A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Do Minimalists Go Commando?

Socks and underwear are typically missing from those popular lists that include the 50 or 100 things that radical minimalists live with. Maybe they’ve decided they are unnecessary in life. I suppose going commando everyday could bring a certain sense of freedom.

In reality, socks and underwear are simply an unglamorous necessity. We just like to ignore their existence. However, if left unchecked, the quantity of these undergarments can clog up drawers and overwhelm the laundry pile. If you’ve got a pretty good handle on the situation, then I applaud you. You might want to share your advice in the comment section. For the rest of us, let’s explore it a little more.

Raise your hand if any of the following statements are true at your house:

  • Your sock drawer is crammed so full it’s hard to close.
  • Your husband has so many similar socks he has a hard time finding the right color he needs.
  • You can’t remember how old your bras are.
  • Your kids have socks full of holes but they still end up back in their drawer.
  • You keep panty hose with runs in them just in case of emergencies.
  • You keep stretched out or faded socks in your drawer in case you need extra socks.
  • You keep favorite underwear even if they no longer fit.
  • You would be horrified if anyone saw the cluttered contents of your underwear drawer.

Ok, so maybe those things just happen at my house. Confession time… I recently threw out a bunch of bras that I was holding onto for months that didn’t fit. I kept thinking I would lose enough weight that they would fit again. I finally decided if that happens I will reward myself with some new pretty bras. I also threw out a bunch of old socks that were just my standby socks. I didn’t really like them, but I saved them anyway “just in case.” If I go through enough socks that I need a standby set, then it is time to do some laundry!

The solution is pretty straightforward. Like so many other things, it’s just too easy to overlook something like decluttering our socks and underwear. To help me with the process, I use a simple list of questions to evaluate what I have.

  1. Do I really wear these?
  2. Is it still in good shape?
  3. Are they the right size?
  4. Do I have more than I need for one week?
  5. Can I make do with less?

No one’s going to come behind you and count your underwear, or maybe you’d just prefer to go commando. It doesn’t take long to clear out your socks and underwear drawers, but I guarantee it’ll feel great either way.


How many pairs of socks do you have? You can tell me on Twitter or consider opting to receive free updates via RSS or EMAIL and see what I get rid of next.

Article originally published on 10/20/2010

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  1. “I kept thinking I would lose enough weight that they would fit again.”

    – I did the exact same thing with a bunch of my bras! they were all so cute, and I hadn’t worn them for very long, so I justified keeping them, and moving 4 times in the last year with them! I finally got rid of them last month and feel a lot better!

    I’m now slowly working on my underwear and socks… I at least took out enough from each drawn that they comfortably close. But I know there is a LOT of room for improvement! Good luck on your decluttering as well!

  2. I learned from trial and error that it is worth it to get the best quality undies and socks you can afford and always launder them on the delicate cycle. They’ll last, they’ll fit, they’ll be comfortable and flattering. No more drawers full of so-so crap you save “just in case.”

    Kids and guys, however, are another matter. Helps to be ruthless ;D

  3. Love it! I’ve gone through my family’s clothes over and over and over – getting us down to the minimum. What we really wear. What we really love. Yet, NEVER thought of the socks/underwear drawer! And, yes, they are overflowing for all of us. Especially me, with two pregnancies and all the size fluctuating. And my daughter with her 21 pairs of underwear. 21 pairs was recommended for potty training. Nonsense. She wears the same few pairs over and over. Should have taken my cues from my 2-year old. Great post. Can’t wait to get to the drawers (HA!) this weekend.

  4. I was just talking with my mom yesterday about how out of control my sock and underwear drawers are! My problem is what to do with all of the perfectly-good socks that I just have too many of? Shirts are easy because you can donate them to Goodwill, but who wants used socks???

    • Karen (Scotland) says

      Nurseries sometimes want them for sock puppets, if they are still in good condition. My husband donated a couple of packs of socks (unrequested Christmas pressies) to our son’s nursery and they were delighted to have matching puppet “bodies”.
      Or, do you have a Rag Bag scheme in America? They take all fibres, old and new, and sort them into various categories: usable clothing for third world countries, fabrics to sell to industrial users as wipe-rags, and fabric fit only for “stuffing”.

  5. Karen (Scotland) says

    Love this post!
    My socks are under control – always have been. I mean, they’re socks. How boring can you get – four long black pairs of socks. Wash, dry, pair, put in drawer compartment, forget. Easy peasy.

    Knickers and bras – different story…
    Four pregnancies in six years and bf the lot of them. As soon as I stopped bf (during the day at least), I would celebrate by waving goodbye to the tatty non-wired, cotton nursing bras and purchasing some fabby new lingerie… and end up pregnant again. Seriously. The connection is that blatant. 😉

    So, six months since the last and final baby was born and I have a wide drawer full of lingerie that doesn’t fit but is TOO beautiful to let go of. Even though I secretly suspect that my body and boobs have changed shape beyond belief, I am still hoping to fit into some of them once I lose the baby weight (which I did between babies three and four).

    At the moment, that drawer is my shameful secret – messy, disorganised, not in use and maybe never will be…

    If, by the end of 2011, I either haven’t lost the weight or it turns out nothing will ever fit me despite losing the weight, I will get rid of the stuff. Honest.


  6. Karen (Scotland) says

    Oops. Um, sorry. I wasn’t meaning to be c/rude in the previous comment with TMI saying how quickly I fell pregnant – just trying to make the point that the new lingerie only fitted for a week or two before it felt uncomfortable therefore has hardly been worn and is practically new. Therefore harder to throw out in a decluttering exercise…
    (I’d do a little blushing face icon but I don’t know how…)

    • Faith Janes says

      It’s totally fine, Karen. I can totally relate. Pregnancy and nursing wrecks havoc on a body. It’s a good thing kids are cute because we sure go through a lot for them. 🙂

  7. I throw away all of my socks and underware every Christmas. Is that weird?

    I replace them with just enough to last me through a wash cycle. Men’s socks come in 10 packs. I only buy one pack. Men’s underware comes in 3 packs. I buy 4 packs so I have 12 total.

    I found that since there are so few, that they will last me exactly a year. By mid December I start seeing holes in socks and the elastic is a little loose in the underware.

    It is a small investment every year.

  8. I have a system similar to Marc’s above, but we do it in August, when socks/underwear are on sale for back-to-school. I recently started buying better quality socks for my 12-year old son who has “toe seam issues”, :), but he liked them so much, I bought the same brand for the rest of us. Now it’s easy to match up socks when folding laundry, and I don’t have the waiting-to-be-matched pile.

    The first time I did this, I felt guilty throwing away all those “ok” socks, but the feel of new, cushiony socks helped me get over it.

  9. As a 100TC person, I can state that I DO not go commando. Whew got that out of my system. However I do only have a week’s worth of panties (blush). Socks are another story (too many of them to count: so socks are a single category counted as 1 item). I liked the idea of getting rid of all your underwear items every X-mas for a small new supply. May put that into the system here.

    Have also heard the suggestion of buying the same kind of socks for each person in the family to make it easier to match up. Hmmmm, something to consider.

    • Karen (Scotland) says

      That’s what we did – mine are now long socks, my husband’s have a N on the side (brand from shop called Next), my eldest boy has coloured toes and heels and my youngest son has stripes on the soles. Matching up is a doddle now.

  10. Admittedly, my family has more socks than we actually need. Mostly, it’s because we all wear white socks and that’s really the only white thing we all use on a regular basis, so it takes about 2 laundry cycles before we have even a small load of whites. Does anyone else have this problem?

    • Karen (Scotland) says

      When I was a student, I only owned one white item of clothing so I used to throw it in with sheets and towels. Would that not work for you?

    • Definitely have that problem. I gave up on separating whites and just toss them in with everything else. I like the idea of putting them with sheets and towels, but I still wouldn’t be able to use bleach.

  11. Gulp, now you are getting personal! When did you sneak into my house and peak in my drawers? 🙂

    I like the idea of getting new undies every Christmas.

  12. The comments have quickly gone from just sock/underwear drawers to clothing drawers in general. OK, Faith…I don’t want to come across as “spammy” here but I do have a few pointers to help my fellow Minimalist Moms readers. The first is on Organizing Basics to help you get started with any organizing project. It’s at http://getsimplifized.com/simplify-your-life-organizing-basics-part-1 The second if focused specifically on clothing drawers…it’s a quick video that can be found here: http://getsimplifized.com/crush-clutter-clothing-drawer-quick-tip

    Faith, your blog is terrific and I’ve also enjoyed your guest posts on other blogs. I look forward to your posts to show up in my Google Reader! Hope these tips help my fellow MM fans!

  13. Well if they do, I know a ot of dads that would suddenly be on board!

  14. sorry if this has already been mentioned, but I find the following helpful (this might even work for families who travel a lot). I don’t immediately throw away old undies – I bring the worst along on my trips, and then ditch them before returning. Sometimes I don’t have that many “bad” items to bring, so I just re-wash them as needed while there. This sometimes gives me a little extra space in my bag for the way back, which is useful since I never check. [I know some people like to buy new undies for a trip – this I do not understand, but to each her own 🙂 ]

    Am enjoying reading the posts (I just started reading this site yesterday). All the best. 🙂

  15. I mostly go commando except when I was working. I even go without bras most of the time, my boobs are saggy for a 22 year old but then again I’ve never had perky ones having been a well fed girl all my life. I do have quite a bit of undies and socks in my drawers. Colorful socks were on sale at rue and we couldn’t pass em up. :/ I bought a bunch of granny panties after my wreck and lounged around in them during the summer. It was hot and I couldn’t walk (Buckley beside me to pee)

    • *bucket. Considering getting rid of some more stuff. Little girl down the road enjoyed my jewelry. But I hate how my undies drawer looks.

  16. 2 cycling gloves, 2 pairs of shoes 2 cycling jackets, 1 casual jacket 1 cycling pants 1 running shorts, 1 fleece jacket, 1 body warmer, I have 2 Jeans, 1 suit, 6 t-shirt, 2 dress shirts, 1 casual shirt, 9 Underwear but I still have over 60 pairs socks but most of them are cheap socks birthday and Christmas presents etc thay are not going to last forever but I plan to get to get down to 9 pairs of high-quality one day.

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