socksbybridgmanpotteryImage by Bridgman Pottery

I’m not really much of a housework type person. I don’t hate it, but it doesn’t interest me either. I can bear a fair bit of untidiness until I feel the need to tidy up.

One job that symbolises housework for me is sorting the socks after washing them. But I got to thinking about this piece of housework and it was kind of interesting.

It can be quite difficult to sort socks. I can easily get confused. There are so many of them and so many differences that it is hard to know which goes with which.

Here’s how I go about sorting the socks into pairs after they’ve been washed.

1. I discard all the things that clearly aren’t socks. Shirts, pants singlets and so forth.

2. I then look for the obvious differences between the socks. Long and short, different colours and so on.

3. Then I move on to less obvious differences. Perhaps a different style of band at the top of the sock.

In short it is a process of moving from the obvious to less obvious: an increasing refinement of perception.

I think this is a useful process for other times in our life. Let’s take an example of making a major change in our life.

1. When we are feeling confused and overwhelmed it is useful to start with what is obvious.
When we are making a major life change it may far more obvious what we don’t like or what we don’t want than what we do want. This stakes out a territory that we can explore. If my marriage has ended it may be that there are certain attribute of my old partner that I definitely don’t want in my new partner. This could still leave a large number of potentially new partners.

2. Obvious differences within the range available. Within the territory staked out there are other obvious differences. With new potential partners: some may only be interested in marriage, others may be definitely uninterested. Some will prefer a more traditional kind of relationship, others will be hostile to this, and others may dislike the idea of the relationship being decided in any way.

3. Ever finer detail. We start becoming aware of finer details. This partner likes the traditional kind of marriage, and wants to live in a particular kind of house in a particular area. This person wants to work 60 hours at their job and isn’t interested in living tidily. This person has a keen aesthetic sense and is extremely committed to their family.

Moral of the story: housework can be interesting, sometimes.

*“Socks” is the Australian spelling of ‘sox’ for those in other parts of the world.

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21 Comments to “Mental Health and Sorting Socks*”

  1. I’m afraid we don’t have much trouble sorting socks. My husband and I each buy one kind so we don’t have to worry. We wash them separately do they don’t get mixed up. 🙂

  2. Evan says:

    An excellent idea. Do you have summer and winter ones?

  3. Daphne says:

    Interesting post Evan. I don’t like housework either, but I agree even then there is much to learn from it!

  4. Evan says:

    Hi Daphne,

    Perhaps I should attempt a series? That would certainly push my boundaries!

    Thanks for your comment.

  5. No, we don’t have summer and winter socks. Our winters are fairly mild and we can always wear boots if it gets cold.

  6. Mark says:

    I’m in a situation now where I only need to wear white socks.I have about 20 prs and they all match the same. Is this cheating?

    Now on relationships. I’m fortunate that this one has lasted 22 years. However,if I had to look for another one. I don’t know what I would do. It sure it could get complicating having 20 choices wouldn’t it?

  7. Barbara says:


    I had to laugh at the sox vs. socks. Being from Chicago requires the awareness of both words.

    One of the local baseball teams is the Chicago White Sox. Although the team probably used color of clothing to define their team when it was formed in the early twentieth century, I’m not sure if it had anything to do with their feet, more likely an attention getting distinction. I could however be wrong, I never researched the origin of baseball team names.

    But on my feet, in the same city, I wear socks, never sox. No idea where in the world people wear sox. I think I was taught the word sox was considered informal or even slang.

    What I had to look up? The definition of singlet. As far as I know, no one in my neck of the woods defines an item of clothing they’re wearing as a singlet. But now that I know what it is, people here are wearing them, with an entire variety of other names.

    Funny how the littlest thing can take one down the longest path. And in this case, probably totally aside from your article.

  8. star says:

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  9. Evan says:

    Hi Star,
    Thanks for your comment.

  10. Evan says:

    Hi Barbara,
    Who was it who said that England and America were two nations divided by a common language? I guess it now applies to more countries like Australia as well. I’ve seen the spelling ‘sox’ in a few places and thought it was accepted as standard by now.

    Interesting about ‘singlets’. This is a word in common usage in Australia.

    Hope the winter isn’t too bad in Chicago. I guess you don’t hang your washing out at this time of year.

  11. Evan says:

    Hi Mark,
    Twenty choices would be complicated: a part of me thinks other people might envy me though!

    I like the idea of only white. Over the last few years I’ve gradually made my clothes pretty much all blue: this way I don’t have to think what goes with what. I prefer this way of doing things.

  12. Ching Ya says:

    I don’t really like organizing socks either.. most of my husband’s socks are so identical and it got me all dizzy getting the right pairs together.

    Nice inspirational thoughts.. maybe I shall learn to do that sometimes, to take away some of the boredom. =)

  13. How about leaving all socks washed in a wicker basket and each can pick their own. No more sock sorting job.

  14. Evan says:

    Thanks for you comment Ching Ya.

  15. Evan says:

    I guess it depends on how much you want matching socks and how long it would take to look through the basket. Welcome to my blog and thanks for your comment.

  16. Mac says:

    I do the sock sorting and it is just a reflex thing – I never pay attention to how I do it. I have a big sack full of single socks and take the time to try and match them when I have something on my mind.

  17. Shea says:

    What? I found the topic interesting, but the explanation baffles my mind. What?

  18. Evan says:

    Hi Shea. I’m glad you found it interesting. If you would like to say more about what baffles you I’ll try to clarify. In brief: my point was, that in dealing with complex situations it pays to start with what is obvious and then look for the next obvious detail, then the next – moving from the big to the smaller. Hope this makes it less baffling. I was in a bit of light hearted mood so maybe I didn’t explain so well.

    Thanks for your comment.

  19. Evan says:

    Hi Mac. I have a theory that washing machines have a way of eating only one sock of a pair. Thanks for your comment.

  20. Sheila says:

    Good article! I, too, can bear quite a bit of messiness before I feel compelled to tackle housework. One thing we’ve done is bought diaper pins–the kind they used to pin cloth diapers with–to pin the socks together before they’re washed. Voila! Socks already sorted when they come out of the wash. You can even give each family member their own color of pin.

  21. Evan says:

    Hi Sheila,
    That sounds like a wonderful idea. I’d have never thought of this. Thanks for the comment and the idea!

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