30 March 2011

'Tis the Season to Cleanse!

Is it that time already? Is the season of renewal and purification already upon us? Yes, folks, I was reminded by a recent writing assignment on this very subject, that time of year which propels us OCDites into panic - Spring Cleaning is here!

Where does an OCDite begin when presented with about as daunting a task as can be imagined? All of us are particular in the act of tackling the spring transformation, but some of us feel the need to perform each task with a sense of perfection which leads to either: 1) having floors that sparkle every day of the week (that's me!); or, 2) avoiding the task altogether because it's just too exhausting (which are my fellow OCDites who have those closets for which you can't open the door, because wrapping paper, Christmas decorations and Halloween costumes will all come tumbling out!) Whichever version of OCD you are, Spring Cleaning is necessary nourishment for our disorder. We have to wipe away the messes, so we can focus on fresh starts. With this post, I hope to help you through this annual dilemma with my past frustrations and a couple of tips, because I am the Queen of Clean. Have you been to my house lately? Impressive, if I do say so myself.

So, before I begin, there is one thing I have to admit: I hired someone about 6 years ago who cleans my house every 2 weeks. Now, before retracting the admiration you felt from the thought of my daily sparkling floors, I have to make it clear that I do clean . . . everyday - that's what many of us OCDites live to do. For some of us, it can even be relaxing. But, allow me to explain the severity with which I scrub and sterilize every surface in my house, starting with a picture of my weapons for combating chaos.

Figure 1: My dedicated Cleaning Cabinet

The thing is with us OCDites, the job has to be done flawlessly. When we clean a toilet, we do not forget the tiny cracks beneath the toilet seat hinges or the knobs around the base (I have been known to even take the toilet seat off with a screwdriver to clean); we clean that toilet until you could literally have a cocktail party on it. Has anyone ever seen that episode of Cougar Town where Courtney Cox actually hosts cocktail parties in her new sparkling bathroom?! Well, I could certainly relate and watched with wonder.

Upon recognizing my cleaning fixation and after forfeiting too much fun in my 20s (I spent entire weekends disinfecting my house instead of accepting invitations to go shopping, the beach or happy hours),  Flora was sent to me like an angel from . . . wherever you believe your angels to come from . . . and I was finally introduced to the idea of cleansing myself of cleaning!! That's right, I provide you with Tip #1 to Cleanse yourself from Cleaning. Or at least cut down on the time you currently spend cleaning. Handing over the reins of removing dirt and dust from my life was difficult, but it was also a relief. The presence of Flora's magic every other week makes life more manageable. We OCDites live with 5,000 other daily compulsions, so don't be afraid to release some of the responsibility of keeping a fresh space to the "other cleaning professionals."

So, now turning your attention back to Spring Cleaning - organization with its own season! Now that you you've delegated the dirt, you can focus your neurotic needs on coordinating the clutter before summer.

Tip #2: I try to trick myself into making it fun by visualizing the end result with my items displayed in all of the glory they deserve. The best part about organizing is it is one of those acts that anyone can do, and it provides instant gratification. By using containers, bins and other storage items that are also stimulating to the senses, organizing can be enjoyable. The Container Store's Fabric Storage Boxes are amazing!

Figure 2: My Shoe and Handbag Closet ~
It's a vision of beauty.

Tip #3: Lay out a realistic schedule for the entire month of April. As determined as you are to organize the contents of the garage in one day, it's just not going to happen, and you'll be frustrated when it doesn't. So, plan one item to conquer each weekend during the month of April and the thought of Spring Cleaning may not feel so daunting.

Tip #4: Give things away! If you haven't worn, used or played it within the last year (unless it holds significant sentimental value), give it to someone who will!

And finally, I'd like to share a few cleaning product pleasers that I will never live without again.
  • William Sonoma's French Lavender Countertop Spray: with essential oils, this surface cleaner soothes your senses like a spa, but really, you're spraying today's crumbs off the countertops!
  • Fabuloso: What makes my floors sparkle? Fabuloso! A miracle worker introduced to me by Flora, this all-purpose cleaner cleanses everything from floors to windows and also has a light lavender scent!
  • Distilled white vinegar: A product you're sure to already have in your pantry, I mix this item with water and use it to Swiffer my wood floors and disinfect my wool rugs!
Spring has sprung, but don't let it spring you into a cleaning frenzy. Envision the immaculate and tranquil space you will transform for yourself and your loved ones. And please comment with cleaning product suggestions and share your own stories. Let's help each other avoid further fiascos and get through this season together!

Happy Cleansing!

20 March 2011

My Permanent Playlist

An Ode to the 90s ~

I can't remember a time when I didn't think so intensely about the world around me. My Mom reminds me that before I was old enough to recall or old enough to be capable of doing so, I would throw fits of rage if I colored outside the lines that brought Kermit the Frog or Rainbow Brite to life in my coloring books. I remember spending hours combing Rocker and Western Fun Barbies' hair and wondering why my Mom couldn't make my ponytail perfect, too!

When I was 6 or 7, my brother sliced his foot open on a bull horn behind our farm. I attempted to be calm as I left him holding his bleeding foot, but as I pedaled my bike as fast as Strawbery Shortcake would take me to get help from Grandma, I think I had my first experience with the severe anxiety that OCD can harvest. I envisioned conclusions to that incident that were completely unrealistic (thankfully, he didn't even need stitches), but I couldn't get the thoughts to leave my head until I knew he was okay.

As I blossomed into the awkward stage that is junior high, my teachers, family and friends called me a perfectionist, and I proudly accepted the compliment and still do. I had the most systematic Trapper Keeper in school, color-coded by class subject and highlighted by my Nelson Twins folder (remember their song"(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection"-it's okay to admit you're singing it out loud to yourself right now, because it was a great song). Shopping for school supplies, for me, was like winning the lottery. I couldn't wait to fill my backpack with the tools that would organize my education. 

While I reached this floundering age of double digits, I began to become acutely aware that this wasn't how everyone else walked the world. Discovering my disorder upon entering the 90s made it a decade that I will forever and permanently identify as my decade of discovery.

So, as an Ode to the decade of the 90s; an Ode to my favorite 90s show My So-Called Life for which my blog title was inspired (Angela Chase - played by Claire Danes - thank you for making quirky cool!); and an Ode to the music of the 90s, because the power of music was unveiled to me in this decade as a space to recharge and evolve, I am sharing with you 25 songs from my 90s Playlist. I encourage my fellow OCDites to be inspired by this post - ponder the first memories you had of your disorder, and create your own playlists for those times when you need a moment.

Music brings my mind quiet moments. Just looking at this old
pic of a dear friend and me at a music festival produces pure zen.

The songs that brought me solace and serenity then and now (in alphabetical order, of course):

  1. Afghan Whigs "Crazy"
  2. Better Than Ezra "Good"
  3. Big Head Todd and the Monsters "Bittersweet"
  4. Blind Melon "No Rain"
  5. Bush "Glycerine"
  6. Collective Soul "The World I Know"
  7. Concrete Blonde "Joey"
  8. The Cranberries "Linger"
  9. The Crash Test Dummies "God Shuffled His Feet"
  10. Depeche Mode "Enjoy the Silence"
  11. Enigma "Sadeness (Part I)"
  12. Green Day "When I Come Around"
  13. Mazzy Star "Fade Into You"
  14. Morphine "Buena"
  15. Nine Inch Nails "Closer"
  16. The Primitive Radio Gods "Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money in My Hand"
  17. Radiohead "Creep"
  18. The Smashing Pumpkins "Mayonaise"
  19. Spacehog "In the Meantime"
  20. Temple of the Dog "Hunger Strike"
  21. Toad the Wet Sprocket "Crazy Life"
  22. The Toadies "Possum Kingdom"
  23. Tori Amos "Cornflake Girl"
  24. Veruca Salt "Shutterbug"
  25. Weezer "The Good Life"

10 March 2011

A Breakthrough betwixt the Madness

"All life is an Experiment. The more Experiments you make the better." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

My Therapeutic Experiment worked! I have created a portal to my new career path by communicating conundrums to you, my blog readers. (I just spent a month with the most amazing Grandma in the world, so excuse the influence of random colloquialisms in this post.)

Grandma & I entering It's a Small World on our Disney Day.

After releasing my 1st blog post which evoked some amazing feedback from my readers (thank you!), I was selected to write a few articles for a local magazine. Today, I received my assignments, and shortly thereafter, after reading and re-reading the emails sent by the publication, came a whirlwind of unstoppable formulating in my head  . . .

First, I called my Mom and nearly screamed in her ear with the same excitement I may have exuded when I was 5 and told we were going to Disneyland. Wait - for those of you who know me, I still get really excited about going to Disneyland. Who gets 100% accuracy on the Toy Story shooting game ride? Me! I think I'm drawn to shooting games, because my OCD comes in handy, enabling me to obsess about the target until I hit it perfectly every time. Anyway, my Mom congratulated me while stir-frying up a storm in the background and hung up to take the dog out.

Then, although I knew I should have focused on and tried to focus on finishing Alice Walker's The Way Forward is with a Broken Heart for tonight's book club (sorry, Girls - won't happen again), my mind began spinning at the thought of actually and finally being given the opportunity I have been waiting for since I decided to drive my hatch-back Honda 2,200 miles from the Midwest to the West Coast. I did it! But now I have to write the best articles of my life.

So what does an OCDite do when given the career opportunity of a lifetime? She starts tearing through her closet to find Feature Writing for Newspapers and Magazines: The Pursuit of Excellence Fourth Edition as well as Beyond the Inverted Pyramid: Effective Writing for Newspapers, Magazines and Specialized Publications, books that have collected dust over the years but are essential to composing the perfect magazine article . . . which these have to be! Underneath the old photos and cards, my college diploma and Canon in D sheet music for the piano, I found my journalism portfolio and these books from 2001. Was it really that long ago? I desperately wanted to hear my writing voice back when I felt I was on top of the world and surrounded by amazing writers and respected critics. I know it's in me, but how do I find that confidence again?

I'd like to ask you, readers: how do you return to those moments of feeling the best that you can be? Do you call your mother for words of encouragement? Do you reminisce about joyous historical events? Do you construct a list of all the things for which you are thankful? I would love to hear from my fellow OCDites: what process do you undergo to become fearless in the face of a daunting (as everything is with us), yet exhilarating project?

Tip for Controlling your excitement, anxiety and astonishment when given a project which requires creating a new 25-step process (we OCDites need a few more steps than 12): My Grandma would say something like, "Oh for Pete's sake! Pull up your bootstraps and do what you have to do." And she is right, of course. If we OCDites stop "fussing over" or let go of what could hold us back from achieving our goals, or even try going to the grocery store without making a blueprint out of a shopping list by product and the order of which aisle it is in (yes, I do this, but I can be in and out in under 15 minutes every time!), we have more room to let incredible situations come into our lives. I let go of thoughts of what was coming next, and an amazing opportunity came my way. (Thank you to the friends who helped make this happen.) Learning to let go is the best medicine for our disorder. It will remedy the tension in our head and give our friends and families a break from our repetitive behaviors.

Diversions, discoveries and a new direction . . . this experiment is healing! 

However, it does not change the fact that if you leave the loaf of bread in its plastic wrapper touching the toaster oven while toasting your cinnamon toast, the plastic will melt onto the stainless steel oven! Way to go, houseguest #5 of this month, you know who you are. Geez! By the way, sponges and scrubbers will not take the plastic off, but those Stainless Steel cleaning wipes from Home Depot work wonders!

01 March 2011

A Therapeutic Experiment

Amidst the past few months of my first vacation in 17 years (aka unemployment), I have amazed myself with a multitude of personal discoveries. If we do not grow and progress, then how stagnant and uninteresting we would be, right?

My most recent self-discovery: there is such a thing as having too much time to think. We all need a therapeutic outlet to release our inner insanity. So, instead of using my "vacation" to organize every room in the house, including the garage and every closet, or clean the cracks between the refrigerator (I wanted to just move the fridge out of the wall, but that seemed a little crazy even for me?) or spend 2 hours changing the centerpiece on the dining room table (I still can't decide between orchids or succulents or fruit, so my table is currently void of anything) or color-code the clothes in the closet, I should be embracing the insanity, feeling it, creating from it and learning how to let it go . . . even if that means meditating on it 3 times in 3 different places for 3 hours until finally, the process is complete.

Does this sound familiar? If so, then welcome, fellow "OCDite." I know there is a world of you out there. For those of you who can't quite grasp the compulsion to obsess about everything that surrounds your life and being, then watch an episode of My Strange Addiction on TLC. We're fascinating!

In an effort to nourish our bizarre personalities, I intend to publicize what will be free therapy for me (thank you Blogger and blog readers) and create a forum for other OCDites to share ideas that will help us grow and adapt and feel comfortable while making our friends who love us try to understand the depth of this disorder. Thank you, friends, who encourage me to acknowledge my idiosyncrasies, so we can laugh about them later.

Earlier this week, I welcomed a favorable diversion into my life, which generated the topic for my first blog post: House Guests

A friend of mine is experiencing a somewhat similar life transition and needed a place to stay and store some of her stuff for an indeterminate length of time. I have plenty of space and could certainly use something to focus on other than the compulsive plotting in my head, so I opened my home to her. Two heads are better than one, right?

Tip #1 for Remaining calm while your guest appears to haphazardly throw their life into yours: Unobtrusively correct the issues that produce that gnawing feeling in your stomach immediately. Later, communicate the necessity of your actions to your guest before they think you've gone crazy.

Although I knew my world wasn't going to end if she emptied a multitude of leftover bottles of hot sauce and a jar of Smuckers strawberry jelly that was already 99% empty into my fridge, I really truly thought I might explode at the sight of it. Beyond the mere discovery of the items, they were thrown onto the middle shelf instead of the door shelves which are clearly constructed for condiments! The milk and the OJ were no longer in a perfect line, one in front of the other, and I couldn't even get to the soda. My desire to move the invasive items was so strong that I paced around the house uncomfortably until I finally decided to solve the problem myself; then, spent an hour rearranging the contents of the entire fridge. It helped. The world made sense again.

For those of you who may think this sounds like crazy behavior to stem from such a minor situation, you may consider following my blog regularly. One in 50 adults is affected by daily compulsions like these, so you're bound to be close to or know someone who lives with this affliction. Our imbalance also has the ability to produce the best dinner parties you've ever attended - we are perfectionists after all. (but we'll save that for a future blog topic!)

So friends and friends of other OCDites, I look forward to sharing regular tips on generally alluring topics, and hearing your comments, ideas and other peculiar stories. Sharing here can be free therapy for you, too!

And a special thank you, current house guest, for providing me with weeks of material. Please remember, take off your shoes and always use a coaster!