Anal-retentive (or anally retentive, anal retentive), commonly abbreviated to “anal”, is used conversationally to describe a person with such attention to detail that the obsession becomes an annoyance to others, and can be carried out to the detriment of the anal-retentive person.
For years I thought I was merely a perfectionist who wants everything done in certain way (read: my way), and nothing is good enough unless I do it myself. My mother used to call me “tensed” and keeps urging to me to be more relaxed otherwise I’d end up with wrinkles before my time, or with a heart attack.
Only recently I realise that there is more correct term for me. Yes, I am mildly anal retentive. I pay big attention to details, and although I am much more relaxed this day, I could easily get agitated when my shower gel doesn’t face the right way….
Last weekend when we were packing for a short weekend to Fraserburgh, I was watching in pain when mr.mck took underpants from the drawer. I told him he made a mess so after he chose what he wanted, he neatly folded everything and put them back. He closed the drawer and proudly looked at me. I sighed, opened the drawer again, and sorted everything by colour. When I closed the drawer with a sigh of relief and turned around, he was already bursting into a laughter. I didn’t realise how silly it was until I saw it from his point of view.
Believe me, I am now much much better than I used to be. I wasn’t as extreme as one of my aunts who should have everything perpendicular (she was once almost in tears when visiting a friend’s house, covering her eyes, and when asked why she admitted that she couldn’t look at the painting on the wall because it’s not perpendicular it really hurt her eyes!), although I was close to that. I am like Monica in Friends TV series who should have the flowers on the duvet cover facing a certain way (although normally it should face ‘up’, while Monica wanted it to face ‘right’ because that’s where the sun rises). Everything is organised and systemised logically, sequentially.
So what kind of annoying, odd, little quirks do I have? Well, here are the things I could think of:
- I sort clothes by type (jumpers, cardigans, short sleeves tops), then by colour and by colour grade. For example, dark blue tops will be on the bottom, and the shade will gradually get lighter where my pale blue jumper would be.This also goes to bedsheets, pillowcases, even kitchen napkins.
- Mr. mck’s work shirt is ordered similary as above with additional texture order. For example light blue shirts are grouped together and then it starts from plain, checkered (and of course it goes from small to big checkered), stripey, cufflinks/no cufflinks, etc. The lightest colour should be at the left and the darkest should be on the right.
- All the hangers in the wardrobe are identical, and facing the same way.
- The similar thing goes to kitchen cabinet. Spices are sort by bottles’ size and colour. Spices I use the most must be placed on the front side and the order will work accordingly.
- When placed the dishes to dry, big plates should be placed behind small plates. I’d go crazy if they are not in that order.
- I stack my face creams based on their size (of course), and usage. Morning cream should be on the front side. My lipsticks are stored the same way as my clothes, based on size and colour which shall go gradually from dark to light.
- I sort my books the same way as well. For example white covers go together, and they are ordered by type, author, and size.
- Toilet paper must roll from over the top. Otherwise I will have to switch it.
- I catalogue my shoes and stick the image of the shoes on both at the top and the side of each box. Mr. mck finds this amazingly weird.
- I immediately must fix my itunes list if I find that the same singer appears twice in my artist list in ipod (ipod is very sensitive. If you save an artist as “Nelly Furtado”, it will save it as a different artist if you have two spaces instead of one in between the names, like “Nelly Furtado”). All titles and singers must use the correct capitals, like “Nelly Furtado”, not “nelly furtado”. I also hate it when I have “Snoop Dog” and “Snoop Dog feat. Justin Timberlake” in my list. I have to put “feat. Justin Timberlake” on the title, not the artist, so I will only have 1 Snoop Dog on my artist list. I could spend hours fixing this.
- I still absentmindedly try fix everything that is not perpendicular. For example I will immediately notice if the cutleries on the table at the restaurant are not 90 degree from the table. I also notice if they don’t have the same distance from one to another. Or if the centerpiece is, in fact, not at the center. I now could stop myself to immediately fix it, but it will bother me.
When we finally have found a new residence and got a date of key handover, I started packing, one month before it. Unlike when we were moving abroad, when the movers come and pack for us, this time I have to do everything myself. The removals company only comes and lends us the boxes and some tapes.
Upon receiving the used boxes (which I delightfully found are in the same size with various height), I saw that the previous users only marked their boxes hurriedly by the destination, like “spare bedroom”, or “kitchen”. Sometimes they remember to note the contents of the box. I couldn’t imagine the nightmare these previous users had, having their boxes only marked with very minimum information, they must have ended up with all opened boxes at the same time in their new house yet been unable to find what they’re looking for.
Since I have managed office move so many times, I know how stressful the process can be, and careful planning must be carried out in order to minimise the mess. I also know that having 3-floor house means I need to have each box put in designated room, because there is no way I could, nor would, carry one box from the first floor to the third! I also do not want to open all the boxes at the same time and leaving the house messy just because I can’t remember which box I pack my birth certificate in.
So, stealing the knowledge and experience from the professional movers, I stick piece of papers containing information like the number of box, the destination, and the contents, on both on the top and the side of each box. Then I ask mr.mck to do a “weight test”, if he could lift the box up easily, it’s a good news. If it’s too heavy for him, it would be too heavy for the removals men and they wouldn’t carry my box carefully. After that, mr.mck has to stack the boxes neatly. They must face the same way and are grouped together based on their destination.
Yesterday when I went to the spare bedroom where there are about 8 boxes stored, I saw that one tag “Fragile – this side up” on one box isn’t straight. I immediately peeled it off and straightened it before sticking it back. I could hear my head said, “stop, this isn’t necessary, no one notices. You’ve got other gazillion things more important to do!”, but I just couldn’t help it. In my defense, at least I don’t insist on having my tapes perpendicular on the boxes!
Also yesterday, slightly frustrated with so many things to be packed a way, I hurriedly threw my belts into the box just so the box could be full enough to close up. I stared at those tangled, knotty spaghetti-like things for a few minutes, then turned away. I went to the kitchen and grabbed some chocolate to nibble. I went back, stared at the untidy belts lump, sighed deeply and took them out. Then I rolled each one then placed them back neatly into the box, one by one…
Mr.mck has already thought I was a bit OTT when I told him that upon receiving the key of the new house, I will mark which spot the sofa should be placed. I told him that I will have the house lay-out printed, marked, numbered, and put it on strategic places so the removals guys will know the location of main bedroom and study, for instance, to which he nicely replied, “Do you think they don’t know where the kitchen is?”.
I could go on and on but I try to resist the urge of being too extreme (although I kind of regret that I didn’t take picture of the content of each box, it will be easier to know what’s inside without having to open it), and stick with the important details.
Honestly I blame it on my family. Several of my aunts are famous for being a big perfectionist. My cousin’s partner and mr.mck were having fun exchanging stories about how anal both of us could be (I remember my cousin famously had a row with a schoolmate when they were building booth for our campus exhibition, about whether the painting was straight or not. Neither backed down so they solved the mystery by using the level meter. My cousin, of course, won). And my own father, who when got my text message like: “How are you and the family? How’s the handover (my father is about to resign from his current position)? How’s the preparation for Italy (he is having a business trip to Italy by end of this month)? Just to remind you I’m doing it on Wednesday (I have something going on that day). Wish us luck as we’re getting the key on Thursday”, will reply with the list of answer like this:
- Everybody is fine here
- The handover was done nicely.
Up until number 8 when he wished us a good luck. Seriously. When do you receive a reply from someone, listing and answering all of your questions, which you mean as a chit-chat?
I am not happy nor proud with this. I find out that it is a painful gift as it annoys others – mr.mck thankfully always finds it amusing and teases me forever about it. I am now quite freaked out because I have to finish my packing because we will be moving in a few days. But I can’t – won’t – speed up by risking the neatness of my boxes’ contents.
So what should I do? Nothing but kick back and relax sipping my coffee for a while. Then continue packing.
Wish us good luck, folks!