"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
August 8, 2013
Sock Management
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


I hate pairing socks. It takes too long and I always end up with more orphans than pairs. I dread doing it, and now I have a giant bag of unmatched socks in the corner of my laundry room. Suggestions?


The way to solve your problem is to fold each load of laundry immediately when it comes out of the dryer. As you fold, lay out each sock on top of your machine (or bed or wherever you are folding). When its mate comes out of the drum, fold them together immediately.

As for your giant bag of socks, the only way to match and fold them is to match and fold them. Sort by color, then by style. Get an audiobook and get going. Or you could pay a child to do it, make a child do it as a consequence for bad behavior (although I do not recommend linking laundry tasks to punishment — it’s unfair to the laundry), or make it a fun parent-child activity with a puzzle-loving child.

Once you have your bag of socks paired, maintain the order by always pairing socks right out of the dryer. The inevitable small stash of orphans can be kept where you fold clothes and checked against each load as random socks turn up. If a sock’s mate doesn’t turn up within a few months, you can throw it away.

Does that sound do-able?

Or does it sound awful?

Because if that sounds awful to you, and if you have no higher purpose for matching and folding that big bag of socks, I don’t think you should actually do it. Some unpleasant tasks must be learned and conquered. But spending painful hours pairing old socks that may or may not have mates is a waste of time unless you enjoy it as recreation. Life is too short.

Instead, start over with a new system: Buy all new socks that all match each other.

Here’s how it would work:

First, throw away all your socks and start over. Is that wasteful? Not really. If your socks are in a huge, unmatched pile somewhere, it’s almost the same as not having them because they are in the pile and not in your sock drawer. You might as well throw them away and get some socks that you will actually wear because they are easy to launder, match, fold, and put away.

Don’t donate your old socks. No one wants them. Don’t plan to turn them into dust rags or crafts. You don’t need that many dust rags and I bet you’ll never actually make the crafts.

Second, go to the store and buy only one brand of sock in each color, style, and size. Buy ten or twelve identical pairs of everyday socks for each person in your family.

You might purchase only Hanes, which have a size-specific colored logo under the toe to help you match them. Matching socks is a snap when you only have to look at the color of the word “Hanes:” greens belong to Clementine, reds to Josh, blues to Jeff and Larry, and blacks to Dad.

The goal is to make sure every sock is easily distinguishable, so you could also buy different brands for different family members as long as there is an obvious logo or style difference for each person’s socks: Adidas belong to Frank, Nike mid-calfs to Trevor, Nike ankle socks to Sylvia, and the plain white ones are yours.

You can do the same with black socks, brown socks, and dress socks (although you don’t need to buy as many pairs of dress socks for people who only wear them once a week). Patterned socks are also easy to match.

Third is the maintenance step. When any sock gets a hole, throw it (and its mate, if it is a patterned sock) right in the trash. When a sock is stained or filthy beyond laundering, throw it away. When you are down to only a few dingy pairs of a certain color, throw them all away and buy new ones. That way, you don’t have a mish-mash of dingy and bright socks.

What if you have a very large family? This system is even more important for you! What could be easier than eliminating the sock mess by purchasing only socks that match? I knew one very large family that only had two kinds of socks for everyone: white and black. All the white matched and all the black matched and everyone could spend their time worrying about more important things.

This system may seem superficially wasteful, but socks are only worth a minimal amount of your time and mental energy. If matching socks is hard for you, spend some money and make it easy.

You see, this is one of the happy problems in life you can solve with money. Not every problem can be solved with money, so when the opportunity arises, take it! That’s what money is for!

True, no one should be wasteful — it is important to be a good steward of your resources.

But being a good steward isn’t just about hoarding your money and spending as little as you can. It’s about using your resources for the things you need to make life run smoothly. And that includes spending money to fix problems that are just not worth your time and aggravation, whether or not you could fix them with extra effort or diligence.

You don’t get bonus points for not spending money on things you actually need or for doing everything the hard way.

You don’t need to burn up your mental and emotional resources on the inconsequential flotsam of life, like socks. It’s often worth it to spend extra dollars in order to conserve your emotional energy for serious stuff, like disobedient children.

This principle applies to cheap pans that burn your dinner every day, shoes that kill your back, broken measuring cups in the kitchen, and other small problems that can be solved with a little money. Bigger budget items, like cars that need constant repair, obviously require more planning. But for small items, save yourself the unnecessary daily aggravation so you can focus your attention on more important things.

In other words, socks are not that expensive. Just go get some new ones.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!

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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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