Don’t Touch My Stuff

Updated: Feb 1


It isn’t my favorite part of my personality.


And it’s something I’m working on. I’ve come a long way.


I can feel very possessive of “my stuff”. I imagine some of this comes from a broken message within me that there isn’t enough.


All of my possessions have a specific place where they belong, and I hate it when they’re not where they’re supposed to be. If something is gone or missing, it means I might not have what I need. And that sends me into a panic.


It’s like when you reach for your cell phone in your front pocket only to find the pocket empty. There’s that split-second where you know it’s been stolen and your body and brain freak out accordingly. Thankfully, at least so far, every time I’ve had that experience, it turns out I put my phone somewhere else. Somewhere I don’t usually put it.


This is how I feel when everything is not in its place. Also sometimes when things aren’t handled the way I like them to be (putting the toilet seat down, for example).


I use something. I put it back where it came from. Where it belongs. I hate wasting time searching for something that is always one place but is now suddenly missing.


For most of my adult married life, I could walk into any room in my house and tell if something had been moved. It’s like my eyes had a sixth sense about what a room should look like, and I could zero in on what wasn’t in its spot. I still have this sense, but I am working to let that laser-focus part of me have lots of time off, so it doesn’t rattle me so much if something gets moved.


The easiest way for something to not be where it belongs is if someone else touches it, which is precisely why I hate it when other people touch my stuff!


After seventeen years of marriage, I mostly have my husband trained as to where the important things go. And, should he forget, I’m right here to help remind him. I’m pretty sure he really appreciates that part.

It’s one thing to train a husband and another to train visitors. They come around much less frequently. And they love you … in a different way. A less “in sickness and in health so long as we both shall live” kind of way. All this to say, they are less easily trained!


For years, I had a very hard time when people came over. The toilet seat left up. Water not wrung out from the kitchen sponge. Plates and bowls not put back in color order. Pots and pans returned to random shelves.


Writing this short list makes me feel silly for the extreme anxiety I felt at the time. It all seems so “no big deal” to think about now. But, back then, I felt safe and secure with everything in its place. And I felt anxious and out of sorts when things were moved about.


Maybe I shouldn’t say I have a problem with people touching my stuff so much as I have a problem with them moving it!


The same “don’t touch my stuff” issue plagues me at the theatre. In every dressing room, I have my own chair and mirror to put on my makeup, get into costume, and make any costume or makeup changes throughout the show. At every theatre, with every show, I set up my station and create a routine.


In 2018, I did a production of Hairspray. I played several roles, so I wore several different wigs. I have short hair and have to prepare my hair in a specific way, using clips and an elastic band, in order to provide a place to securely fasten my wigs so they don’t come off onstage.


In addition to my makeup, I had my hair clips and elastic band organized and laid out at my station. I brought my own hand towel and laid everything I needed for the show out on it. All of my stuff in one organized place. Set out perfectly for me. Just as I needed it.


One day I came into my dressing room and saw some of my clips had been moved. And my elastic hairband was haphazardly tossed across my eyeshadow and blush containers.


Was someone sitting at my station?I asked my dressing roommate.

“Oh yeah, Brandon was in here talking to me. He was playing with your stuff.”


My blood boiled. My face felt flush.


Why was he touching my stuff?


I felt embarrassed and stupid for being so annoyed with his behavior. It was just stuff. It was all here. He hadn’t meant any harm.

But it wasn’t his stuff. What if he had lost something? I only had what I needed set out. What if he lost something and I didn’t have enough?

A week or so later, it happened again. This time, I was having a really hard day before stepping foot in the theatre.


I walked into my dressing room, sat down, and saw my station was disheveled.


“Was Brandon in here again?”


“Yeah, he came by for a chat.”

Strong exhale. Holding back tears.


I counted my clips.


Five.


I use six.

WHERE WAS THE SIXTH HAIR CLIP???


I dropped my head to catch my breath and try to suck the tears back in through my tear ducts. My eyes landed on a hair clip, casually hanging out on the floor.


Number six had been found. Thank God.


“I feel like I need to put a sign on my station: Don’t touch my fucking stuff!”

I probably should have kept that part in my inside (my head) voice, but I was beyond that kind of self-control at the moment.


No success getting the tears back in. They fell on my lap.


I felt embarrassed for exposing the control freak inside me who needs to have everything in its place in order to feel balanced. Who needs to know that there is enough to do the task at hand. Who needs to know there is some order in this world.

I don’t know that I will ever overcome this broken programming within, but the more I can help the scared little control freak inside me believe that it’s all going to be okay, the better off we all are. Especially me.

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