Sock Matching and the Mystery of the Lost Socks

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A pile of unmatched socks.

Where, oh where could their socks have gone? Where, oh where can they be?

Singing the Sock Matching Blues

Are you singing this song while you do laundry? I am. It’s an occupational hazard in “life as MOM.” Socks will go AWOL.

I have this childhood memory of a huge duffle bag bulging with mismatched socks. Obviously, my mom knew this song as well. And every once in awhile I would cringe when she’d call us all to come help sort. Five million socks strewn around the living room? Good times.

It left scars, I tell ya. I told my husband that I wanted it written our wedding vows that I would not have to match socks.

The Sock Matching Code

He came through. As a carpenter, he only needs one color socks – white. So, he bought all the same kind, and I never had to match his socks. I could just toss them into the drawer, and he’d find two each morning.

So, I think I am the one to blame for the above mess. What happened that I have such a pile of mismatched socks?!

Well, to be honest. Some of those I bought when FishBoy13 was a toddler! (And yes, I do use bleach on my whites. Who knew?) Truth be told, the frugal fiend in me has been afraid to part with them. If they’ve still got wear, I’ve been hesitant to part with them. But, this weekend I did a sock cleanse. And it felt good.

Matched boys\' socks laid on bed.

The sock companies have wisened up to the woes of mothers everywhere. Over the last year as I’ve bought new socks for the boys, I’ve noticed that Hanes and Fruit of the Loom have started color coding each size. At my husband’s encouragement, I’ve purchased each boy his own brand, size, and color.

FishChick even has her own brand:

Matched girls\' socks in laundry basket.

Problem was I still held on to those decade old socks that did not fit the Sock Matching Code. Well, no longer. I ditched them this weekend. Yes, yes, I did. I figure that if five children had worn most of them, surely they’d done their duty. They were released from service. And it feels good.

What do you do to keep socks under control at your house?

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  1. Im thinking of putting rows of velcro on the back of the laundry door. Id get about 9 verticle rows.
    Then when theres and oddy, it can stay there and wait for the eveny.

  2. I have a few ideas that are still in the works at our house. With frugality in mind we have been finding alot of socks at rummages..leaving us with a not so colored coordinated family of socks. So we use a “SOCK” clothesline hung above the washer . Each kid had their own colored clothespin (which they deocrated with stickers or painted themselves) Their odd socks were clipped untill the match was found. I found with three young ones my husband and I our clothesline was always full…so I working out a way to hang one for each member in the family. Or one really BIG one across the laundry room 🙂 You could even hang it on a wall with wooden letters spelling ODD SOCKS painted by kids or yourself above it. Or take pictures of your families feet with or without socks and frame them above their own clothesline. Once the laundry was all caught up the socks stayed on there for 30 days and then were put in the rag/dust basket….craft bin for sock puppets or to fill with beans/rice tied with a rubberband and used as bean bags for outdoor or indoor games…. or used as popsicle holders-Which my kids LOVE to do! (just slip the plastic popsicle inside and no more cold little hands! You could also tie ribbon around them to keep it tight) Our hosue still finds odd socks and one day I am sure I will miss the little ones I find in between the matress when my kids are all grown. And there may just be a side of me that holds onto those little cute ones after they are grown 🙂

  3. I have two small children so my technique has worked so far. For the kids socks and my own, I safety pin them before putting them in the hamper! They get washed that way and there’s no sorting!!! My husband wears all white socks and he fishes through his drawer to find two that match. When we’re ready to wear them again, I remove the safety pins and keep a stash where the kids can’t reach them. From time to find I’ll find a single but since there aren’t many, it will usually come together during laundry time. I hope this continues to work as my children grow and more socks get strewn around the room but so far, so good!.. Hope this helps.

  4. Not sure I’ve ever commented, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog!

    The way we separate socks is buy each member a different style. We buy mostly white socks. My baby has, of course, baby socks… My middle son has smooth socks with hardly any “top” part. My oldest son has ripped (is that what they are called?). My husband is the only man in the house, so its pretty easy to separate his and mine…. mine usually have a pink kind. I’ve also seen that you can “label” the bottoms of the socks and I may have to do this in years to come when all 3 of my boys are bigger… and probably will be wearing a very similar size in socks!

  5. Loved your socks story! We use white mesh zippered bags – only pairs can go in!
    About all those extra socks…you can stuff an old pillowcase for a puppy with them, instant bed and you won’t mind if he chews it up. Washes well, too.

  6. I match the socks whenever I put a load of laundry away but there always seem to be a few lone socks that don’t match any of the socks in the basket. I put those in a basket – all the lonely socks together. When the basket gets really full, I pay my boys 10 cents a pair to match the socks. They’re happy to do it to earn a little money and I don’t have to sort through a hundred socks.


  7. my husband wears white socks 99.999% of the time, When they come out of the dryer, I ‘match’ them up by amount of wear. If a hole is close, but not there yet, the sock is paired with another like it. If there’s truly a hole in one, it goes into my dustrag bin or becomes a “free” toy for the dog. (knotted up to cover the hole and if it gets chewed up, it goes away. Don’t want intestinal blockage or trip to the vet)

  8. We have a sock matching bag! When one of the kids has a bad attitude or needs some extra “thinking” time I give them the bag and they get to sort! But I hadn’t purged in forever so the ones that don’t match I put in our family recyclable tub that the kids use to make creative items. So they’re really not gone after all!

  9. I gave up trying to separate different kid’s socks. We all get hanes (just easier to all have the same brand). We get a few nice dress socks, but having just a few of those for the eight of us is easier than having to worry about matching each sock with its exact partner. Oh, and my husband only has 1 kind of dress sock, and so do the big boys. Those 3 all wear the same size, and it is so much easier to find a match when there is a more than one pair. And if one gets a hole, I don’t feel so bad about tossing it. It still has a match somewhere!

  10. I either toss my own socks at the first sign of a hole (usually in the heel, can’t stand holes in my socks!) or cut them up for rags. I have two brands of white ankle socks so mine are easy to match up.

    My husband’s socks are a mish-mash of at least 20 brands- very frustrating and I’m the only one who pays attention enough to try to match them together. I toss singles into the drawer of the owner- no sock graveyard in my house- so my husband and older son can just grab two socks and hope for the best! I think when their sock inventories have dwindled down to pathetic levels I’ll replenish and each will have his own brand and color!

  11. SOCK COP

    I found these nifty little plastic things about three years ago when I followed a link from Crystal (Biblical Womanhood). I love these things.
    I put them all on his socks when the clips arrived. They help my husband differentiate between navy (blue clip) and black (red clip) socks in his drawer. This is something he has trouble with.
    When he takes off his socks, he clips them together before throwing them in the hamper. I wash and dry the clipped socks and return them to his drawer.

    This system works amazing for our family and you could also just use pins I am sure…or maybe clothespins? Hmmm…maybe this is a good WFMW post for tomorrow? LOL

  12. I tossed out all socks last year and got the color coded Hanes. It has worked wonders for my sock sorting routine! However, I’ve found they get holes so easily… is it just my sock destroying boys??

  13. I hate socks. Really, I do. We’ve been blessed with lots of hand-me-downs and I almost always throw the non-white socks away. I mean, those baby socks with puppies and butterflies on them are cute, but I don’t really have time to match together single pairs of socks.

    My girls are 16 months apart and I’ve almost given up on keeping their socks separate!

  14. I have a sock dilemma too! I will be reading some of the other links. My mom used to buy each of the boys their own color sock as well. It made life a little easier. I had more fun socks though, being the only girl.

  15. We have similar sock woes in our house 🙁 Unfortunately it is mostly my husbands socks that seem to lose their partners. I have a small plastic bin that sits on one of the shelves above our dryer that I toss unmatched socks. Every so often I’ll rummage through it. I really should just go through all of his socks one day and pick out his best pairs and toss anything else. The man seriously has about 100 pairs between dress socks and all his others.

    As for my little girls’ socks. I do have a few stragglers roaming around, but I figure I’ll come across it’s pair soon enough. I hate parting with money I’ve spent on such things. As my oldest gets a bit bigger, maybe we’ll resort to just plain whites of a brand and stick to those.

    ~ Michelle

  16. We only buy one color too! Poor baby girl will have to forgo the fun socks like her brother’s before her. Now that my 2 y.o. can fit (read: swim) in his brother’s green hanes socks they both have the same socks and will share this way.

  17. How funny! I keep the socks forever too, and I keep telling myself to just throw away all of them and start completely new. But I can’t!! We have a move coming up, maybe I’ll be motivated to to it for the move! New socks feel so much better than socks that are 7 years old!

  18. I have a sock basket-a small laundry hamper where all socks go when they are taken out of the dryer. When we are almost out of socks I tilt the basket in the floor of the den and we all match them up. Every once in a while I have to do a sock cleanse also. I did this just last night while watching TV with hubby actaully.

  19. This is pretty much what I have always done.

    My mother had a ‘sock basket’… a full size laundry hamper that was full of mismatched socks. In high school, I preferred to wear converse hi top shoes because I didn’t have to match my socks. I just pulled out two mismatches and wore them. I didn’t want to make my children spend hours and hours every month looking for matching socks!

    Every person in the house has their own socks. When we get to the point that we are down to a few pairs, I start watching for good sales and ALL their old socks (in good condition) get paired up and tossed in the donation bag and then I buy 3-4 packs, usually around 20 pairs. This will usually get us through an entire school year with a few pairs left over for the days during the summer that they are wearing tennis shoes instead of sandals.

    My husband and I do the same thing, but not as frequent. We tend to not strip our socks off in random places to never see them again, so our socks last longer. I have black dress socks, and white socks for tennis shoes. My husband has white socks for tennis shoes and a couple of pairs of black and khaki colored socks that he wears when he wears khakis or dress pants.

  20. Must be on the same page – we ditched our unmatched sock bin last weekend – but I kept them under the sink for the kids to use as dustrags – they fit perfectly over their hands and make dusting “fun” – or as fun as dusting can be

    1. @kris, What a great idea! I think that this will make me feel better about tossing my single socks…somehow I’m always just sure that the mate will turn up in the next load. And of course, it never does. LOVE the duster idea!

  21. I have a friend who says the missing socks get sucked into the hour we lose in the Spring. 🙂

    As for our sock dilemma, when I got pregnant with my second child, I bought only white socks for my daughter, hoping I could pass them to the next (not knowing if it were boy or girl). What a smart decision!