Wednesday, January 23, 2013

OCD and small appliances

Do you unplug your coffeemaker after you use it? Do you unplug your toaster once you’re done with it? What about your electric can opener—do you unplug it when it’s not in use?
I do all of those things.
And now I’m wondering if by doing so I’m giving in to OCD compulsions or just being careful.
Why am I wondering about this?
Larry has been drinking more coffee lately. We have a coffeemaker that heats up the water in the reservoir when the unit is plugged in and turned on. It’s a single-cup unit.
Larry tends to leave the unit turned on in case I want some coffee later.
I’ve been coming behind him and turning it off and unplugging it unless I want some coffee right away.
He’s fine with turning it off, but he sees no problem with leaving it plugged in between uses.
Then the other day at work, one of my co-workers brought in an extra single-cup coffeemaker just like mine. He doesn’t use it at home, so he’s sharing it with us at work.
I overheard a discussion among a few co-workers about whether or not to leave the unit on. One woman said she kept her home coffeemaker on. Another said he’d feel better with it turned off.
So I’ve been wondering.
I know this isn’t a big issue for most people.

But when OCD gets mixed up in a situation, it can seem like a big deal.

I think of small appliances that heat up as potential fire hazards, and I take the extra precaution of keeping them unplugged.
I know I think as much about this as I do because of OCD. Thinking like this probably doesn’t help my energy level.
With checking OCD, I check behind myself, sometimes multiple times, to make sure I’ve unplugged the coffeemaker. I even sometimes stare at the outlet to “make sure” it’s not plugged in.
Same goes for the toaster and the electric can opener.
I’ve always seen my actions as cautious but not overly so. OCD interferes and can cause a problem, but I have felt like the ultimate goal—unplugging the appliance—was necessary.
But I’m not even consistent. There are some things that I leave plugged in, like my bedside radio, most of my lamps and the microwave.
This is a time when I’d really like to view things from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have OCD. I don’t think it’s safe to leave things like coffeemakers turned on (I’m telling myself that’s not the OCD talking, but I could be fooling myself).
I’d like to know if I need to continue unplugging items or, more importantly, do I need to check after my husband and unplug items that he may have left plugged in?

What do you do in your home?

26 comments:

  1. Hmmm . . . good question. We have the same type of coffee maker at home and we leave it plugged in all the time, but we only turn it on if we want to use it. I have always left my toaster unplugged - my mom always did, so I just did it. We did recently buy a toaster oven - that always stays unplugged if we're not using it because I have heard that they are a fire hazard. Don't know how true that it. We always left the can opener unplugged, but we left the microwave plugged in. I guess I'm pretty inconsistent too!

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    1. Sunny, you sound a lot like me. It's funny how some things seem fine plugged in and others don't. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  2. I always unplug my coffee maker and toaster for safety reasons, so I think sometimes the two (safety and OCD) aren't mutually exclusive :)

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    1. Keith, good point--doing certain things for safety reasons and doing certain things for OCD reasons might end up being the same things.

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  3. My electric tea pot and toaster are always plugged in. The only appliance that really gets me going is the iron. I'm always checking and rechecking that I unplugged the thing after I use it. I think it is fine if you want to unplug them, of course, but the issue, as you say, is how much energy it saps from you, and how much it hurts. That's OCD, painful. Interesting questions!
    Adventures in Anxiety Land

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    1. I have trouble with the iron, too. I don't use it much (I confess), but when I do, I sometimes have a problem not checking multiple times to make sure it's unplugged.

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  4. I don't have OCD, but we keep the coffee maker (which only my husband uses) unplugged. Everything else stays plugged in all the time except when we go away for a few days or more. Then we unplug all our appliances. Make sense? Who knows?
    When I read your post, the issue to me is not really whether you keep an appliance plugged in or not, but the fact that you keep checking. I think if you decide a particular appliance needs to be unplugged then that's fine, but you should unplug it and walk away (I know, easy for me to say :) ). Just my take on it........

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    1. Ah, Janet, you hit the nail on the head. The checking is the issue, not whether or not I decide to unplug the appliance. It's really no problem to unplug an appliance--it's the time and energy to keep checking it that makes it a problem. Thank you for your wise words.

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  5. Very interesting post!! Gave me things to think about, thank you!!

    I got rid of my electric can opener, not needed and just took up space on the counter. Instead use a great Kitchen Aid manual one (so easy to use, and way better than manual openers when I was a kid!!). Don't drink coffee, so no coffee maker. All my mixers are stored away inside cabinets when not in use, so of course they get unplugged.

    Always leave my toaster, digital clocks and microwave plugged in. Have a surge protector power-strip for the TV and DVD player, which I keep turned off (because I don't use them very often, so why pay to have the little red lights on?). My computer is also plugged into a similar power-strip - and I keep that on all the time.

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    1. Thank you. We have surge protectors on the TVs and computers, too. We do turn off the computer ones, but not the TV ones. It's all a mix!

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  6. As you know Tina I have OCD and I have "checking" issues, but none are related to appliances with the one exception which would be our gas stove. (Sometimes I have to do that second turn on the knob to "off") My toaster is unplugged because we don't use it that often but we leave our coffee pot plugged in all the time. I don't even unplug it when we go away, and we travel a lot. I have unplugged our TV when we go away because I have heard power surges can ruin them. I read one time that appliances we leave plugged in do drain a tiny bit of electricity even though they aren't in use so from that standpoint I try not to leave things we rarely use plugged in. I think Janet made a good point about it not being so much about whether you leave it plugged in or not, but the "checking part" which sounds more like the OCD issue. I love the idea of asking people who don't have OCD what they do because it can bring some perspective.

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    1. Krystal Lynn, I appreciate you offering your perspective, too. I think one reason I unplug appliances is to make sure I really turned them off. It's like an extra safety measure. But since I don't do it for all appliances, it doesn't really make any sense. It's OCD.

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  7. We do leave appliances plugged in. I don't drink coffee, but if I see the coffeemaker left on I'll turn it off. I just wouldn't unplug it.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. I see there's a lot of plugged in appliances out here that aren't causing any problems!

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  8. Our coffeemaker can be programmed to make coffee automatically at a certain time and has a digital clock on it, so it must be plugged in or else you have to reset the clock every time you want to use it.
    Otherwise we seem to be random with things too. The microwave I unplug, the toaster not, tv is turned off and apart from turning off the gas at the stove I switch off the main gas line where it enters our flat.
    I guess every one has his own habits when it comes to this, OCD or not.

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    1. Klaaske, you make a good point. Everyone has their own habits, even those with OCD, based on their own experiences and concerns.

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  9. You gave me a lot to think about. I don't have OCD, but I do unplug some items in my kitchen. I'm a little surprised at the inconsistency of it – I unplug my KitchenAid mixer, but not my toaster. We don't have a coffeemaker, but I know if we did I'd unplug that, too. Most of my other small applicances (blender, knife sharpener, chopper) I store in under the counter, but I know I wouldn't unplug them if I left them out.

    I'm not sure why I leave the toaster plugged in. Our stove top has a switch on it that "locks" all the burners when they're in the off position; I never had a stove with this feature before, and I imagine it's ideal for houses with children. I never use when I'm at home, but I do use it when we go away for a few days, or – and this is weird – when I go into the office for the day (I mostly work at home). That is, I use it when I'm at work for the day, but not when we go to the movies or something.

    Shep has a boot drying thing that emits low heat; he puts his wet boots on it to dry them out when he's been tramping through mud or rain or snow. When it's plugged in, it's "on" - there's no off switch. He likes to leave it on all the time and doesn't like when I unplug it, but I can't help myself...I guess it bothers me because it gives off heat. He and I also disagreed back when we had a window unit air conditioner in our first apartment - I feared leaving it on when the place was empty; he always wanted to leave it on so it wouldn't have to work so hard to cool the place down. Interestingly, I think my husband is much, much more safety conscious than I am, but some things "bother" him that don't bother me, and vice versa.

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    1. Jean, I was surprised, too, when I realized how inconsistent I was, that my habits were all over the place. And Larry and I have some differences in what we consider "safe" also. I guess a lot of different things go into what makes something seem safe or unsafe.

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  10. I do unplug my blender. That is the only small appliance we have that is always out in the kitchen. I also unplug the diffuser at night especially if I have it plugged in the outlet that is underneath the bird's cage. Is that anxiety? Yes. I don't want a fire to start under my birds! But, it also makes sense to unplug small appliances when they're not in use.

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    1. Kristina, We keep the blender in the cabinet--we rarely use it--but I'm sure I'd keep it unplugged if we kept it out. I understand your anxiety about your birds and the diffuser!

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  11. I didn't read all the other responses but when things are plugged in there is a phantom load, which means they still suck energy, the TV is the worst. This uses energy, and people who try to live green unplug for this reason. So keep it plugged to get over the OCD ( exposure) then unplug it for the earth! :)

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    1. Jodi, thanks for sharing that about the phantom load. And that's a great idea to do the exposure, and then unplug to use less energy!

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  12. This is so thought provoking. Appliances have long been my crux over the years. The iron, hairdryer, toaster, candle warmer, lamps, etc. I emember as a teenager checking the hair dryer over and over. Even though I could not hear it as it was not on and better yet not plugged in, I still checked and checked.

    However, I do have things I do in my home for safety reasons that I could see would be confused with OCD. For instance, after using the toaster, I will not put it back on the shelf out of fear that it is still hot and may touch other things and possibly catch them on fire. But then my OCD rears it's head and when leaving for work an hour later, I still won't put it back in it's place... Maybe it's still hot, somehow... Hmmm... I see some exposures in my future!

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    1. Lolly, sometimes I have a hard time differentiating between OCD and what I'm doing purely for safety concerns. I don't think I'll ever be able to tell all of them apart.

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  13. I leave the toaster plugged in, also the microwave and tv/dvdplayers. I used to unplug the microwave because it drained energy to run the clock, but in this house that's too hard to do. When i used to have long hair and used a curling iron i NEVER left that plugged in longer than needed. I don't have much counter space, so mixers etc. are stored away unless i need them. If they were out, i'd unplug them.

    A few days ago i put stuff in the crockpot and left it on to cook while i was at my anxiety meeting. Today i let the washer run while we went out sledding. A few years ago i wouldn't have done that...unless the washer was just on the last spin cycle and i knew it would be off a few minutes after we left. Nothing happened both times. I guess that means i can do it again!

    I do remember i used to have a yogurt maker while at university that i'd leave plugged in but that's only a warmer so it didn't set off my 'what if i burn down the house' radar.

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    1. Karin, good for you for being able to leave the house while using the crockpot and the washer! That's great that you've been able to move forward to that.

      It's interesting that some things set off our "what if I burn down the house" radar, and some things don't.

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