Monday, March 17, 2014

Large Family Tip - Matching Socks

All of us are probably too familiar with the never-ending chore known as "laundry." In our house, we tackle "Mount Foldmore" somewhat like this:

1. We have hampers for dirty laundry in strategic spots around the house, that get emptied and sorted at least daily into the hampers in the laundry room. (Solomon or Isaac can sort, all the younger kids make sure dirty laundry gets put in hampers.)

2. In the laundry room, as soon as one washer load is ready to be run, we run it. (Solomon or Isaac)

3. Once the laundry is washed and dried, it gets sorted into baskets of clean "foldables", "hangables", and "socks". (John or Miriam)

4. John and younger fold and put away all the "foldables". Isaac and Solomon hang up and put away all the "hangables". This happens almost daily. With an average of three loads a day, that really is the longest we can go, or our clean hampers will start piling high. Once a week on Saturdays, I try to get every last piece of laundry washed and put away, as a sort of "reset" button. 

All this is done in the office (next to our laundry room), and taken to each room once everything is hung/folded. While they work, the kids enjoy listening to audio books, or occasionally watching something educational on the computer if there is a lot of work to do.

Only 13 years into marriage, thanks to having lots of little helpers, I can say we have the laundry monster mostly tamed. (Of course now that I said this, some major mess will happen and put me behind, like kids throwing up all over their bedding.) But, the one aspect that has continued to be a major thorn in my side is SOCKS. Every mother would agree, I know!!!! 

Let's do some math. We have 9 people that each wear socks, every day. 9 pairs per day, or 18 socks. In a week, that makes for 126 socks. But that would be in a perfect world. In reality, most of my kids go through TWO pairs of socks each per day, either because they take off the first pair and lose it, get it dirty, decide they need to change styles in the afternoon, etc. Realistically, we go through about 15 pairs of socks per day, or 210 individual socks per week. 

That's over 200 socks that have to make it from the kids' feet, to the hampers, through the washer and dryer, into the sock basket, and then be paired up. The possibilities of what can go wrong are endless. For every 10 pairs we wear, we probably get 5 out after the wash, and the rest are "singles" for a season until we clean out under beds, between the washer and dryer, in shoe cubbies, etc. Frustrating? YES! For every dozen socks we own, we probably average two complete pairs.

I have tried to come up with different ways of keeping socks together during the laundering process, which would eliminate the need to try and find pairs. For a while, we tried safety pins. It worked ok, but there were several problems: my younger kids needed help with them, the bag of pins would get left out and spilled, open pins would be left lying around, the pins corroded in the wash over time, it was hard to get everyone in a habit of "pinning" their socks, etc.

Then, some months back, I found a "basting gun" at Jo-Anns in the quilting section. It is a very simple device, similar to a price gun for affixing price tags. This seemed like a better, easier, quicker, and more interesting way of pinning socks with their mate before throwing them in the laundry. Initially, the kids were so excited they were motivated to pin their own socks, as soon as they came off their feet. 

When the excitement wore off, I told everyone to fold their dirty socks together before throwing them in the dirty hamper. While they can't go through the wash folded, it does make it easier, because at least the socks can still be kept together in an instant, no tools required. Then, when the hampers get emptied and sorted into the laundry room hampers each night, whoever is doing the sorting will unfold the socks, baste them together, and then put them in whatever dirty hamper they belong in. 

Once the socks some out of the wash, we toss them, still connected, into the "single socks" hamper. When one of us sits down on Saturday to match socks, it's as easy as picking connected pairs out of the basket, removing the little plastic (easy enough to be done by hand), folding the socks into a pair, and tossing them into the "paired socks" hamper, ready to be sorted into each child's sock drawer. 

This system is not foolproof - socks still disappear because our little kids have a tendency to leave their laundry wherever they happen to pull it off. BUT it has been a MAJOR improvement in conquering the sock matching challenge. Several months into it, my older boys (who do the laundry sorting) still think it's fun to use the basting gun, which is permanently stored in the laundry room. 

Some tips for using the basting gun:

- I would NOT recommend this for basting a quilt. But it does great with socks!
- I highly recommend using a 50% off coupon if you are going to buy one. 
- Keep it out of the reach of little kids. The tip is very pointy and sharp.
- It's a little tricky to learn how to "baste" together two items on the first try, every time. But if you follow the instructions and make sure the layers of fabric are flush against the gun, it works like a charm.
- When removing the plastic "pins", work over a small trash can so you don't end up with little red plastic pieces everywhere. 
- Socks seem to fare better when they are pinned in such a way that ends of the pin are on the outside of the fabric, rather than the inside (where they are more likely to get caught on the elastic). 

How do YOU tackle the laundry / sock monster? 


  1. Your sock basting idea is brilliant! Our family uses a wonderful piece of advice given to me by a friend with five children. Each family member (except my husband - his socks are huge and easy to track) gets a zip-up "lingerie bag" from bed bath and beyond and is asked to place all dirty socks in this bag. (Two bags per child might work better if you have a lot of dark or colored socks.) The bag washes and dries, and each family member still has a bag containing every sock that went into the hamper. Provided the socks made it to the bag in the first place, this at least keeps the socks from getting mixed up between children. Then each child over the age of three matches his/her own socks. The bags get a little thick sometimes, so they do take longer in the dryer (resulting in a tiny boost in the electric bill) but it's worth it to me. I will definitely keep your basting gun in the back of my mind, though. It sounds like it could be useful for all kinds of things!

  2. Back when I lived in a hot climate like you do, I just put all my kids in sandals. =)

    One thing I've thought of is putting the socks in a washable mesh bag with a drawstring or plastic zipper. So, for each child, they've got their own mesh bags. They pull their clean socks out of one, wear them, then put them in the bag for dirties at the end of the day. When the bag is full, it gets tossed in with the laundry, never to be opened until it's back in the child's drawer (or wherever they keep their socks) to be used again. Nor sorting. No matching. This is all theoretical. I haven't actually tried it. It seems like it would work, though.

  3. In my case, as I wear black socks probably 99.9% of the time, and they are all the same (JCPenney). So - it's pretty easy to make up pairs!

    Regards -

  4. I think there are angry gnomes that come and steal socks in my house. My house is small and there are only 4 of us (2 kids, the husband and me) and I can be as careful as anything with the socks and I "lose" (on average) socks every single week. It doesn't matter who's socks they are either..When I'm done folding...there is always a pile of mismatched socks. What I ended up doing is having a "mismatched sock" drawer and each week I pull them out and hope that their mates have been returned....sometimes they show up right off, sometimes it takes a couple of weeks (one time I got it down to 3 mismatched socks) ---I felt like celebrating that day....

  5. That's so funny I have had this problem in the past. Now for the last 7 years I have made my older kids wash their own clothes and that seems to have worked that I never see their clothes so they have to match their socks or it's their problem if they don't have a match. But all my little kids I still have to find them all over the place it's frustrating I find them outside or in the car or just a pain. So I don't think I can help you with the little kids. I take care of my husbands and mine do that's easy. Good luck getting the little kids to remember I do give the small kids a job with the socks to match them after I get a pile of there's together and they love to do that's when I make a game out of it like whoever finds the most matches gets a good kid dollar to shop in my good kid store. Good luck :)

  6. I use laundry bags. They hang on the kids doors with their names on them. When they take their socks off they go in the bag. The whole bag gets tossed in the washer. When they come out all of their socks are still in the bag so they each match their bags of socks put them away and hang the bag back up.

  7. Mesh lingerie bags keep socks together. Don't fill them too full but several bags could be washed at a time.

  8. I managed sock control when my children were small by buying all white socks. Then you just have to find 2 socks. You probably have several sizes, but it would totally cut time trying to match.

  9. We have 5 children and only do laundry 3 times a week =). We have nice big front loaders in our home and also if we go out of the house for just a couple of hours and our clothes are still clean and not sweaty we hang them back up and stick the socks back in our shoes for the next =) I know it may sound strange or dirty to some....but works for us =).

  10. Great idea!

    Our familys solution is quite simple: we only have black socks. Period. The sizes are already stiched in these with white yarn when we buy them. So it's easy to pair them up, and we don't have so many singles left. Of course, the new pair after washing most probably doesn't equal the original pair, however, with only black socks no one can notice. Also, no one owns their "own" socks, like we do with underwear and such of course, but everyone just takes the socks of their size.

  11. When my kids were really little (infants/toddlers), I used the mesh laundry bags for their socks. Over the years I have tried different methods of keeping track of everyone's socks but never found a real solution. Luckily, I guess, my kids don't want to wear matching socks. They like wearing different colored socks, as long as they are the same style. That made it easy and now I only buy each child one kind of sock. My new challenge is my daughter stealing my socks when she can't find her own or she doesn't have clean socks (she does her own laundry).

  12. I have a large brood as well, Alana is 13, Ruby 11, Isaiah and Lucy are 9, Byron is 8, Adam is 5, Caitlin is 3, and Jackson and Emily were born in November last year, however after two sets of twins we're done :) Oh the washing! In my teens and early in my marriage with plans to have a large family I knew I needed to get on top of the sock thing for square one as I had enough trouble keeping track of my own socks, especially coloured ones! So, from the word go, I decided that we would simplify the socks in a big way.

    There are 4 types of socks in our house - white ones for the girls, black ones for the boys, my husband's black fluffy socks, and my black 'skinny' socks (as described by Adam - bless! They're just thin cotton.) Each member of the family gets 2 of the lingerie bags a few commenters already mentioned - one that is clean in their drawers and one that is dirty, which hangs on their bedroom door. Collect the bags and throw the girls' ones in with the whites and the boys' in with the colours. The bags can be tumble dried whole, or in fine weather I take them outside and the socks are draped over a patio chair (one per person) along with the bags. The socks then go straight back into their corresponding bags before coming inside, and straight back into the sock drawers. The children know when they come home from school to go out the back and check if their socks are drying, and to collect them as part of their afternoon chores. I further simplified by only buying the exact same brand of socks every time so any two black or any two white socks are a pair. Different aged kids means different sized feet, but as I began colour-coding their possessions (Alana is red, Ruby orange, Lucy yellow, Isaiah green, Adam blue, Caitlin purple, Emily pink and Jackson brown) I applied the same technique to my socks. A small stitch of brightly coloured embroidery thread matching the child's colour takes mere seconds to add to the back of each sock and a corresponding loop of thread tied to the zips of each laundry bag keeps it clear whose socks are whose. There's a colour chart in the laundry and bathroom as well just in case there are loose socks, and even Caitlin at just 3 can identify colour spots to her siblings :)

    I use the same colour coding for all of their clothes actually, and we rarely have mix ups or misplaced clothing - I just put the stitch in the waist or neckline of garments. Alana and Ruby can do this now too, and Lucy and Isaiah (yes, my boys can sew!) are able to help with unpicking come hand me down time, their stitches are not yet quite small enough to be unobserved on the outside of the clothing. Our lunch boxes etc are similarly coded using coloured stickers. (Save money, and buy white ones and colour them with markers!) Using the colour coded scheme for clothing allows me to easily unpick the stitch (or pull off the sticker) and change it for hand-me-downs, while leaving our iron-on surname tags unchanged too - it takes some time to set up from scratch, but does work very well!

    Phew! It's al rather complex to read, but I promise, it makes organising a multitude of children a breeze!

  13. My two big boys can wear the same size socks. My two little boys can wear the same size socks. As someone already said, the bigger boys share one size and the little boys share a size. I also buy only one brand and style, so when they get low I just buy another pack of them. I've never even thought of binding pairs together. :)

    I am not commenting as often, but know that I am still a regular reader. :D

  14. We use Sock Cops ( in our household. They might be a little tough for kids to use, they take a little effort to pinch open, and can break if you get overly zealous, but they work for my husband and I, and our little ones that are too young to have any idea that mom lost any of their socks!

  15. We use lingerie bags that are hung on the door in each child's room and I use a laundry marker to write their name at the top. They put their dirty socks in and when it is about half way full we zip the bag, wash and dry and return to the child so they can pair their socks and put them away. No more piles of socks. I saw this on pinterest and instantly fell in love with the idea.


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