How 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up' Helped My OCD
“Unlock, lock, unlock, lock,” I muttered as I jiggled the door handle to my apartment again, checking the space between the lock and the wall.
This was a ritual that occurred every morning, and it would always result in a slight flood of panic and a frantic dash off to work.
I haven't formally been diagnosed, but based on what I've read and experienced, I used to display more intense symptoms of OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder.
If I cooked something, I checked the stove constantly to make sure the knobs were off, even hours after I cooked.
I opened my wallet multiple times even after the cashier handed me my debit card to see if I had left it at the counter, although I already knew I had it.
I locked my car over and over again, looking at the flashing lights and hearing the clicking sounds, pressing my finger on the button until it was pressed perfectly on every inch of my thumb.
I checked doors to make sure they were locked, going so far as to unlock them to lock them again if it “didn't feel right” locking them the first few times.
Hands raw and throbbing, it would finally feel right. The doors locked, and I rushed to my car to get to work, aware that yet again, I had succumbed to my disorder.
It's something I struggled with for years.
I feared that the one time I wouldn't check something repeatedly, something bad would happen like a robbery or fire, and I would be to blame.
I couldn't live with that guilt.
These rituals, the constant checking and unchecking, were my way of having control over something. I needed to know I had done everything I could to prevent a possible tragedy.
That was my life until I read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo.
In short, the book tells readers to give away things that don't “spark joy.” The author has readers declutter by categories in this particular order: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous and sentimental items.
In one daunting move, step one of the actual decluttering process includes taking every piece of clothing you own and placing everything in one spot (floor or bed).
Next, pick up each piece and focus on the feel of it.
If it “sparks joy" or makes you feel happy, keep it. If not, donate it, but thank it for its service. Don't keep it out of guilt or because you haven't worn it.
The process follows for the rest of the items. I diligently followed suit after reading the book, obsessively thinking and speaking about it throughout the day and coming up with even more ways to declutter when I was done.
When all five categories weren't enough, I went through emails, Facebook messages, Twitter and Instagram followers, text messages, phone pictures and videos.
You name it, I decluttered it.
This whole process took about two weeks for me. Kondo insinuated that after the decluttering, everything else in your life would "fall into place."
I anxiously awaited these results.
I wanted a relaxed lifestyle with more “me” time. I didn't want to feel exhausted by my rituals and my mind that never seemed to shut off.
Soon, everything did fall into place. After I was done agonizing about constantly deleting digital files, donating things and worrying about what else to organize, my new lifestyle slowly unraveled.
It's hard to describe, but there was almost a calming energy that flooded into my apartment and, most importantly, my room.
I finally felt like my room was a place to sleep, not a place to rush around, get ready and return to at night to do more work.
I no longer have reminders on both my phone or my planner. I use just my planner now, and I remember without worry to check it.
I also don't send unnecessarily reminders for myself, such as “pack gym clothes” or “remove envelope from purse” because I have the confidence that I will get it done.
I don't set clothes out anymore for the morning because I know what I'm going to wear, and I know where each item is.
Although I still check locks and stove knobs, it's at a less frequent pace.
I'm not altogether “cured” from my compulsiveness, but the crazy urges and feelings that I didn't do something right or that I didn't check something enough have subsided to a more manageable extent.
Now, I only jiggle the door handle twice as I walk down the stairs to my car.