Craving Order in the Disorder

I love order.
If you looked in the storage area of our basement you might have a hard time believing it, but I do.
Order, predictability, planning … I strive for structure in all areas of my life, and have since I was little.

I’ve always said it didn’t take a therapist to tell me that this affliction was due to the chaos I experienced throughout my childhood, but the other day my actual therapist — the one it turns out I do, in fact, need — told me this:

The more messy we feel on the inside,
the more order we need on the outside.


This little nugget of wisdom came after I gave her a 15-minute monologue on how I’ve noticed my need for order has been amplified over the past month or so. How my compulsive need to straighten things and put things away (i.e., yell at members of my family to put away) has been ramped up to about a 14 on a 10 point scale now that the four of us are living under the same roof again. How the “not knowing” about almost every aspect in life has lost the original, almost adventurous early-April appeal and has caused chaos in the part of my personality that feeds on plans.
And by feeds I mean devour.

Easygoing? Never met her.

I’ve never been a “go with the flow” type of person. I over plan vacations weeks ahead, from which restaurants we’ll eat at (I’ve usually already scoured the menu and narrowed down my order) to which day I’ll wear what. I shudder at the thought of flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants; of letting things “shake themselves out,” of seeing where the road takes me. Give me a map with detailed directions and tell me what time I’ll get there so I know what we’re doing for dinner, thankyouverymuch.

I crave order.
I want all my ducks lined up in a row, and I need that row to be perfectly straight, no wayward feathers sticking out.

If someone in my house leaves random papers on the kitchen island in a disarray, I will straighten them, corners aligning just so. Sure, I’ll leave them there — I’ve learned that other people don’t like it when I put their things where they can’t find them, like where they actually belong — but at least they’ll be orderly.

I group things that other people leave out without even realizing I’m doing it; papers, sunglasses, keys, chargers, single socks, hats, rubber hairbands (so, so many hairbands) and unboxed Amazon orders organized into one teetering stack, the sight of all the items in one neat pile calming to me (even if the pile is on the kitchen table).

Laundry on the sofa, mail on the counter, stacks of things on the stairs that people walk by for weeks at a time, shoes in a giant pile near the shoe rack but not on it, dishes in the sink when the dishwasher is empty, food on the counter when the pantry is less than 3′ away — these are just a very few of the things that cause me to come undone.

And lest I lead you to believe my house is always in order, let’s just say I come undone a lot.


Anything but predictable

It’s a messy time outside right now, isn’t it?
Sure, things are pretty damn predictable and structured in my inside life — I sleep in, eat breakfast, work out, try to write something, get frustrated because I cannot write anything worth reading, eat something bad for me that effectively cancels out my workout, read, nap, cook dinner, clean up dinner, eat something bad for me (again), try unsuccessfully to find something to watch, and attempt to sleep, every damn day — but life beyond my walls is anything but.

With all the uncertainty and unpredictability of the future on so many levels, the order, structure, and control I thrive on have pretty much vanished. Throw in the anxiety of it all — the frustrations and the sadness and the anger and the fear — plus (just for fun!) some 40-year-old feelings I’m still trying to make sense of, and it’s no wonder the sight of a lone sock on the stairs is cause for my head to spin a few times, the cats to run for cover, and my husband to open a bottle of wine.

Blame it on COVID

The more messy we feel on the inside, the more order we need on the outside.
I find myself repeating it like a mantra lately.
Is it because I crave a neat and tidy explanation for my behavior? Of course it is (I think that’s obvious by now). But more than that I like how it gives me justification and a scapegoat for this recent amplification of my obsessiveness.
“BLAME IT ON COVID!” I now shout, when my family is exasperated by my nagging and excessive need for organization and tidiness.

So for the foreseeable future, I will be here lining up shoes, decluttering countertops, breaking down the countless Amazon boxes that seem to be holding up our dining room walls, throwing out things I don’t need, organizing kitchen drawers, and making neat little stacks of all the random shit my family leaves on the counter.

We might not know when this mess will be over, but hey, when it is, my house will look fan-fucking-tastic.

Leave a Comment