Why am I obliged to put everything away?

Why am I obliged to put everything away?

Whether it's midnight or three o'clock in the afternoon, if I see something that looks like a mess, I'll put it away right away. My cabinets, my papers, my kitchen, everything must be in its place. I hate to see an object hanging around. I throw away everything that is out of date, I align everything that goes beyond. It's exhausting ... How to explain my behavior? Eloise, age 25

Catherine Marchi

Clinical Psychologist


The sense of order is part of the obsessive personality traits as well as perfectionism, obstinacy, moral rigor and doubt. Storing your papers, aligning your pans, as well as maintaining impeccable cleanliness are acts that reassure you and allow you to fight against an unconscious inner anguish. Even if you feel compelled to act without understanding why, these actions make sense.

It is important to look in your story for what disorder is for you. What to put away is not in your house but in your memories. What did your mother give you? Did she reproach you for your lack of care? Are you trying to comply unconsciously with the ideal little girl she wanted you to be? What forbidden desire, what guilt impulse, what inner chaos are you trying to put back in order?

These are avenues of investigation that will help you understand what's going on inside you. But if your "mania of order" causes you too much suffering, you could undertake an analytical work to express with words the anxieties you express with actions.

You seem to find your concern for the order excessive, but it is impossible in the light of this single letter to know whether it is a compelling but manageable mania or a true OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) that usually requires treatment as this pathology is disabling. Patients with OCD feel compelled to perform rituals of storage, washing, verification completely invasive. because it's their only way to fight massive anxiety. These activities occupy several hours a day and they suffer. Terribly. If this description seems to fit your problem, you can also use the behavioral therapies that are a frequent indication in case of OCD.

Catherine Marchi, a clinical psychologist, is a graduate of the Université René Descartes Paris V.


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