, I don’t want to change things up. I don’t want to broaden my palate. My taste buds are perfectly happy, thankyouverymuch. My sister is not considered by anyone to be a fussy eater, yet she is more rigid in her eating habits than anyone I know, including me. The main difference between us, and the reason that I’m classified a fussy eater and she isn’t, is that she isn’t open about her dislikes. Unless you eat with her regularly, you’d never know just how particular she is. You’d never know that she  rejects new foods based on look or smell, even if she knows that she likes all of the ingredients that make up that food.

There are varying degrees of aversion that most people — not just fussy eaters — have towards various foods:

There are foods you wouldn’t eat if you were starving and they were all that was standing between you and death — mushrooms, any meat that looks like it actually came from a living creature (that includes insects and grubs, shellfish, anything with bones or recognizable body parts, and meat that is pink or bleeding), and tofu if I can smell it fall into that category for me.

There are foods you don’t like but could force yourself to eat if you had to in order to live (and I mean an immediate threat of starvation, not “eating grossitemA will help prevent diseaseB”) — bleu cheese, asparagus, cauliflower, refried beans, and creamed corn fall into that category for me.

And there are foods you’d prefer not to eat but could eat to be polite or because they are good for you — broccoli, wax beans, whole wheat anything, cashews, walnuts, tomatoes, and peppers fall into that category for me.

Fussy eating is something you don’t always grow out it. And there’s no reason you should have to. People really need to stop trying to make us feel ashamed for knowing what we like and don’t like. As long as your nutritional needs are being met by what you eat, why does it matter to anyone?

Hey, the good news fairy stopped by

on Friday and I found out that I start a new contract (at the place I worked at last year) in three weeks. So, time to finish that Joomla site I’m working on (we’ve set the launch day back a few weeks) and finish decluttering before joining the gainfully employed again, at least for a few months.

One thing this Joomla site is teaching me is that I have a shockingly short attention span, and that I’m really easily bored. *This* is why I can never get my own site redesigns finished (I have one that has been in the works for several years now and I’ve long since gotten sick and tired of the “new” design). You’d think someone with as many OCD issues as I have wouldn’t have that much of a problem with attention sp…oh, look, a shiny thing.

Hoarder rehab continued – stage one complete


So, 48 hours later, my apartment is now clean and ready for the start of decluttering. It’s been a long two days — and a good example of the obsessive part of OCD. I hurt all over. Even my fingers hurt . (One of the many drawbacks to being a nail biter is that the flesh to the sides of the nail tip get very sensitive and scrubbing and the use of cleaners makes them very sore. If there are typos or missing spaces in this post, this is why.) I’m almost dizzy with lack of sleep. I just about asphyxiated myself with over zealous use of bleach. My allergies are in overdrive. My tongue is swollen (enough that I’m lisping slightly and keep biting the sides of my tongue). But it’s done.

Living room, pre-declutter
Living room, post-clean, pre-declutter. The pile on the right is about 5′ high and runs the length of the L-shaped couch to the wall.

I found I started feeling lighter as I cleaned more and more. I need to remember this feeling. I broke the hose on my steam cleaner so no more carpet cleaning until I get that replaced — I have mixed feelings about that. And I got so into cleaning the bathroom that I decided to sacrifice my toothbrush to the cause. Unfortunately, I have barely slept and haven’t eaten much more than a few Pop Tarts so I’m a little loopy.


Managed to get a small nap in, but got woken by someone knocking on my door at 18:30. My leg was asleep so I didn’t get to the door (and almost broke my neck falling) before they moved on to the next one. Now am wide awake again. The tongue swelling is starting to go away, and I’ve eaten. So I’m feeling somewhat better.

Continue reading “Hoarder rehab continued – stage one complete”

Winter cleaning…or rehabilitating the hoarder

Thinking positively about the job interview I had last week (I WILL get one of the jobs, I WILL get one of the jobs), I decided a winter cleaning of my apartment was required. I’ve been cleaning for many hours and it’s all a little overwhelming. (Kids, this is why you should listen to your mothers and clean up regularly.)

You see, I’m a hoarder. (Oh noes! According to Wikipedia, it’s a slippery slope from hoarding stuff to becoming the Crazy Cat Lady.) Hardly surprising given my other OCD issues, I know. I’m not quite at the level of the people who have 20 years of newspapers in their front room, but, in my own not-so-small way, I’m very much like them. Books, papers, receipts, bills, boxes of floppy disks, computers and computer parts (there are currently six computers here, only two of which are actually useful at this very moment), empty cardboard boxes, miscellaneous junk…it only gets thrown out if it is broken or damaged beyond repair, if I really expect to never have a use for it, or if I do a seasonal cleaning like I’m doing now. I don’t do seasonal cleanings nearly as often as I should.

Have you ever watched the TLC show “Clean Sweep” before? If you have, picture the big tarp they use for the initial sorting, when they take all of the stuff out of the room they’re cleaning and dump it in one massive pile. That’s what my place looks like right now. There’s a five-foot stack of boxes and bags of stuff mounded on the L-shaped couch and coffee table in the living room. Haven’t slept in my bed in ages because it is covered with more boxes of stuff I haven’t found a home for yet, left over from the last seasonal cleaning. A friend of mine keeps recommending Peter Walsh‘s “Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?” (my environment and weight issues are siamese twins that reflect the mess that is my head), but do I really need another book I probably won’t read? It’s been in my shopping cart for months, but I haven’t bought it yet. (Aw,crap, my massive “save for later” shopping cart is yet another hoard, isn’t it.)

So far, so good. I’ve cleared the floor (even steam-cleaned it) and have started organizing bookcases and cupboards. (I know, you’re thinking that couldn’t possibly have taken hours and hours and hours, but it really did.) Need to finish cleaning the kitchen and bathroom and doing the mounds of laundry that have piled up (hey, cool, I have a ton of clothes I’d forgotten I had) . Then I can start on the decluttering. 

Happy thought for the day? I found  my missing citrine worry stone and some items that I’d forgotten I even owned. (Even found an eBay purchase that I hadn’t ever opened — sorry, eBay seller, I clearly never left you feedback for that item.) Sad thought for the day? I have so much work — probably several weeks’ worth — left to do. *sigh*

Just a little OCD

My sister and I, while completely different on the surface — different body types, different interests — suffer from very similar psychological issues. Poor body image and food issues are two prime examples, though we’re on opposite sides of those coins.

Nail biting is something else we share.

Years ago, I bought a palmistry book from the bargain bin at the local bookstore. One of the chapters dealt with what you could tell about people by what nails, if any, they bit. It mentioned that it was rare to come across people who bit all of their fingernails (what planet were they living on?) and that it was invariably a sign of severe psychological issues.


My sister was a more thorough biter from an earlier age. Unfortunately, she took a liking to that liquid crap they suggest you put on your nails to make you stop biting them so that backfired. I took awhile to build up to her level. But what I missed in time I made up for in severity. I also developed a compulsion to bite the skin on my fingers. I never told my mother about that until recently — she and the dermatologists she took me to always diagnosed a skin allergy and I let them. (Hey, anything that got me out of washing dishes was a good thing.) It gets worse when I’m stressed. I feel like a cannibal sometimes. It’s a weird compulsion in someone who doesn’t like meat. I was interested to read today that it is sometimes called “wolf-biting”. Neat. My mom likes wolves. Maybe I can convince her it’s natural and OK if she knows the word “wolf” is associated with it. 😉

I didn’t even know skin biting was it’s own illness until I read the Wikipedia nail biting page while linking to it tonight — I thought it was just a natural extension of nail biting. After all, once you run out of nail to bite and peel off, the compulsion is still there so what’s the next logical step? Right. The skin on your fingers. (For those of you who thought “toe nails?”, can I just say “ew!”) I really had to laugh when I read mig3X5’s recent “Hello, I’m a Wolf-Biter” post while I was looking that up — could be talking about me (except for the “wee lad” part, of course). I’d promise to tape your hands down but you’ll just start biting other things, and at least you can hide your hands.

Still, a couple of times a year I “break” the habit and stop biting my nails. It usually lasts for a month or two at the most, until I either get completely frustrated by them (how do people function with nails? they get in the way of everything) or a nail breaks — the sudden reversion to short nail kicks the compulsion into high gear and the remaining nails don’t usually last for very long after. They’ve lasted about 2 weeks so far, but boy it’s a hard slog. The problem with chronic nail biting is that it permanently changes the shape of your nail beds and fingertips. Unless you rip off the nail and start from scratch again.

Don’t look at me like that.

I considered it at one point. I’d shut my pinky finger in a car door , ripping the nail off completely. The ER doctor tacked the nail back on to the nail bed to provide a template for the new nail to grow against. Painful as hell but the nail, when it grew back in, had a normal length nail bed. It’s still longer than the pinky on the other hand but I’ve had years of biting it since to whittle that down from where it was. It’s a tough habit to break, especially if you’re an orally-fixated person.