Category Archives: How Much Is Too Much

How Much Is Too Much

Posted in: General, How Much Is Too Much on 08/3/11 by

I understand that most people spend an average of 92 seconds reading a blog.  At the risk of losing faithful readers I am publishing an article that is both embarrassing to me and also dear to my heart.  I feel many of you will see both the sadness and the humor and will be able to identify with some of my former unbalanced traits. Here it is:  How Much Is Too Much?

I have always been a list maker.  As far back as I can remember it has been routine for me to systematize my life with layers of words shaping the next day’s activities, work, communication, reports and generally anything that has been my responsibility. 

I started this habit as a child and to this day you will find from one to several lists planted around my house.  Is this a compulsion?  Am I neurotic?  I am a Virgo, born in September, and one characteristic of this sign is the need to organize.

This practice has taken a variety of forms.  In high school each plan involved school activities and was embellished with colorful drawings.  I coordinated these daily arrangements in a large notebook which I carried with me from class to class.  I would never cross anything off the list for I thought it ruined the artistic design but I needed the security of the pages to remind me of what I had to do.  I was afraid I would forget an assignment or special activity if I didn’t write it down.  With all the chaos in my life of growing up in an alcoholic home, I didn’t trust my brain to remember.  I definitely was becoming dependent on my catalogue of personal business.

By the time I entered college in the 1960’s I had created a “mini daily notebook,” 3 ½” by 5”, filled with several colored insert pages depicting all the categories of my world, i.e. friends, classes, stuff to do, addresses, phone numbers, supplies, wish list, tomorrow, next week, next month.  A few of my classmates thought I was nuts and played a trick on me.  They stole the “precious planner.”  I went crazy!  The adrenalin was pumping; I was furious with these girls.  It felt like I had lost my purpose, I wasn’t aware that this habitual recording of tasks was such an intrinsic part of my being.  It was embarrassing.  I decided to pretend it didn’t matter and said nothing.  Instead, I created another one, this time bigger and better and under lock and key.

As my life became more complicated in my late 20’s, this habit escalated to an addiction.  Several times each day I needed to check my lists, which by now had become a detailed card catalogue.  I used 5 by 7 index cards, color-coded by type of activity.  If the card became too messy with lines drawn through completed tasks, I would copy what was “left to do” on another card, starting a whole new list.  The wooden box which held my “memory” was too bulky to carry with me so I would take only the cards I needed for the day.  Sometimes in the middle of the afternoon I would check these descriptive details just to be sure I hadn’t forgotten something.  At the time it didn’t matter to me that this was obsessive-compulsive behavior because I was totally dependent on my “paper brain” and couldn’t function without it.  Besides, I kept my “index madness” secret and therefore didn’t need to discuss it with anyone.  This was one of the many ways I tried to gain control over my life.

When I became involved with Joey, my ex-husband of 12 years, my sickness of codependency gushed out of control.  I attempted to organize the man, his daily activities and his personal affairs.  I was convinced he would fall apart if I didn’t.  I began recording for two.  I have an incredible story to share with you that will illustrate how warped my thinking had become.

Joey’s mother was quite ill and he hadn’t visited her in Boston for a few years.  I had only briefly met his parents before we moved to California.  I knew how much he missed his family and how important it was for him to take the trip back east.  We had several garage sales with goods and pottery to pay for his ticket.  For weeks I scoured sales at department stores buying clothes so that he would have the proper attire.  I purchased a suitcase as large as a trunk for the one week journey.  Then I proceeded to list the items that I was planning to pack for him with instructions on “what to wear with what.”  This meant spreading out the articles all over the apartment and methodically counting and coordinating each item.  The process took many hours and days of concentrated work.

Please, promise me you will read all these original lists carefully, as tedious as they might be, for I want you to see the excessiveness of my codependency and the need I had to control another person’s life.  I discovered theses sheets of paper hidden in my dresser years after I had begun recovery.  I am sure Joey never read the lists.  Who, in their right mind, would ever read something like this, let alone use it?  It is not understandable.  This may be one of the most unbalanced acts of my addictive personality.  IT IS ABSOLUTELY INSANE.

PANTS:  (Dress and Casual) 1. Camel Angel Flights  2. Navy Angel Flights  3. Gray Angel Flights  4. Blue Jeans  5. Gray Drawstrings  6. Navy Drawstrings  7. Rust Drawstrings  8. Gray Herringbone  9. Taupe and Gray Tweed  10.Gray-Black-White Specks  Total = 10 pairs of pants

SHIRTS:  (Dress, Pullover and Casual) A. Black Dress Shirt  B. Camel & Black Checked Dress Shirt  C. Black & White Checked Dress Shirt  D. Cranberry Pullover with Two Buttons  E. Void F. Nik-Nik Horse Scene Gray G. Blue, White, Mauve & Brown Cowboy  H. Plaid Navy with Stand Up Collar I. Brown, Gray & White with Stand Up Collar  J. Gray Silky Dress Shirt  K. Dark Brown with Camel & Rust Collar  L. Black Rust & Gray with Stand Up Collar  M. White Errol Flynn  O. Brown & White Shirt Blouse  N. Navy, Red Picture Shirt  P. White Over Blouse with Lace  Q. Blue & White Striped   R. S. T. U. V. Crossed Out  W. Camel & Brown Dress Shirt  X. White on White Dress Shirt  Total = 21 shirts

SWEATERS:   T1 – Navy Blue Solid Pullover  T2 – Camel & Rust Short Sleeve  T3 – Powder Blue with White & Navy Stripe  T4 – Black Knit  T5 – Wine Knit with Long Sleeves  T6 – Camel & Gray Knit  T7 – Navy Blue with Knit Shoulders  T8 – Gray with Blue & Red Stripes  Total = Eight sweater

UNDERWEAR:  Nine-Bikinis  Six-White  One-Turquoise  Total = 16 pairs of underwear

T-SHIRTS:  (Three for daytime, Six for sleeping)  Daytime Teal Blue – Orange, Beige & White Striped   Sleeping  Blue with Red at Neck (Hole, the collar) – Powder Blue  Orange & Orange – Face Shirt – Dark Navy – Yellow   Total = Nine t-shirts

SOCKS:  5 Gray (for Gray Shoes)  6 Brown (for Brown Shoes)  5 Camel (Beige, for Brown Shoes)  6 Navy (for Brown Shoes)  2 Wine (for Brown Shoes) 3 Rust  (for Rust Shoes)  Total = 27 pair of socks

JACKETS:  O – Velvet  # – Plaid  ^ – Leather Coat  * – Blue Gray Wind Breaker  Total = Four jackets

SHOES:   AA – Gray Loafers  BB – Brown Leather  CC – Rust Patent Leather  DD – Macramé  EE – Slippers  FF – Thongs  Total = Six pairs of shoes

VESTS:  Z – One Burlap  Total = one vest

TIES:  I – Tree (Camel & Beige)  II – Beige Knotty  III – Cranberry and Beige  IV – Black and Brown Striped  V – Dark Blue Knotty  Total = five ties

SHORTS:  MM – Rust  ^^ – Cranberry  Total = two pairs of shorts

BELTS:   00 – Dark Brown  ** – Black  (( – Tan  Total = three belts

BATHING SUIT:  One Multi-Colored Bathing Suit  Total = one bathing suit

BODY SUIT:  One Black Body Suit  Total = one body suit

SCARVES:   One White Scarf  Total = one scarf

DRUGSTORE AND COSMETICS  ITEMS:  1. Bar of  Soap  2. Revlon Face Soap  3. Shampoo  4. Razor  5.  Razor Blades  6. Comb  7. Brush  8.  Nose Scissors (Found in Red Sewing Kit)  9. Electric Razor  10. Hair Dryer  11. RNA Face Cream  11. Musk oil  12. Cologne (After Shave)  13. Eye Wash (Drops)  14. Nail Clippers  15. Scotch Tape  16. Toothbrush  17.  Toothpaste  18. Deodorant  19. Hand Lotion (Two Bottles)  20. Aspirin   21. Small Dental Floss  22. Suntan Oil  23. Sponges to Clean Luggage  24. Film  25. Camera  26. Shoe Polish (Two Bottles)  27. Rags  28. Shoe Horn  29. Herb-Lax  Total = 29 items

QUICK CHECK LIST FOR CARRY ON SHOULDER BAG:  1. Umbrella  2. Large Black Notebook  3. Passport  4. Small Notebook  5. Long Folder for Cards etc.)  6.  Book, Living Sober  7.  Kleenex  8.  Sunglasses (Two pairs)  9. Magazines (Two)  10. Books (Two)  11. Small Leather Bag  Total = 14 items

SMALL LEATHER BAG FOR INSIDE CARRY ON SHOULDER BAG:  a) Travelers Checks  b) Wallet  c) Address Book  d) Cigarettes  e) Matches  f) Comb  g) Pen  h) Green Round Comb  Total = Eight items

HINTS:  1. Match the socks with the shoe first, but if you can’t, match the pants.  (Unless the code says differently.)  2. Wear the three t-shirts (teal blue, purple and orange-rust) with the gray and rust drawstring.  Also, with the rust and purple shorts.  Vary all bright colors (interchange.)  3. There are six t-shirts for sleeping . . . . See list.  4. Match the belts with the shoes:  Black with gray shoes, Brown with brown shoes, Brown with rust shoes, with the crochet shoes match the belt with the pants or wear brown.  5. I forgot to list the two navy sweaters (powder blue with stripes and gray with blue.)  Wear these two with blue jeans or navy angel flights.  6. EXTRA plastic bags are for dirty laundry.  7. Use rust patent shoes with camel and rust if you need a change from brown shoes.


As I read over these lists today I am filled with a sense of pity for my former self.  This speaks volumes to how I spent my time obsessing over my alcoholic man.  I thank God for my recovery.  An example of my good health is the form of list making I do today.  I have one list for myself.  When I am ready to pack I check off necessities using the same list each time.  Only after years of use, when it is tattered, do I make a new one.  I consider this to be practical, not neurotic.  As for my husband Bryan and my teenage daughter, they do their own packing. 

Recently I took a trip East and packed the whole suitcase without looking at the list.  When I arrived I discovered I had forgotten my favorite blow dryer comb.  Did I freak?  No.  I considered it an opportunity to be inventive and create a new hairdo.  It worked.  I do believe planning saves time and organizational tools such as I Phones and Blackberrys are helpful but I most enjoy a small tablet listing daily chores.  This is no longer obsessive, just a reminder of “what’s up” in my busy world.  What about you?