Joco Diversions

As family crises go, mismatched socks step up to high spot

Sock sorting is a frustrating business.
Sock sorting is a frustrating business. Special to The Star

My son and daughter emerged from their teen-dens, and my husband turned the TV off and cocked his head.

This was after I announced: “I need everyone to report to the family room for a family meeting.”

Declaring family meetings is rare in our household, and their curiosity was piqued.

“Everyone, we have a critical sock situation in this family.”

My son’s shoulders relaxed. “I thought it was going to be something important,” he said.

“This is more important than you think,” I advised him.

I’d been digging through my sock drawer, as has been my lifetime daily routine. I held six black socks in one hand, digging for a match for any of them.

I found nothing, so instead looked for matching athletic socks. I found a pair that almost matched — the same style, but different colors. I pulled them on, then put on boots tall enough to be sure nobody would catch a glimpse of the hot pink and yellow socks I wore with my dress clothes. I stuffed the hundreds of mismatched socks into my drawer and pushed them down so I could shut it.

This took, as it usually does, roughly five minutes, and as usual, I had only allotted about 10 seconds for sock selection in my daily routine.

What’s more, I had done this every single day that week. Plus, each morning, both my son and my daughter had come in to raid the parental sock drawers for their daily sock selections, despite the scads of socks they each have in their own sock drawers. The kids are less selective, so their rifling through the socks is usually only about two minutes.

I’d made the mistake of adding up all of our sock-related turmoil in my head. Adding us all together, we wasted nearly 63 minutes searching for proper foot-undergarments each week.

Plus, the 14 to 21 weekly minutes my husband spends trying to defend his personal sock stash against our son is hardly time well-spent. As a family, we’re wasting well over a day of each month because our sock situation is so hopelessly unorganized, yet we plan exactly zero minutes to deal with this problem each and every day.

School tardies and subsequent detentions, and rushing through yellow lights to get to work can all be traced back to our socks. The heightened anxiety and trying to get out the door was a daily moment of discord. I wondered how much of our morning drama could be solved with a better sock management system.

I started by finding every single sock in the house. We filled an oversized laundry basket with clean socks, and nearly two full baskets of dirty. I washed them all, then sorted them by owner, then by pair. I estimate that I could not find mates for about one-third of them, and those became household rags. The rest were sent to the appropriate drawers.

The glory of organized socks lasted about a month, and the change in our lives is not measurable. My inability to decide on which pair of earrings still makes me late out the door.

My son still stumbles into our room in the morning, but now he looks for a T-shirt rather than socks. My daughter still wears mismatched socks except on “special occasions.” And we all still find some menial problem to bicker about in the mornings.

And not only that, the laundry is once again piling up.

Wadded socks hide in the kids’ bedroom corners, and my designated “mismatched” bin of socks is overflowing now. Like mowing, or raking the yard, the cycle of sock-related problems is an ongoing struggle. Not a problem to beat, but merely an ongoing task that we’ll never love, and never provides any enormous amount of satisfaction. One could say it’s barely worth the effort.

But still, ya gotta wear socks.

Emily Parnell lives in Overland Park and can be reached at