I don't like going down into the basement because that's where the washer and dryer are. But the only way I can do the laundry is to use the washer and dryer.
I turn the first light on at the top of the stairs and walk down and around to the laundry area. There’s another light to turn on.
I have no problem getting the water running with the detergent. Then I have to put in the clothes.
The whole time I’m doing that task, I think about the chances of dropping clothes between the washer and dryer or even behind the washer. If I do, the clothes could get hot and start a fire.
After I close the lid of the washer, I check between the two appliances. I stare until I can tell myself, with a “right” feeling, that there are no socks or other small items there.
I know that I didn’t fling the clothes into the washer. I know the open lid, leaning against the washer, would stop clothes from going over it.
But what if I threw them high enough to go over the lid?
I check behind the washer. I look until I feel “right” again.
Then it’s time to leave. I walk to the light switch, then look behind me until I’m satisfied that there are no clothes lying near the washer. Then I turn off the light. I stare at the bulb until I feel “right” about it being off.
Back at the top of the stairs, I look back down the stairs for any fallen clothes that might cause my husband to trip when he walks down. Then I turn off the light and close the basement door behind me.
Then I open the basement door to make sure the light is off. Then I close it again.
When the load has finished, I go back down. I open the dryer and see the worst thing I could see. The clothes from the last wash are still in the dryer.
I take them out. My laundry basket still has unwashed clothes in it, so I try to be careful to lay them on top of the dryer and not let them fall between the appliances or behind the dryer.
I take out the dryer filter. I clean the filter with my back turned to the dryer, because I don’t want any lint to fly into the dryer or down into the filter space.
I drag the lump of lint around and around the filter and its edges, trying to get every bit of lint. Lint can cause fires.
I finally put the filter back in and transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer.
Then I check between the washer and dryer and behind the dryer. I have to make sure I didn’t fling any clothes back there. Clothes left behind the dryer are scarier than clothes behind the washer. I turn my head from side to side, to catch all angles, and stare until it feels “right.”
Then I pick up the dried clothes and return to the light switch and go through the routine of checking behind me, checking the light bulb, walking up the stairs, turning around, turning off the light and rechecking to make sure It’s off.
I went through this or a similar ritual every time I did laundry for several months.
But now I reattribute and refocus. I'm better at not allowing myself to give in to the compulsive urges to check, check and check.
The initial anxiety making me want to check ebbs away once I get away from the scene and start doing something else.
I have found that the more mindful I am of what I’m doing, the easier it is to refocus on something else and move on.
Do you have checking rituals like this? How do you deal with them? Do you have a success story you’d like to share?