Sorting Things Out

It’s time honored organizing wisdom: put like with like. All the socks in one drawer, all the t-shirts in another. It makes it easy to find things and to put them away. The trouble is, your creative right-brained mind doesn’t sort things that way.

Put the winter socks in one drawer and the summer socks in another, the organizers say. You look at your overflowing piles of socks and determinedly start sorting.

  • socks for work
    • formal dressy socks
    • casual dressy socks
    • fun dressy socks
    • dressy socks that go with that one outfit
  • athletic socks
    • the good socks
    • the ones that have stretched out a bit but are still okay
    • the ones you used to love but can’t find anymore
    • the ones in a color you don’t love
  • winter socks
    • boot socks
    • cozy bed socks
    • thicker dressy socks
    • knee high socks
    • thick heavy hiking socks
  • pretty socks that someone gave you,
  • clever socks with artwork on them,
  • odd socks waiting for the mate to turn up,
  • socks that don’t quite fit but would do in a pinch,
  • perfectly good socks (except for the small holes the puppy chewed.)

And to your mind, each one is a separate category to be stored separately. And so the dresser’s full of hyperorganized socks and the rest of the clothes are all over the floor.

We think if we could have everything precisely ordered at all times, making a decision about what to wear will be easier. But how can we know what mood we’ll be in each morning? Trust that if your socks are loosely categorized by the season, you’ll be able to easily find what you need.

Working With Your Brain

If your brain loves creating many separate categories for your things, don’t despair. Pull all your socks out on the bed and sort them the way that makes sense for you. Now  pretend you’re a reporter and your story assignment is the socks. A story has a headline, which would be ‘Socks’, and then there are a few sub-headlines throughout the story that help the reader quickly grasp the main details of the story.

Take a look at all your organized piles. Can you see that the sub-headlines would read ‘heavy socks’, ‘light socks’, ‘athletic socks’? Or is it ‘indoor socks’ and ‘outdoor socks’? Whatever strikes you as a good broad category is the sub-headline and each sub-headline gets a drawer.

If you’re sorting women’s tops, the same strategy applies. Once you’ve sorted into dressy tops, casual tops, tops to do the gardening in, tops to clean the bathtub in, and specific colors, can you take a second look and find the big picture? How about short sleeved tops and long sleeved tops? When it’s warmer, you can easily go through the myriad types of short sleeved tops and see which one you feel like wearing today. When it’s cooler, head for the long sleeved tops and make your selection.

The trick is not to skip this first step. If you allow your brain to sort the way it wants to sort first, you’ll be able to then take a step back and simplify your categories. If you try to start off with the broad categories, you’ll swiftly get lost in the weeds.

And if you’re laughing because you have enough socks for an army and hundreds and hundreds of tops, you know what to do. Decluttering first will make it easy to organize.

How to Declutter?

Once you’ve got your socks all heaped in your very specific categories,

  • See if there’s a whole category that you don’t need anymore. Why keep all the dressy socks for work if you retired years ago? Keep one pair and let the rest go.
  • All the mateless socks go in a separate basket and if they haven’t made a match in a month, toss them.
  • All the uncomfortable, scratchy socks go.
  • So can all the gift socks you don’t really care for.
  • Consider texture. Socks that are just too thin can go, as can bunchy bulky socks that make it tough to pull your shoes on.

And when you’ve gone through all your socks, take a hard look at the remainders. If there are still 100 perfectly good pairs of socks but your sock drawer has room for 50, gather up the extra 50 and donate them. You have enough, and winter’s here.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Sarah Gibson says:

    The worst are those favorite, versatile, comfortable socks where you only have one and you are _sure_ the mate will turn up. My husband and sons are in a much better position — they buy their socks in bulk so if they lose one it hardly matters, they have 7 more of the same. Women’s socks, even when sold in four-packs, tend to be different colors.

    1. I love that strategy! It’s only a matter of time until I start wearing mens’ socks just for this very reason.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Love your column ! !

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