A Problem with Clutching to Perfection

IMG_0042Have you ever realized too late that you made a mistake? Maybe blamed your son for a broken vase, only to find out later your daughter broke it? Or criticized your coworker for an error, only to learn that it was actually your fault? I thought about this today as I noticed my jacket hanging on the back of the dining room chair.

Neil had a habit of hanging his coat on the dining room chair whenever he came in, even though a beautiful coat rack lined the hallway only a few feet away. In fact, sometimes he even walked past the rack to put his jacket on the chair! The perfectionist in me hated that. Everything has its place and belongs in it I mumbled to myself when I saw that coat on the chair. I dramatically moved it to the coat rack, muttering “humph” a few times to make my point.

Fast-forward to current day. I am the only one in the house and where do I hang my coat? I hang it on the dining room chair, of course. Somehow that seems cozier than a perfect line of jackets on a rack in the hall. It makes the house feel relaxed and comfortable and welcoming.

And here we come to my mistake. Maybe Neil felt the same way, but I don’t know; I never asked. I simply moved his coat, implying as I did that I knew better and didn’t approve of his choice. This also leads to the somewhat painful question of how many other things I don’t know because I simply assumed my way was “right.” A problem far deeper than a disagreement about where things belong, it illustrates my tendency to subject others to my ideals without consideration for theirs.

        I can’t change anything that happened with Neil, but I can change how I relate to other people now. I can accept that others have their own idea of how things should be, and if I don’t ask and surrender my idea of perfection, they might not get theirs. So next time the girls come home, for example, I will ask them where they want to hang their coats. And if they say leaving them on the back of a chair makes our house feel cozy and welcoming, I will leave those coats right there!


  1. Have you thought that maybe if Neil liked hanging his coat on the chair, he might equally like the fact that you picked it up and returned it to it’s “proper” place?
    There is something comforting and cosy about knowing that your spouse will pick up that coat and hang it up EVERY TIME!!! Those predictable interactions between people provide a unique kind of comfort and remind us that we are together and this is one of our little quirks!!! The perfectionism that you accuse yourself of may have been a source of loving amusement to Neil! You are who you are and that is who he loved here and continues to love from heaven!!!

  2. Well, my husband walks by the coatrack and also hangs his jacket on the dining room chair ( or hangs the shirts on the bedroom doorknob). 41 years of this, I don’t say anything anymore, but I AM guilty of moving them and hanging them up….. !!!! Colleen, you have me thinking!!!!! 🙂

  3. I think sometimes it depends on who leaves the coat there. I could see me getting “humphy” about a coat on a chair, but if it was my dad or mom visiting and they did it, I would love the fact that their coat is on the chair and that they were there. It just signaled the fact that they were visiting and I always let them take over the house and the warmth was overwhelming. With all my cadet visitors, the girls can do anything and get away with it (lay on the couch taking a nap, make a mess in the kitchen, etc). The second a guy does it, I internally get fired up. Go figure.

What do you think? Leave a reply to let me know!