List-making OCD

“Folder, journal, book, phone, computer. Folder journal, book, phone, computer,” I say in my mind on repeat, listing the items I’m carrying upstairs.

Then I remember, “This is OCD. I shouldn’t be ritualizing.” So I stop, sit with the small spike in anxiety, and continue with my evening.

List-making OCD is a flavor of OCD I’ve had for years. The obsession is that I won’t remember “important” information and the compulsion urge is to list it repeatedly. Truthfully, the information is unimportant and often nonsensical.

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Just some of the lists I had made and saved…

Years ago, when I was still deep in the trenches of OCD, I would make physical lists on post-it notes or in my phone because listing it in my head wasn’t enough. I didn’t trust my memory. I call it “information hoarding.” In the DSM hoarding falls under the OCD umbrella, so it makes sense that there would be similarities. I would make these physical lists, and then I was unable to throw out the post-its or delete the digital notes, at least not without feeling a rush of anxiety.

So, that’s exactly what I did as part of exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP) (with a therapist who specialized in OCD). It began with a dramatic act of literally setting all my saved post-it notes on fire. It was a fun way of showing OCD who was boss. Then, I got to work deleting some easier notes off my phone. I gradually increased the difficulty getting to information my OCD deemed “more important.”

Now if I’m being honest, there are still lists on my phone I could work on deleting. I’m in recovery from OCD, but that doesn’t mean I never do the occasional ritual (What Recovery from OCD Means to Me). The difference is I keep working on it, and the exposures cause me far less anxiety now.

And as a bonus, I intentionally messed up my list at the beginning of this post by omitting one item. I wasn’t going to let OCD ritualize that easily.


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    • Hi Morgan,
      not sure if you’re going to ready this since it’s been some time since you posted this entry. It’s a huge relief for me to read that I’m not the only one struggling with this exact same symptom of OCD. Anyway, I’m so proud of you that you’ve managed to overcome this – it’s a huge achievement, you’re a warrior and I hope you’ll get even better. And I hope I’ll get there too, sometime in the future.
      Keep up the AMAZING work! And best of luck to you! Best wishes from Poland 🥰


  1. Wow, this is so relatable for me. I struggle daily. I have dozens of lists on paper and on my phone. Once I start in my head its hard to stop. Purchasing items or food is a trigger. I don’t want to forget them so I list them obsessively. I don’t know how to cope or talk to people about this. I don’t know how to go about therapy. I am angry at myself for struggling so much. Any advice would be appreciated

    Liked by 1 person

    • Are you in treatment with an OCD specialist? For me, it was helpful to gradually make less and less lists and gradually destroy exiting lists. I had to sit with the uncertainty that I might forget something.


  2. Thank you for this article, I’m currently going to a therapist and working on my OCD tendencies. I have a similar compulsion of list making ever since I was younger. It used to be on sheets of paper and now has changed over to my notes on my phone being filled with pointless lists and words. I am glad to hear that we aren’t the only people who suffer with this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am an aspiring fiction writer. I have excessive lists of my main character’s personality traits and physical appearance. I am obsessed with constructing the “perfect” woman in looks and personality. I can never settle on what personality traits or physical appearance I like more because there is so much beauty in variety. Basically, I have been working on this story for five years still stuck in the brainstorming phase. Each day adding a new physical trait and personality trait. It never ends. I do not know if I could ever get rid of those lists. I have notes full of her physical descriptions. I know my main character’s BMI, body measurements, exact height, much percent of body fat she has, the length of her eyelashes. I wonder if I will ever break free. I am too scared of not knowing a particular detail.


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