It is rare for all our socks to have mates after we finish folding the laundry. Sometimes a sock will hide inside a fitted sheet and we won’t notice it during folding, but we discover the errant sock when we put the sheet on the bed a few days later. Other times, a sock will have been stuck inside a shirt sleeve or a pant leg. Rarely is the missing sock lost forever, though, so we keep a small basket in the laundry room for single socks and when the mate shows up we immediately know where to find its match.
Even though mates are usually found, invariably one sock will hang out in the lost-mate basket for many months, its mate gone forever. (After seeing Gnomeo and Juliet, I’ve been blaming lawn gnomes for this phenomenon.) If a sock hangs out in the lost-sock basket for more than three months, the sock is moved to the rag pile and recycled for dusting.
I explained our lost-sock basket to a room full of people at a conference recently, and a woman raised her hand and asked, “But what if you find the other sock after you start using its mate as a rag?”
I replied, “It has only happened once, and we just made the newly found sock into a rag, too.”
The woman then let out an audible gasp, almost as if my suggestion had caused her physical pain. My guess is that, like many people, she struggles with making decisions about “what if” items, and these “what if” objects likely cause her difficulty when dealing with clutter.
What if I get rid of this empty yogurt tub and then someone comes over for dinner and I want to send her home with leftovers?
What if I get rid of this piece of wood and then two months from now I need to fix something and this exact piece of wood would have been the perfect solution?
What if I give this coat to charity and then wish I hadn’t?
If you’re someone who regularly plays the “what if” scenario in your mind, try giving this simple lost-sock basket a try in your home. Recycle any sock that remains in the basket for more than three months. Since you know the worst that can happen is you might end up recycling two socks, it’s a relative inexpensive way to practice making these types of uncluttering decisions. You don’t need a single sock hanging around your house for years waiting for a mate.
The more practice you get, the easier it will become to part with things that you do not need that are cluttering up your space. You learn to trust that even if you end up needing an item that you purged that you will be able to buy a replacement or borrow one from a family member or that you will be creative enough to find an alternate solution.
And, if you do find the lost sock in less than three months, you’ll at least know quickly where to find its mate.