Tuesday, March 4, 2008


If I think really hard, I could probably bring up numerous instances of obsessive-compulsive behavior from my youth. Okay, I don't have to think really hard - I used to make schedules (written) for summer days outlining what my little sister & I would be eating, watching, playing each hour; the pictures on my bulletin board were arranged by category - soap opera hunks, singers, movie actors; each stuffed animal & pillow had a specific location on my bed; I sorted my mom's grocery coupons by item & expiration date; I planned Halloween costumes at the beginning of the summer; et cetera ad infinitum amen.

No one ever hinted (that I noticed) that these behaviors might be considered odd. Maybe nobody watched me very closely until one day, a year into marriage, I was engaged in a conversation and, while still talking, I got up from the couch, crossed the room, and adjusted a video on a shelf. When I sat back down and finished my sentence, my friend looked at me for a few seconds then asked, "Did you just get up to fix that video?" Me, thoughtful, "Well, yes." And because she kept looking at me uncomprehendingly, I said, "It was sticking out a little from the others." It all seemed perfectly reasonable.

I started being mindful of the things I felt compelled to do, stuff that would make me uncomfortable if I left it undone. I was working at Barnes & Noble where adjusting books just-so was considered an asset, but I did find myself going beyond what other clerks were doing. Whenever I was at the cash register, I sought out specific pens and put them in specific places; my counter space placards and impulse sales items were straightened after each customer; the bags were neatly stowed. Huh.

And then I got a classroom. Bulletin boards, bookshelves, my desk, student desks, craft supplies, posters, signs, lists, trays - everything has a place, label, operating system. I have a book checkout clipboard and room sign-out clipboard as well as the emergency procedure clipboard (all have pens attached); the bulletin boards are divided into (labeled) sections for displaying student work; the school's class schedule is posted in three places; two crates hold class assignments organized by course & in chronological order; even the clock has a sticker on its face ("stop looking at me"). And everyday I check all of these things while I straighten tables & chairs, reposition window blinds (that they are broken and constantly fall into disarray is something I actually pray about), and straighten books (which are divided by genre - fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and comics).

I've had students say to me "OCD much, Mrs. Spencer?" after I've moved across the room to retrieve a candy wrapper or fallen pencil while continuing to talk to the class. It really feels good to be noticed.


Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I believe we are one.

One year when my friend was running the school book fair she asked if I would like to straighten the books. Would I?! They had to drag me out to lock up the school.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

"It really feels good to be noticed."


~Swankymama said...

I can SOOOO relate!! HA HA Sad thing is, when someone says those things to me, I find the comments flattering.

Anonymous said...

some call it OCD...others recognize it as "multitasking, organizational genius"

I'd go with the latter description ;)

Janet said...

I only WISH I could be like that!

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

I still can't walk through a bookstore without touching things, but I am hoping it will fade.

I do as much planning as parenting demands, but it doesn't come naturally to me. I've been told this is the sagittarius in me - schedules make me squirm.

(Ask my sister, the planner. I drive her bats, although I try not to.)

Jess said...

I knew there was someone else in this world who feels the same way about books being lined up on a shelf.

Do you ever get ocd about using certain pens. That you obsess about them and hope to god that no one finds them and takes them. Because if they did, what would we do? I can't possibly use that chewed up plain old pencil.

Mrs. G. said...

How can we be so alike and so different. Would you come here during spring break and OCD my house?

You are soooo noticed.

John-Michael said...

I am sending the link on this one to my (spirit) daughter who teaches. All of her life (single mother of 3 included) is tabbed, collated, color (or colour [should you prefer]) coordinated with shades and hues designated for every conceivable category and sub-topic .... I COULD go on ... but then again ... YOU could, probably, forecast the rest.

I LOVE and ADORE that woman!!!!

Restless Ink said...

Wait...those behaviors are considered odd?

Tootsie Farklepants said...

What's wrong with being tidy? I see nothing wrong with being tidy!

stephanie said...

Oh, you are all so kind! Or equally deluded, whichever makes you feel better...

I especially love Brandy101's utterly generous renaming of "multitasking, organizational genius." Sigh.

Mrs. G, I would be honored to OCD (it's so fun as a verb!) your house sometime.

John-Michael, I feel like going to color coordinate something right now. I hope your daughter appreciates my kinship.

Tootsie - nothing! I said nothing about it all being wrong. It's the most right thing ever, frankly :)

Anonymous said...

Huh, I never really noticed. I'll have to pay better attention...


katydidnot said...

dear bad mom,

how may i become you?



dear stu,

duh, man.



Moxy Jane said...

And just WHY is this a disorder? Must have been labeled as such by some complete moron who couldn't match a pair of socks to save their sad, pathetic life.

My jobs have been: library page in high-school (LOVED straightening books!), cryptologist in the military (lots of charts and graphing and decoding), record store clerk (fun organizing), and back to the library (I was given the task of coming up with categories and spine labels for our video collection, and I ordered the music...HEAVEN!!).

Again...I object to the D...It should be OCAbility!

And I straighten pictures and curtains when I visit my friends' homes. And rearrange their bathroom. So far, I've never been NOT asked back.


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