Laundry compulsions are one of my things.

They definitely didn’t use to be. After all, it was an obsession regarding laundry and possibly having “contaminated” a load with fecal matter that got my whole contamination OCD rolling about a year ago. At the time we were using a laundry machine housed in a shed behind our house. It didn’t have hot water connected to it. If we wanted hot water, we had to bring out pots of boiling water and dump them into the machine. It was not awesome. 

The laundromat

After we got strep last year about this time, I started going to the local laundromat with our laundry. I wanted hot water. I wanted more sanitary conditions. I wanted efficiency. I also started using color safe bleach. I started separating underwear and towels from normal clothes and washing them in their own loads. Once we moved and had our own laundry machines that worked properly (hallelujah!), I began using bleach for underwear. I got white towels and bleached them too. Our washing machine and dryer have a sanitary cycle (who knows what that actually means), and I put those to use. I still do.

Separation anxiety

I have the laundry hampers in the bedrooms for dirty clothes and separate laundry baskets to bring up the clean clothes. I use a different laundry basket for the clothes than the underwear and towels. I still have habits and compulsions, but these ones are harder for me break because at some level, they make logical sense to me. It seems like a good idea to clean towels and underwear thoroughly and separate them from normal clothes. It doesn’t feel like it’s all that crazy.

Dr. Bob sometimes says that there is a fine line between OCD and normal or “okay” behavior. Some people’s normal laundry or cleaning behavior might mirror mine. Others is obviously much more lax. So is my behavior actually OCD driven? If we look back at what I was told my recovery “goal” should be—to get back to how I “used” to be—then maybe my laundry habits need to be curtailed. Maybe there are too many compulsions too much of the time. It’s not like we were getting sick or infecting people with anything when I washed our underwear and towels with our clothes and didn’t use bleach. But then again, maybe the methodology of some “chores” could use improvements every once in awhile. Maybe the way I used to do things wasn’t always the greatest.


I guess it comes down to who is in control. Is it me or the OCD? Do I feel obligated to do things in a certain way? Would I feel intensely uncomfortable if I didn’t wash things in that specific way one time? Would I make myself rewash a load, etc.? Do I have the obsessions and worries that lead me into compulsions or do I honestly think this is a better way of doing things inherently? What would a normal person do?

How do you overcome compulsions that have turned into habits?


One thought on “Sketches: Laundry”

  1. A good way of determining those murky type rituals is asking yourself, Would it cause anxiety if I didn’t do it this way? If the answer is yes, then it is most likely a compulsion. And the other guideline I go by is, if it looks like, sounds like, smells like, in any possible way could be OCD, treat it as such. You can’t go wrong. But, yes, those are sounding like compulsions, the separate laundry hampers and separate loads. I would encourage you to try mixing them up. 🙂

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