Can Rearranging Furniture be Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

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People with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, perform rituals and repetitive behaviors such as overzealous handwashing, repeatedly checking to see if a light was turned off, or cleaning an area of the house over and over again. These are all activities that normal people do, but people with OCD do it in a repetitive or ritualistic manner – and they seem powerless to stop their compulsion to keep “cleaning” and “checking”. Even common things like redecorating the house can become a fixation. Can rearranging furniture be obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Can Rearranging Furniture Be Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

People with OCD are often obsessed with order. Order means stability to a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder, something they’re lacking on the inside. They’re usually meticulous and precise in how they approach a task, such as cleaning or rearranging, and are consummate perfectionists. This means they’re seldom satisfied with how they carry out a task, so they keep redoing or rearranging it in the hope of getting it “right”. In actuality, their constant preoccupation with order, symmetry and cleanliness hides a deeper anxiety and inner turmoil, and their repetitive actions help to direct their mind away from their fears and insecurities.

Constantly rearranging furniture can be an obsessive-compulsive disorder trait. The act of moving furniture around gives a person with OCD a way to avoid confronting deeper problems and keeps them from having to face anxiety and fear head on. Instead, they find some degree of solace in the simpler act of changing the furniture.

Rearranging Furniture and OCD

Everyone rearranges furniture, so when does it cross over the line into OCD behavior? A person without OCD may rearrange the furniture several times until they find an arrangement that pleases them. They want to be pleased with the results, but they don’t obsess over small things such as whether the chairs all line up precisely under the table - and their sense of security isn’t tied up in having everything “perfect”.

The person with obsessive-compulsive disorder, on the other hand, focuses in on minor details. For example, all of the books on the bookshelf must be evenly arranged in descending order of size. Even the way they reposition furniture may be ritualized – such as they can only move the furniture in one direction.

People with OCD are also obsessed with symmetry. They may spend hours changing the position of the furniture to make things completely stable and symmetrical. This is usually an anxiety-reducing behavior that helps them avoid dealing with their own feelings of instability and anxiety. Because people with obsessive-compulsive disorder are never convinced that things are symmetrical or perfect, they rearrange furniture – over and over again – much like the repetitive handwashing behavior that’s so common among OCD sufferers.

The Bottom Line

Rearranging furniture in a compulsive manner is not uncommon among people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. It becomes consistent with OCD when hours are spent obsessing over small details and symmetry and when rearranging furniture becomes such a frequent and ritualistic behavior that it takes over a person’s life. These are the signs to watch for.


American Family Physician, 80(3), 239-45.

Merck Manual. Eighteenth edition. 2006.