The Sock Basket

The Sock Basket by @jcstaff_

Several years ago, I came up with a solution to the socks that go astray, and get separated from their partners in the laundry room crowd.  A small wicker basket, the size of a shoebox was designated The Sock Basket.  I explained the new system to my family, who were likely only half-listening.

“Clean and dry odd socks go in here.  Every week or so, we will go through it and pair up what we can.  By then, most of the socks should be reunited with their partners.”  At this point, I will add that an average week for us sees about 15-18 loads through the washing machine.  I know.

For a while, The Sock Basket lived downstairs, but soon overflowing, it made its way up to our bedroom.  Weeks would pass and no one would sort through The Sock Basket.  The children would come in, rifle it for a pair, and then leave the rest of the oddies all over our floor.  Sometimes, they would give up and just find two distantly-related socks, perhaps similar in colour and think “That’ll do” before leaving the rest of the basket still full of clean, single socks.

Once, the youngest child spent a few creative hours in her room working on crafts.  She emerged near dinnertime, proudly showcasing a small range of sock puppets she had made for her school mates.  Yep, out of The Sock Basket socks.  At this point, after praising the child’s artistic spirit, I demanded a sock amnesty.  The children found a few spare socks under beds and in drawers which could be matched with some of the sock puppets, and could now be discarded.  Yet still the sock basket was full.

Despite the pairing of socks in The Sock Basket being a very easy task which any 3 year old of average development could manage, no one ever bothered to do it except me.  It was even more strongly avoided than tasks like washing up or cleaning the kitty litter trays.  When the sock basket overflowed, I would become irritated enough to sit on the floor for 10 minutes and sort out as many pairs as I could before putting the no-mates socks back.  The population of no-mates socks was increasing at a wild rate.A pile of socks of different colors. Many socks of different ...

Recently, I became completely irrationally fed up with The Sock Basket, or at least the lack of attention it received from anyone else in the house.  I sat on the floor for the millionth time to pair up what I could, moaning and mumbling about the lack of help from the family. Suddenly, in that moment of strong emotion, a revelation came to me.  Finding a spare box, I placed all the children’s socks in it (which was most of them) and headed down the hall to the children’s bedrooms.  “Here” I announced, to get their attention.  “Here is The Children’s Sock Basket.  Where would you like it to live?” I handed it to the three speechless, confused children with great deliberation, and walked away head held high, not waiting around to see what they did with it.

As for the original Sock Basket, it only has a few residents in it now, and I feel certain their partners will show up once the washing is caught up.  I tell you all this not to seem like some odd-sock-obsessed freak, but because the saga of The Sock Basket was a niggling annoyance that would sometimes add to whatever else I was trying to manage that day.  Sometimes, in fact, it became almost that symbolic item that was the culmination of all the areas of my life I felt were out of control.

So I made a simple change and all the hassle it was causing me vanished in a moment of peace as I handed over the control of the children’s odd socks to the children themselves. I have no faith whatsoever that The Children’s Sock Basket will ever get sorted through.  It will sit there like a graveyard for all the socks until one day, the children will declare they have run out of pairs of socks.  At that point, I will likely step in, but I will cross that bridge when we come to it.

My point is, this illustrates how easy it is sometimes to remove something off our plates when we feel overloaded.  Also, how super important it is to delineate what is our responsibility, and what we can actually delegate to others, to help share the weight.  Our own wellbeing can be supported by sometimes making a tiny little change that can have a big impact on how overburdened we feel.  For now, I enjoy the calm in our bedroom with a nearly empty sock basket sitting quietly in the corner. I can relax and feel a little liberated, having lifted the responsibility off my shoulders, knowing I am no longer sole sock-pairer for a family of five.

5 comments to The Sock Basket

  • Caroline

    We have a sock bag. It lives in the airing cupboard so I can’t see it. I’m the only person who sorts it out. One day I will just get rid of them all. You’re so right though about letting the little things get to you. Is it a particularly female thing to think that we have to take on the responsibility of fixing everyone’s problems or sorting things out? Lately when my kids ask me to get them something, I tell them – you do it, I empower you to do it for yourself!

  • Nikki

    We solved the sock problem with our youngest, he deliberately wears odd socks

  • Good for you for setting that boundary!