Sunday, March 4, 2012

OCD: Washer, dryer, lights

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?


  1. Tina? Are we the same person? Seriously!

    It could be me who typed this post.

    In fact, I was thinking to write a post about my checking and how bothersome it has become again and going to the basement to do laundry was going to be part of the post. I spent all therapy last week discussion how the checking has gotten worse and much of it centers around the dryer and fear of fire and laundry and basement lights.

    Anyway, I started to get overwhelmed at the thought of writing the post and then I happened to notice that you had JUST written this post.

    Okay... like this is ME (except take out the word husband and writer mother and add a couple more checks to make sure there are no clothes on the stairs before I can walk away from the checking for a little while):

    "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."

    Tina. I really think we are the same person :-)

    This post and especially the portion I quoted is straight up ME!


  2. Elizabeth, That is so amazing that you were thinking of writing about this too! We must be "kindred spirits" (as Anne of Green Gables would say).

    I find it strange that different OCD rituals can come and go. I didn't always have the washer/dryer problem. Other rituals have fallen by the wayside. I guess something else will come up once I have this one better controlled.

    I am really starting to see that anxiety will ramp up my OCD. It seems especially hard on the checking. Have you found this to be true?

    1. Dear Tina,

      We ARE kindred spirits! No doubt about it :-)

      Yes, when I get anxious, the checking seems to be the first aspect of OCD to get flared up.


    2. Oh, the troubles anxiety can cause.

  3. I hate clothes dryers too! I worry about fires as well. In fact, I hate doing laundry altogether, so my husband does it. Guess I'm going to have to work on this one. At some point.

    You know, it's funny. Something about your post really struck me. I've heard for years about people struggling with a "just right" feeling. I never thought I struggled with that, until this post, believe it or not. I got almost no sleep Saturday night, so I was extremely exhausted yesterday. There are also a few things going on right now that I'm worried about, so between the lack of sleep and worrying, my anxiety was very high all day yesterday. So, you guessed it, my obsessions and compulsions skyrocketed like crazy all day. When I was at church yesterday, I had to stare at all the faucets in the ladies' room to make sure they were really off. Now that I think back on it, I was staring at them and I couldn't leave until I had a "just right" feeling. Wow. Three years of therapy and I'm still learning stuff about myself!

    Like you, if I force myself to walk away from the situation, the anxiety goes down. In fact, now I find that the anxiety goes down very, very quickly. The hard part is forcing myself to walk away. Once I've done that though, I'm all set! Mindfulness definitely helps with this for me as well.

    1. Sunny, Walking away is hard, and I don't always do it before doing more checking than I'd like to. Even if I do check, I still try to remind myself that I did it because of OCD, that it was a compulsive urge, not a real need to check.

      For many years, I didn't label the feeling I had as "right." I just felt a slight lessening of anxiety, a satisfied feeling, that allowed me to move on. Now I am trying to move on even if I don't feel "right."

      I am still learning stuff about myself too! I guess we always will be learning.

      Hope you are feeling better today!

    2. Hi Tina. Yes, I'm feeling much, much better. Lack of sleep is a gigantic trigger for my symptoms. It's something that I know about myself, but I don't always have the discipline to make sure I get enough sleep.

    3. Glad you've gotten some rest and feel better. I don't get enough sleep during the week, and then I sleep too much on the weekends. I can't seem to balance it!

  4. Just stopping by to say hello & get more insight into OCD. I'm glad that you are connecting with others who are dealing with similar issues. It is so empowering to build mutual support & share methods that help.

  5. Thank you for stopping by! It has been a true blessing to connect with others and, as you say, build mutual support.

  6. I hate doing laundry! Yes, I always worry about dryer fires. Is the lint trap clean enough? Is the rest of the vent clean enough. Gotta crack out the special brushes used to clean the lint out of the dryer vents. Must vacuum the vent out. Must clean the vent on the outside of the house as well. It would be insane to leave anything on the dryer while it's running. It would be crazy to leave it running while I'm out of the house or in bed at night. Then if there was a dryer fire, I'd never be able to catch it! All those things drive me crazy.

    Not to mention my check, check, recheck to make sure I have everything out of the washer and dryer. It is much easier now that we have a front-loader again. (Someone 5'2" with the need to check and recheck to ensure everything is out of the washer should never have a top-loader. LOL)

    Plus, there's the fact that the dirty clothes are dirty!!! Some days I just can't bring myself to touch them to actually put them in the washer! It is much better now than it used to be, but still, some days it's just too much. (And, I always wash my hands multiple time after starting a load of laundry!)

    I also have worries about pieces of clothing getting in the wrong load and getting ruined. So, we have four hampers in the closet in the laundry room. One for whites/light colors. One for dark colors. One for delicates in white/light colors. One for delicates in dark colors. Still, I have to go through each piece and double/triple check that I'm not getting something in the wrong load. Of course, I also have to double and triple check to make sure the settings are correct before I start a load in the washer or the dryer, but I'm usually still not sure, so I have to check again after I start it.

    UGH! I really hate laundry. It's still better than dirty dishes, though. : /

    1. Kat, Your description of all the things to worry about, while serious and real, made me laugh a little. I mean, how do we figure out all of these things to worry about? It's like we take normal concern and carefulness about running a dryer and make it into a monster. My goodness, I am right there with you.

      What's also funny is that I used to think doing the laundry was the easiest of tasks. All you had to do was throw in the clothes, in the washer or dryer, and go do something else while the appliances did their work. Now, if I can just get back to that attitude . . . I'm working on it!

      Hope you are having a good day! As always, thank you for commenting!

    2. LOL...My descriptions of LOTS of things make me laugh. I always tell my mom that I don't just make mountains out of molehills. No, with my issues with perfectionism, the generic "mountain" isn't good enough. Nope, it's gotta be Mount Everest! If you're gonna do it, you gotta do it right!

  7. Excellent post, and you obviously struck a chord with a lot of people. I really have nothing to add to these great comments, except that you have the shiniest washer and dryer I have ever seen! :)

    1. LOL, thanks, Janet! It could be the angle of the photo that makes them look shiny. But my husband tells me it's because HE wipes them.

  8. What a torment. I can't imagine having to go through that - as I do a LOT of laundry w/ 3 boys and using cloth diapers on the twins. I'm glad you've found a way to manage the thought patterns!

    I agree w/ ocdtalk - your washer and dryer look spotless!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Lisa. I bet you do have a lot of laundry with three little ones.

      I never knew the washer and dryer were so shiny until I took a photo of them. Things look different in a photograph sometimes.


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