Another Kind of OCD

Aug 9, 2015

Those of us who took Abnormal Psych back in the day learned about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. As such, the wry observation that someone is OCD gets bandied about a bit too casually these days. But I submit that there is a new kind of OCD afoot, one that didn’t exist when we Boomers were in college.

It’s Obsessive Costco Disorder and I very much fear my dear husband has it. The disorder manifests in several ways. The first is an incessant need to extol the virtues of Costco. The amazing quality of the merchandise! The extraordinarily low prices! The serendipity of it all! Then there is the strange suspension of common sense. To wit: Is it actually efficient for a physician who works 80 hours per week to drive 20 minutes to wait in line for 40 minutes to save 20 cents per gallon for gasoline? (I calculate this to be about a $7.00 savings.) Am I missing something here?

And then there is the Las Vegas Syndrome. You know the one, wherein money isn’t really money in Vegas. My husband, praise G-d, doesn’t suffer from the Vegas malady, but it translates all too well to Costco. The absolute amount of money you spend apparently doesn’t matter, because “It’s such a good buy!” The fact that you don’t need 24 rolls of paper towels and 3 new sweatshirts is irrelevant because “IT’S SUCH A GOOD BUY!”

The laws of physics are apparently also suspended. Costco sells high quality shirts, you see, at wondrously low prices. And you can keep buying them and stuffing them into drawers without ever throwing existing old shirts away. And you will still have plenty of room. The shirts will not overflow the dresser, nor take over the belt and tie space, nor pile up on the closet floor. Of course not, for such is the magic of Costco.

And finally, dear Reader, there is the need to stock up on vast quantities of huge bottles and boxes of items as if the Apocalypse were upon us. This is instead of the reality that we are a couple – two people – who are blessed to have half our children and numerous grandchildren living locally and visiting frequently. But they have their own houses with Costco inventory, as it happens. So why do we need enough mayonnaise, dishwashing liquid and cereal boxes for the U.S. Army mess? Or jugs of olive oil too heavy for me to lift? Yes, we use olive oil. But I couldn’t get through this amount in six months. Doesn’t anyone know the stuff goes rancid?

For years my husband and I have had what I might euphemistically call a difference of opinion about household inventory. I’ve persisted in buying one or two small-to-medium bottles of shampoo, cold-pressed olive oil or liquid soap at a time at the supermarket. And he has continued to buy enough of everything to quarter the California National Guard if need be. You never know, after all. He has accused me of being a spendthrift, because the price per ounce of my little shampoo versus his is higher. Never mind that his once slid out of my hand in the shower and nearly broke my toe; I digress. As far as he is concerned, I spend money indiscriminately.

And then, dear Reader, I had an epiphany. Belated, I grant you, but at least it finally occurred to me. Our house was built in 1929. We still have the original kitchen, including the original terracotta tile counters and wooden cabinets with beveled glass and black hinges. I kid you not. I’ve only made two changes in the 30+ years we’ve lived here: I built in a stove (since the house came with a Bunsen burner), using tile I found in a salvage yard to match the original tile. And I put in a Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer and had paneling made to match the original cabinetry. I like antiques and I believe in preserving as much as possible of old houses. Ours has all the original French doors, wood flooring, tile and brickwork. It’s an old Spanish hacienda and we bought it because we loved it, so why would we change it?

But while older houses of this vintage tend to have quality construction and fine architectural detail, one thing they lack that new houses have aplenty is storage space. The closets are small. The shelves are narrow. And kitchen storage is at a premium. Our so-called pantry is one shallow closet with cubbies smaller than you find in your average pre-school. The overflow goes into one garage cabinet. That’s it for all the paper goods, body wash and ketchup bottles on steroids that my husband wants to buy. The bathrooms have the original pedestal sinks – lots of charm but, alas, no big cabinets there either.

And so it dawned on me: Everyone we know who lives in a house either lives in a fairly new one, where there are huge walk-in closets with deep shelves built with big-box stores in mind. Or people live in old houses with remodeled kitchens and huge walk-in pantries with deep shelves just the right size for all the bounty of Costco.

I never had the slightest desire to remodel my kitchen. But I told my dear husband that if he wanted to spend whatever it costs these days to re-do the kitchen ($50,000? $80,000?), knock out walls and install gigantic cabinets, then we could certainly begin saving money at Costco. We could buy big jugs of anything his heart desired! All those paper towels! The shampoo! Just think of it!

Need I say, dear Reader, that since we had that little chat, I have not endured the slightest criticism of my penchant for buying small shampoo and spice bottles? But he, the dear man, still comes home with boxes full of wonderful treasures from Costco and searches in vain for a place to store them. His car does have a big trunk, though.

As I said, Obsessive Costco Disorder.