To match or not to match: this time pegs

So a few weeks ago, we posted a piece about matching underwear which caused quite a heated debate. Little did we know that the next animated discussion would be about pegs!

I know where and when the subject came up, but not how. I was at an indoor garden party (you know, the type we hold all summer long in this country) on Saturday afternoon. In a room full of women of a certain age. And the conversation turned to pegs. Now the majority of women in that room all agreed vociferously that pegs have to match. And some went further. That there is an order of colour in which items must be hung out on the line apparently. And an order of size – largest towel to smallest, for example.

I couldn’t help myself. It may have been the mojito.

You are all a bunch of nutters!

Reflecting in the car on the way home, I started to wonder if it was indeed me that was the nutter. If they all agreed, then didn’t that make their behaviour normal and mine abnormal? If I was the odd one out, then was it me that was weird?

We make judgements based on our own behaviour all the time. We naturally do things our own way, the best way for us. Maybe simply the best way. So then anyone who chooses to do it differently is less than normal. When I admitted that I do not always wash my whites separately from my coloureds, there was an audible sigh in the room. The looks on some faces were unforgettable.

My mum used to call anyone who did that a dirty washer!

That was one comment that passed one friend’s lips.

People started to admit to other such tendencies. They seemed relieved that they were not alone. That they no longer need to battle with feelings of shame and embarrassment. That there were other people out there like them.

And there seem to be an awful lot of people out there like them.

pegsAnd some others, like me, who just do not get it at all. Matching pegs – what’s that all about? Why on earth would anyone feel the need to do that? And how do they feel on edge until they have put it right?

I love that the next day, one of the women taking part in that discussion, Susan, deliberately used random pegs. And posted a picture on Facebook to prove it.

I put a call out on Facebook for other examples of what I described as OCD tendencies (for want of a better description).

Linda was the first to reply –

I like to line the the light switches up so on each landing the all face up or down. I do it because it looks neat and symmetrical. I also peg out with the same number of coloured pegs on washing eg two blue and two white pegs. I enjoy it looking pretty and symmetrical. I change both if not ordered how I like it. Lol sounds awful in print xxxxxx

Ditch the apology, Linda. We’re all friends here. But you see, I’ve know Linda for coming up to 20 years and I never knew this about her. Because people feel they have to keep these little idiosyncrasies hidden. But it appears they are far more common than you might imagine.

Susan also worries about what other people may think of her –

I like to have books, CDs & DVDs in alphabetical order.
Labels on tins (in cupboard) have to face to the front.
Plus clothes in my wardrobe are colour ordered from dark to light.
Think I’ll stop now before you think I’m weird…

So what constitutes weird exactly? Different to me? Then pretty much everyone out there is weird – like Sandra and Barbara and all the others with ‘strange little foibles’.

She goes on to say –

Have thought of another – volume on tv, stereo etc needs to be an even number.
Ok I need help!

You probably don’t, you know Susan. It’s not like these things have a negative effect on your life. You say that once things are ordered, it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to maintain order. No one is harmed by your preferences. You carry on a normal life (whatever that is). Don’t worry about it. Just be yourself.

Sometimes you may feel that your little habit has become too big of a deal and then you can decide to do something about it. Like Lorna –

I used to line up the chocolate biscuits in the tin but once I let that go I felt so happy as this was a daily task!

It appears that this little Facebook exercise has been helpful to those who feel they have secrets such as these.

Lorna: I’m so reassured to read all the above comments..

Linda: Feeling happier to read this so can now own up to lining toilet rolls so that the flap is all the same way lol.

However, those of us who do not do these things seem to be left feeling a little unnerved. Like Marj –

My, I must be a right messy woman after reading these comments as everything is just squeezed in in cupboards in any way possible…

And Julie –

Oh dear don’t know where that leaves me – I can’t think of anything that I do!!! X

Us non-matchers have some pretty strong opinions too!

Amanda: never even occurred to me but living in Scotland I am a big fan of the tumble dryer x

Sheila: I don’t hang out washing…toooo busy living my life.

Ruth: I have trouble matching socks never mind pegs!

Joanne: Gerra grip!!!! Matching pegs!!!!!

Kirsty:  I think I’m amazing if I’ve got enough pegs to hang our washing out!!

Rachel: Life is too short!

Well, where does that leave us? Pretty divided down the middle, I would say. Of course, as Karen points out, this has not been a discussion about actual OCD –

I don’t do it either – not that matching clothes pegs on its own is actually comparable to full OCD, being a potentially debilitating mental illness which shouldn’t be taken lightly IMO.

Describing these obsessive tendencies as OCD is pretty much the same as describing having an off day as clinical depression, I get that.

OCD, the little I know of it, can be a truly horrific condition to live with. And there’s that whole other side of the condition, where thoughts of disaster creep in and cannot be dislodged –

there’s a kind of OCD called ‘pure’ OCD (or pure O) which is less physically obvious, about disturbing thought patterns or not being able to control our thoughts – more obsessive, less compulsive! I often find when I get stressed or anxious that the little intrusive thoughts which everyone gets (maybe I left the oven on and the house will burn down / maybe my family are in a car accident / maybe I’ll get attacked / maybe I have some horrible disease) get much more exaggerated and much harder to ignore, sometimes to the extent where then I can’t focus on something else.

Thank you, Elaine.

One final thought: it seems to me that much of this is about control. We live in a world where much of what goes on is outside of our control and sometimes, little actions like this help to make us feel more in control. That everything is in order. Even I turn to sorting out a drawer when I am feeling particularly stressed.

We do what we can to make life more manageable. We do what we need to do to survive.

So let’s not judge the coping mechanisms of others. Let’s celebrate diversity. Let’s realise that there is no such thing as normal.

So Susan, if you want to go back to using matching pegs, I will not judge you. You do what’s right for you.




  1. Eileen Ridley July 4, 2016 / 10:24 pm

    Hahaha! Will be very careful what I admit to in your company Helen Redfern! Love it

  2. Karen Dodgson July 20, 2016 / 9:42 pm

    Oh I so enjoyed reading this! I only recently found your blog as I sing with Inspiration Leeds and saw the link to your concert blog, which I also loved reading. But this! Oh it’s so great to know I’m not alone with my pegs! I have to peg my washing with matching pairs of pegs, and where possible the pegs have to match or at least coordinate with the item being pegged! Sometimes I try and use odd pegs to get over myself, but I always have to go back outside and put the right pegs together ten minutes later!
    I’d like to say I’m normal in all other areas of my life, but my friends and family might say different ?

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