About ten years ago I came to the realization that I was classifying Common and Clean items incorrectly. Because I did not see anyone touching them, objects that one would pick up on a store shelf were categorized as Clean. What was I thinking?! Of course, they are not clean at all. What prompted me to rethink this was a situation at my job. When I was working as a receptionist and I went on my breaks, another person would have to come to my desk and fill in. She was a smoker, and when I returned from my breaks, I could smell the smoke on my phone, the phone that I was holding to my face. (Ugh!) Later on I got a headset, and she would wear my headset when I was on a break. I was so disgusted by this that once I got to work and put on the headset, I could not touch my face or hair the remainder of the day. That was very inconvenient. I was so happy when I got a promotion to another position where I did not have to answer phones and no one had to fill in at my desk during breaks.
Even after I had a more private desk, it got to the point where I would not touch my face, hair, shoulders, or my purse at work unless I had just washed my hands. Once I started touching paperwork or files, my hands were placed squarely in the Dirty class, this, of course, being because I saw all of the non-washers (people who do not wash after using the restroom ) touching the same objects that I was. I would wash my hands shortly before leaving work for the day, and then shut down my computer using a folded tissue.
All of this was before I had a Common class. Before that things were basically clean or dirty with no in between. Then I started thinking how much easier my life would be if I had a Common germ category. I could put my purse in that category, and even my face (excluding lips) into that category, and then I could go shopping and handle money and touch paperwork at the office and still be able to touch my face as long as I used hand sanitizer, or later, spritzed with alcohol. I debated for a few days before deciding to take the plunge. I remember it well; it was in September. And it lived up to my expectations. It did make it possible to live a more normal life. At times it is difficult to keep things in the Common category because of the way I see other people live, but I force myself to continue with my current system as I would otherwise end up as a recluse, and I do not want to live like Howard Hughes.
This leaves Clean and Super-clean. What falls into Clean? As it was with Dirty, I do not find many items to place in this class. I want to put clean dishes and clean clothes into this category, but what happens is, when dishes come out of the dishwasher, the insides are Super-clean but the outsides are immediately Common as soon as I touch them with my Common hands. Clothes coming out of the dryer are placed on Common hangers except for the clothes I sleep in, which are placed on isolated hangers that have been sanitized in the dishwasher.
So, what is left is this. When I get out of the shower I feel Super-clean. But feet can never be Super-clean because they are always on the floor. I can then get into my Super-clean bed since my sheets and bedspread were sanitized in the high-heat dryer. I have a few objects that I put on my designated Super-clean bookshelves, e.g., floss, cotton swabs, wrapped wet wipes for emergencies, and lip balm. Little else can be Super-clean. How do objects such as cotton swabs get into this class? I count on heat to sanitize them. Whenever I have seen products being manufactured on TV, at some point, high temperatures are part of the process. If this is not the case for cotton swabs, I don’t want to know. I need to believe that they are sanitary. When I buy them, I open the package and dump them onto my Super-clean bookshelf.
It appears that I really have three main classes as little falls into the simple Dirty or Clean categories, but I know they exist for a reason. And this is the system I have devised to survive.