Rage against the machine

It has been a tough laundry week. That might not mean much to you, but for someone who lives with an OCD sufferer, messing with the state of clean is dangerous territory.

While some with OCD compulsively wash their hands, others wash their clothes. Henrietta L.Leonard writes on The Dana Guide, “Someone obsessed with cleanliness might do so much laundry that it affects the household bills.” That certainly describes my daughter. I recall one week when she was at camp and the laundry was cut by more than one half. One of the tell tale signs that she had fallen prey to the OCD Monster was how she approached laundry. She had a system.

Before I continue, I want to tell you that I, too, have a system. Linens, towels and sheets go into one hamper, my husband’s darks in another. My clothes, mostly delicates, are washed separately. The rest of my system is simple: Hot water and bleach for linens, cold water for darks. Delicate cycle for most of what I wear and his dress shirts; jeans are always separate with socks and polo shirts. I dislike piled up laundry and find folding towels soothing. Though I prefer it, I’m not tied to this system. All one has to do is look at my laundry room to know that I can take or leave it, er, rather shut the door on it all.

My son also has a system. His clothes are his problem, and he handles it well; most of the time. He can fit most of his clothes, including his own towel, into one washer cycle and 90% of the time, he puts them in his room without nagging. His system: leave my clothes alone. While we can’t classify his preferences as OCD, we can safely say his way is picky.

My daughter, on the other hand, follows her system rigidly and requires nagging. To be honest, I’m not sure of all her steps; I just know they must be done in order. All clothes must be picked up off her floor. I find it incongruous that someone with OCD can be so messy, yet several experts have confirmed that OCD can cause messiness because one step towards cleaning can cause sufferers to go on a cleaning binge. Avoidance, they rationalize, forestalls the madness. I’ve observed that when her room deteriorates, meltdown mode hovers on the horizon. Once her clothes are picked up and tumbled into a laundry pile, bed clothes are next. And oddly enough she’d rather sleep on a mattress without a sheet, (ugh) rather than mess up the system. Her clothes, though mostly darks, are often thrown all together into the washer. We reached a victory in her OCD recovery when she stopped using hot water for every wash load. But challenges still abound. And the piles continue. If someone touches her clothes, namely her father, she feels compelled to rewash the load. She requires several days to complete the cleaning cycle, mostly because tidying up the common areas (the back patio and front porch, if she’s truly worked up) must happen before she can complete the folding and putting away of her clothes. Bed linen must be put on, then clothes can be brought in from the laundry table. This becomes a rigid system when anxiety rules.

All of which was tested, after the dryer went out. Mind if I stop for a moment to share that I love hanging clothes on the line in the summer? Thus in the middle of a dryer failure, I have happily hung clothes on two laundry lines on the back patio. I admit it’s inefficient. One has to plan. But there’s the savings on the energy bill. And there’s the sunshine and the late after breeze swinging the clothes to and fro. Despite this and knowing I’m capable of spending the summer without a dryer, I thought about the cash I had saved up for such emergencies. Dryers are important, life-saving devices, right? Because we have busy lives and better things to do, a modern dryer could move us along. I thought this right up until last Thursday night.

Well past midnight, I was tucked in, blankets up to chin, snoozing away. Suddenly, the house erupted in yelling and I was yanked out of my dreams. Why were our two kids were arguing at an ungodly hour? Apparently, our son need to wash work clothes, and our daughter’s clothes were hogging the washer. Because he played video games too late, he had forgotten he was working the next day and needed clean clothes. She couldn’t very well hang up clothes at 1:30 in the morning and putting them in a basket would mess up the system. Having anyone touch her clean clothes is forbidden. She yelled. He yelled. He called her crazy. Despite the yelling, I was starting to doze off when I heard footsteps and things scatter onto the floor. She had retaliated by sweeping everything off of his desk onto the floor. Now I was worried that he’d retaliate. My imagination running wild with expensive irreplaceable things broken, my husband stalked down the hall to send them once and definitely to bed.

The next day, mostly avoiding each other, we all dragged around. About noon, I saw them: a pile of my son’s damp, washed clothes in a basket waiting to be hung up. He had woken up everyone to have clean clothes, yet here they were, waiting for him. I nearly went ballistic. I took a deep breath and exhaled. Then, I made a decision.

No dryer. Rage all you want, my children who are spoiled by modern machines. I’m not budging. Not until the bitter taste of the truth that the world doesn’t revolve around you has settled on your tongue. Not even OCD will move me. Be inconvenienced. It’s time you adapted to a different way of doing things.

When I’ve decided that I AM tired of wearing dirty clothes because I forgot to hang the laundry out to dry, I’ll change my mind. But not until then.

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