I haven’t written a post in a while because I left town for a locums gig and came back with a stomach bug. I’ll try to get us back on regular posting schedule with a brief one on socks, and how they relate to my overall life goals.
I embraced the low-clutter lifestyle a few years ago. Before the Kon-Marie method became so popular, I read and re-read the book It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh and really attempted to live by the principles. In my first big purge, I donated truckloads of unnecessary belongings and threw away an embarrassing amount of junk. Through the years I’ve had spurts of renewed enthusiasm for the clutter-free lifestyle and Kon-Marie’d my closet a couple of years ago.
Since I’ve gotten into the personal finance blogs and podcasts, I’ve become more intrigued by “essentialism” or “minimalism” as they pertain to not only stuff but also time and energy. These disciplines are simply just a mindful way of spending money and living life, but ascribing to them has been quite liberating.
About a year ago, I had a rage attack while folding clothes. The inciting event was a basket full of unmatched socks that lived in the bottom of the clean laundry basket. Every few weeks I would painstakingly sort and match dozens of pairs of stupid socks. Most of them were white or gray, and had slight variations, but we had colored ones also. My husband just wore mismatched socks, but I couldn’t really stand doing that. By that time, I had been influenced by various personal lifestyle bloggers who discussed meaningful use of time, and I got fed up and just decided to quit.
I drove to Costco, bought myself two packs of black no-show socks (figured they’d last longer than white), and I threw away all of my socks. I offered to do the same for Josh, but he declined so I just threw his unmatched socks into his sock drawer for him to deal with.
Since doing this for myself, I have seen sock problems everywhere. You can’t shop for a pack of socks without getting six different styles of socks. Even most “white” socks will have a little thread in the toe or at the top that is pink, yellow, blue, green, teal, purple…WHY??? I don’t really know for a fact, but my conjecture is that the sock companies know most people want matched socks. Not everyone can be as wisely dismissive as my dear husband. So when we can’t find a sock’s mate, we consider that sock “out of commission.” We drop it in the bottom of some laundry basket and there it sits, in-prisoned until its match is found. But we never find all the matches, so then we are short pairs of socks. So we buy more socks. And on it goes. The more socks you have, the harder it is to find the other mate, as they are swept further apart in a sea of ever-so-slightly-different foot-mittens.
People aren’t shy when it comes to complaining about their consumable goods. Yet, in all my 34 years I have never heard anyone criticize their athletic socks, lamenting that if only there were a fuchsia thread near the toe they would be so much more exciting. Now, I’m all about the exciting sock trend with ironic, funny, sarcastic, and rebellious scenes and phrases; that is different. In fact, I would gladly still wear my “Kick this day in it’s sunshiny ass” sock if I could just find the other one. But most of these special socks are sold as single items, so if one design really spoke to you, you could purchase 7 pairs and just be done matching them forever. Or if you just have one of those days, you can wear your obscene socks and snicker to yourself all day. This is a legitimate coping strategy.
My toddler is legitimately low on socks, so I decided maybe I would buy her some nice socks from Pacts Apparel or Bombas for Christmas. Here are the some options:
Not a SINGLE option to buy a pack of all matching socks or to buy them individually. Amazon was even more dramatic. I sifted through about 30 options for packs of “variety” socks until I found the one containing all white and matching pairs. I bought that one.
I might make fun of my husband wearing the one green and one blue sock, but he’ll smile because he knows he’s above caring. But if I send my kid to daycare like that I’m a terrible mother (or at least struggling pathetically).
Ok so this is clearly an outrage and a conspiracy to make everyone buy more socks. Fine. But from a perspective that is more relevant to my life, hopefully yours, this is just one of those marketing tools that I was completely naive to for like THREE DECADES. How is it that I didn’t realize sooner all the hours and money I was wasting by letting the sock companies dictate that my purchase would be six pairs of slightly different socks? And how many more of these money and time wasting strategies am I falling for? Well the answer to that last question is, “Lots. Guaranteed.” and I’m hoping to do better by hunting them out and doing away with them ASAP.
No doubt we are wasting our precious time on other useless tasks. As medical professionals, much of the day spent on redundant documentation and butt-covering tasks will feel like matching a basket full of stupid socks. Over the arc of our careers, we might waste years of time on tasks that don’t contribute to our big goals. The potential is more than theoretical, it is the normal and expected narrative that ensnares the majority of us. I’ve heard countless times from late-career physicians, “I wish I had taken mission trips sooner,” “It was always what I wanted to do but I just didn’t do it for whatever reason.” Life is so busy, so cluttered, that our “urgent task” list never gets done, and so the big, optional goals never get prioritized.
My practical advice is: Be boring when it comes to socks. Get a dozen identical pairs and throw them haphazardly into your sock drawer. Never match them, and yet always have matching socks. Or be like Josh and never match them and always have non-matching socks. It’s kind of his thing.
Don’t let pesky little tasks steal your time and joy. Stand up and shake off these menial little traps, and don’t delay what’s important. If you want to do missions, make it happen. If you want to give more charitably, just do it. Find what’s holding you back and eliminate it.
I’m speaking to myself more than anyone else here. This year holds big decisions and little decisions that could alter our trajectory for decades down the road. I’m hoping that making a bunch of little improvements in how I spend my energy and money that make me 1% better now will result in a life that is 1000% more fulfilling.
What have you found to be holding you back, wasting your time, or stealing your joy? Comment below!