Letting a corner of clutter slide

The more attuned I am to practicing simple living, the fewer places in my home have hidden corners of clutter. There are some places, though, where disorder thrives and I realize that I am completely okay with it. In fact, these areas serve as little humbling reminders that I am human and am far from perfect.

Case in point: My sock drawer.

Did I just hear you gasp? Are you completely horrified? Are the hairs standing up on the back of your neck as you compose an e-mail to me offering to organize my sock drawer for me? Take a deep breath and move your fingers off the keyboard. It is going to be okay.

You should know that all of the other drawers in my dresser are beautifully organized (imagine the successful use of separators) and contain little to no disarray. It really is just my sock drawer that looks hideous. My husband’s sock drawer is ordered by type of sock (dress or sport) and color coordinated (a helpful activity for those who are color blind), which is strange since I’m the one who often folds and puts away his laundry. My sock drawer is messy, however, and the whole world has not collapsed around me.

I’m mentioning my sock drawer because people can have the misconception that being organized means that every single minute aspect of one’s life is in pristine order. Order is a goal, yes — but so is sanity. Being organized and living simply is about removing distractions that get in the way of a remarkable life. Right now, my sock drawer is not a hindrance to the life I want to lead. Maybe one day it will be, and I will buy some dividers and establish order in my sock drawer. Until then, it is one of a small handful of places where disorder exists in my home, and that’s okay. Really, it is.

Do you have a space where disorder reigns, but the whole of your organization system isn’t collapsing as a result? Feel welcome to tell us about it in the comments. Get it off your chest. You are, after all, only human.


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

36 Comments for “Letting a corner of clutter slide”

  1. posted by Trevor on

    I have a little leather tray near the front door where I allow myself to be messy and untidy. It’s nice because if I’m reading a book on the subway, I can dump it there to pick up on my way to work the next day. Once a week I empty the tray, and put everything that landed there away.

  2. posted by Greg on

    My sock drawer looks similar, except it is much less cluttered by the addition of one tool: the safety pin.

    Everyone in my family pins their socks together. When I put on a pair of socks, I drop the safety pin in a small container on the dresser and when I take the socks off, I pin them together before throwing them in the hamper. Then when they come out of the laundry, I never have to pair them back up and the problem of the notorious missing sock almost never happens.

  3. posted by Ed Eubanks on

    I fully agree about the “necessity” of a meticulously organized sock drawer. I quit using a sock “drawer” years ago for exactly the same reason: there’s no need to have it so organized or sorted out. For a long time I used a milk crate in the floor of my closet (right by my shoes– imagine that!); more recently I went to a soft-side canvas drawer and a shelf set to house them. (If I were doing it over again, I might go for this very affordable three-drawer setup.) I toss my dress socks in one, and my athletic socks in the other, and I’m done with it. It takes me no time at all to find a pair of socks that I need in either, and I don’t have to worry about organizing.

    (A side note: this is streamlined by the fact that I de-cluttered my sock selection years ago: I have basically lots of two different pairs of socks, one navy blue and one khaki, in dress socks– and only one kind of athletic socks. This Charlie Brown approach to dressing makes socks a clutter-free part of my life and my wife’s.)

    On a similar note: my wife’s underwear drawer looks something like your sock drawer, and it actually is a great thing for her. Why does she need to fold her underwear? She doesn’t need to, so she doesn’t– and it saves her time and the trouble of folding more clothes. She just tosses them all into her drawer and pulls out the next one on top.

  4. posted by Marti on

    The sock drawer: Wow! What a relief! I, too, find it SIMPLE to just pin the socks together when throwing into the wash and unceremoniously throw them into the drawer when the laundry is finished. I’m old, but not blind, and can easily see what I’m grabbing when I dress, be it socks, panty hose, or whatever. Thanks for letting me know I’m not a solitary slob!

  5. posted by Michele on

    I make my bed neatly only when I have just changed the sheets. When I put fresh sheets on the bed, I’ll make tight hospital corners and lay the blanket and coverlet down carefully. But all other mornings, I just fluff up the sheet and blanket, give it a flick of my wrist, and pull it up to lay mostly flat and straight on the bed.

    Because it’s a fussy and time-consuming task, I abhor making the bed. This is a compromise to keep the bedroom looking basically neat (and to keep the cats from sneaking in and shedding in the sheets, yuck).

  6. posted by Steve on

    I know this post wasn’t meant to be all about socks, but when I read it it made me think of my big sock reordering – last year, I threw out all my dress socks (all slight variations of black – different lengths, thicknesses and stitching patterns) – and bought all new socks of the same brand and style. Now they don’t have to be paired up at laundry time. My wife can just throw them into a big pile, and I can grab any two without thinking, knowing they will match.

    I challenge you to join me on this – it removes one more pointless task in life.

  7. posted by Tom on

    It depends on your definition of clutter.

    The socks are organized into 1 drawer. That might be as uncluttered as you need to be.

    I have one spare change jar. I don’t organize into penny jar, nickel jar, dime jar, etc. What a waste that would be. For me. Your needs might differ.

  8. posted by Michael on

    I actually have an organized sock drawer and the rest of my house is messy. I do get a thrill though, when I open my sock drawer. It gives me hope and inspires me that some day the rest of my house will look the same. I also bought 18 pairs of the same sock in the same color. There is no such thing as a mis-matched sock in my house! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. posted by ClickerTrainer on

    Everyone should have one drawer somewhere in the house that is for “stuff”. Mine’s by the kitchen phone — when I am stuck without my remote phone on a particularly long call, I go through it and throw out junk, but I never “unclutter” it.

  10. posted by Robin M. on

    When my husband and I were first married, about thirteen years ago, one of our biggest disagreements was about clutter/messiness.

    One of the arrangements we came to was that the tops of our dressers were free zones – I was allowed to have mine as cluttered and piled as I wanted and he could keep his as orderly as he wanted and I was not allowed to put even one thing on it, even though it might be the most convenient free horizontal space; and we would not comment on each other’s space. The rest of the teeny apartment was open to negotiation.

    Over the years, we have both eased a little in the other’s direction, but that small no-comment zone helped each of us to feel like there was one space that we completely controlled and allowed us to be more reasonable about the rest.

    Otherwise, I’m with the commenter who said if you have a single sock drawer, that’s as organized as need be.

  11. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    I’m finally reading A Perfect Mess – and while I have many quibbles with the book, one reasonable point the authors make is that everything has an optimal degree of messiness, where the cost of getting less messy exceeds the benefit. I think you’ve hit it for your sock drawer; what would you gain from doing any more?

    Steve, I wrote about just such an approach to simplifying the sock drawer here:

  12. posted by Harper on

    This reminds me of a change I made when I was a manager. We kept the forms documenting customer complaints in case. . . These were completely alphabetized for easy access. Trouble was, we rarely needed to access them and alphabetizing was eating up time. Against much resistance, I insisted that we alphabetize them by first letter of last name ONLY. My argument was that it took a minute or less to quickly rifle through the Bs when needed. Worked out great and saved a little time [and stopped me from having to re-direct employees who used this piece of busywork to avoid more pressing tasks).

    This from someone who alphabetizes her spices. However, for me doing that saves me time and frustration. Which is the point. Doing a cost/benefit analysis on our actions can be useful. If rummaging for the socks you want frustrates you more than taking the time to keep them organized, then organize. And if the opposite is true, don’t. Balance is key.

  13. posted by h... on

    ditto…. one of a few things I dont bother to organize. since i am a single, I dont have somebody else stuff to sort. Things I dont bother to sort: socks, underies, nails & screws, a few more i cant think of. I put them in separate containers. I am ok with them. I have better things to do else.

  14. posted by Kris on

    We have the proverbial junk drawer that stays messy. Twice a year I dump it out, put stuff where it truly belongs and we begin again. When we are cleaning in a hurry, we need that junk drawer.

    BTW .. the socks are much easier to control, at least in our house, as we only have one type and two colors of socks. Actually, my husband and I have black cotton socks and white exercise socks. Our sons only have white socks and luckily they have the same size feet. Makes sorting socks a thing of the past and it makes life MUCH easier.

  15. posted by J on

    I agree with Steve. I have two colors of socks, each of the same brand – white socks and black socks. Since I’m a woman (although some men might use them, too) I also have panty hose but those are easily seen amidst the socks. I throw them all in one drawer and grab two of one color every time I need socks. Even in the dark, I am guaranteed a match if I randomly and blindly grab just three!

    As for my one clutter spot, it’s a drawer just inside my kitchen where I deposit all the crap I’ve accumulated in my pockets throughout the day. In the morning, i reload my pockets with what i need. On the weekends, i sort through the receipts and various scraps of paper left in the drawer and file them or toss them as required.

    In the meantime, the drawer is closed so no one sees the growing mess.

  16. posted by Hayden Tompkins on

    I also buy all the same color socks (white and black) and that way I don’t even need to pair them! They just go in the drawer; no muss, no fuss.

  17. posted by twosandalz on

    In my spare room I have an “in transition” spot. I consider it my organization pressure release valve. Currently it houses the pie plate that I’ll return to my mother sometime. I’ve got a half-finished care package next to that. And a blouse which needs mending has been there for a month. When the disorder gets to me I’ll finish the half-done things to clean it off. Otherwise, its a nice catch area for things don’t have the inclination to deal with my stuff right away. No pressure.

  18. posted by Luis Fernando on

    Now, really, how hard is it to fold the pair once and put them away in a drawer? No need to overkill (dividers ??), agreed, but seems like just about everyone is trying to find them socks with the lights out.

  19. posted by Jack Cheng on

    I saw a bit on Esquire today about folding/rolling socks, ties and sweaters to make them last a bit longer under normal wear:


  20. posted by Kerry on

    My sock drawer is HORRIBLE. There are lots of sock orphans in there, just waiting to be matched with their mate. If I”m going to confess all of my horrible hidden messes, look no further than my kitchen junk drawer (naturally), my linen closet, under the bathroom storage and my filing drawer. GASP *wheeze*

    There you go.

  21. posted by verily on

    My sock drawer is usually pretty decent. I also abide by the one brand of sock rule – all in white. There are a few other colors, but that’s caused by a well-meaning mother giving me socks for Xmas.

    It’s the other lingerie drawers (underwear and bras) that are a mess. Jumble of panties. Truly a frightening thing to behold.

    Otherwise, my clutter spot is my desk, which is where I am at most of the time. Mail, books, CDs, etc all hang out on the surface until I give it a good onceover every few weeks….

  22. posted by CHE on

    That’s supposed to be a messy sock drawer? The socks are folded together! Yikes.

  23. posted by Janine Adams on

    I love this post! I’m a professional organizer and, like many other organizers, I urge my clients to “organized enough.” Heaven knows I live that maxim. I have not one but two jumbled junk drawers in the kitchen and I underwear drawer is a fright. But it doesn’t matter. I find what I need swiftly and at least those drawers stay closed. I will say that my loose change is divided into separate jars on a window sill, but that’s only because I find that visually appealing and it’s very easy to maintain.

  24. posted by Shannon on

    Prepare to cringe:


  25. posted by el on

    My underwear drawer and my sock drawer are not organized at all. I toss them in and I live just fine. However, it wasn’t until I dumped out my drawer to weed through everything that I realized that I had way too much: 19 bras and 58 bottoms. Can you excess? I’ve weeded it down since I read one of the articles.

    I only mention it because someone else brought it up, but I NEVER make my bed. Well, only when my comforter gets lost in the duvet cover.

  26. posted by Pennie on

    I’m like others who mention a box for ‘stuff’. My ex housemate dubbed it my ‘crappin box’ because all of the ‘crap’ that goes in it when I can’t be bothered finding a home for it just yet. I’m supposed to empty it out every week, but that doesn’t always happen.

    On a different note, I have some items which could be called clutter which are quite organised. I got teased when I moved in for having good quality storage boxes labled ‘magazines from teen years’ and ‘old clothing #2’. Yet at every place I live in, there’s always a spot which can’t be used for everyday storage. In this place it’s my cupboard, which has two very high shelves. I’m fairly short so only rarely used stuff can go there. I’ve put my sentimental keepsakes, which because they are never used, are by definition, clutter. Yet they’re very organised because they’re sorted into labeled boxes, and I have an itemised inventory list, they’re very organised. I justify it by saying that the shelves would otherwise be empty, so I may as well keep those belongings.

  27. posted by Miss Lisa on

    Ha! I just went through my sock drawer today. I’m tossing out a bunch of old/mis-matched socks. They’re all sitting on top of my dresser in a messy heap. When they’re gone, the drawer will be just as messy, just roomier. Yes, as a matter of fact, I DO want a medal…

  28. posted by Esther Griffin on

    Someone taught me how to make my bed while I am still in it! You just pull the sheets, blanket and spread up neatly and straight. Then fold one corner back, and carefully crawl out, and put the corner back in place. (They also showed me that when changing sheets, you can make one side up almost completely before going to the other side without racing back and forth a couple times.) An old lady once told me, “If your beds are made and your dishes done, the place looks neat!”

  29. posted by Faith on

    i have a shoebox on my nightstand that is wrapped in pretty paper coordinated with my decor, and lined with matching tissue paper.inside i have my good glasses case(my crappy one goes in bookbag or purse)lotion,cell phone holder,ipod holder,chapstick,jewelry i take off at night,spare change.it is somewhat divided,but i can just throw whatever it is in there,and put the lid on and it looks great!as for the socks,i just throw mine in there.when i think about it i empty it out,and the outgrown(outgrown is always in there no matter how hard i try to give them to my sisters who are small and have stopped growing)get put in their room,or if their loners, i use them to dust.

  30. posted by Katharine on

    Not folding the underwear has been a huge timesaver. With two young kids and a husband, I can just throw them into one basket when I’m sorting the laundry from the dryer. Then, at the end, one quick sort and jam them into a big drawer in each person’s dresser. One little way to make family life simpler!

  31. posted by Sue on

    My sock drawer is neat thanks to the little grids that separate them, as is my underwear drawer. The place where I love to be messy & not organize anything is my pyjama drawer-they are my comfy clothes & I just throw them all in there, clean but definitely not even folded. We all gotta have our little island of imperfection, lol!

  32. posted by Taylor at Household Management 101 on

    You make a really good point. You should not have organization for organization’s sake. If you have a problem that can be fixed with a bit more organization, then do it. If you are experiencing no problems you don’t need new organizing tips and tricks for that area of your life. Of course, you could already be organized in that area of your life, such as you with your sock drawer. It may not be visually pleasing to those who want rigid order, but if you find everything just fine it is organized enough for you.

    My motto: No organizing for organizing’s sake, just organize for my own or other’s sanity!

  33. posted by Krys Slovacek on

    I would LOVE to see a picture of how to pin socks together so that when they get washed, the pin doesn’t pop open, the socks don’t get shredded or disfigured, and so that harmony is restored in my husband’s sock drawer.

    He HATES pairing socks, but he also HATES how I pair socks (I roll one sock over the other, which can stretch out the opening). I’ve often heard about people pinning their socks together, but haven’t tried it, because it seems to me that the pin would pull or get caught on something in the wash.

    A picture would be SO helpful!!

  34. posted by WilliamB on

    I, too, have only two types of socks: dress and athletic. Dress socks are black (nylon or something), athletic are white cotton. No orphan socks in my collection! If a sock wears out, toss it. A mate will turn up for it soon enough.

    I do fold and stack my socks so they all get used in approximate rotation, but now I think I could stuff unfolded just washed ones behind the others and thus save sock folding. Hurrah! Another chore eliminated.

  35. posted by Noreen on

    I knot my paired socks – anyone else do that?
    My mum folds one sock into the other (pair, fold in half, go to roll one sock over the other but roll it over completely so it makes a neat little nearly-rectangular package) – but I can’t be bothered. My partner occasionally rolls the top of one sock over the other, but mostly he tends to throw all his socks into one big jumble in his drawer, holey ones and orphan ones and all, and pulls out two at random. He says it doesn’t matter because he’s mostly got the same kind of socks although he doesn’t really ๐Ÿ™‚ I couldn’t live with it but he’s happy that way, and I’m happy with my knotted ones. I fold all my underwear because I colour coordinate pants, bras and socks with the rest of what I’m wearing so I want to spot the ones I want very easily. I know, I know – but it makes me happy ๐Ÿ™‚

    Anyway, ramble about socks aside, I have a glass on my desk where little bits get put in. A tiny eraser, a penny, a safety pin, a ball bearing, a screw, a feather, a couple of pebbles, a hair scrunchie, etc. I like looking at it sometimes when I’m thinking/looking for inspiration!

  36. posted by SkiptheBS on

    I roll socks: black for winter, white for summer, and a very few prints for fun. Panties go on a multi-hook tie hanger. My big problems are bras, travel waist and bra wallets, and items awaiting mending.

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