When I was 2 years old, my mom caught me lining up my shoes in my closet. Pair by pair, in neat little rows and columns along the baseboards. 2 years old.
When I was a kid my favorite games involved little things and the organization of them. I would sort them — give them personalities — and then move them around into different organizational patterns based on shape, size, color and these vivid personalities. I did this with sea shells… buttons… a set of small boxes… tea cups… marbles… and, my favorite, a group of plastic “international dolls.” These were my version of GI Joes — a couple inches high and each from a different country, dressed in traditional clothing with their country names on banners along each doll’s base.
When I was in 6th grade I “got in trouble” for writing too neatly and was sent to the school counselor for handwriting practice. Apparently my desire to have clear handwriting was affecting my productivity in the classroom. So, in the school’s innumerable fashion, I was pulled out of class (where the learning was happening) and was sent in to the counselor to practice writing more sloppily. I kid you not.
In junior high we had to create our own country in Social Studies class. The assignment was to draw a map of the country and mark it with all appropriate map-ish markings. Mine was a work of perfected art… until I spilled a soda on it! My solution? I waited until the piece of paper had dried (in a crinkled mess) and ironed it flat again… yes, with an iron.
My senior year of high school I took Expository Writing, the notoriously HARD class only college-bound, serious seniors would dream of taking. So I took it seriously. And tried hard. We finished the semester with a final paper – mine on the history of Russian ballet (poor teacher who had to read that!). You’d think the last 17 years of my life of OCD perfectionism would have taught me some confidence when it came to following through with a massive undertaking like this infamous paper. We had to do the note cards — the outline — the first draft — the second draft — the Works Cited page and foot notes (all pre-approved by the teacher) and, yet, when it came to the FINAL PAPER, I was still shaking in my boots to get the grade. My dear teacher, trying an obvious joke, told me I got an F. An F. My world crumbled. He back-pedaled. An A… Emme… you got an A. Your shoes are in line, your map is ironed, and your handwriting is perfectly neat.
All this to SAY… my perfectionism is paying off here at ol’ Amber Lane as I struggle to keep the many loose ends of this construction project in order. Fitz is forever losing his utility knife (it’s on the stairs), his pliers (they’re in your back pocket), the screwdriver (it’s in the bucket of screwdrivers) and his mind (it’s… ). And I run around picking up the pieces, putting them back in their labeled areas. It’s not as nuts as it sounds. In fact, it’s a huge time saver and keeps us both on track to know everything has a place.
When I was little my favorite Berenstain Bears book was the one where the kids had to clean their closet. Instead of it being a horrible, dreaded activity, the whole family pitched in and made it look like SO MUCH FUN! At the end of the book, all their toys are in plastic bins, and each bin is labeled with the contents for easy access. I adored that picture of the closet with the bins! And I have ALWAYS wanted plastic bins with labels on them, describing contents for easy access.