It will be shocking to hear this, but my house is often a mess. Beth and I had long been on board with the cultural move to simply things, so we have big regions of our house with hardly any furniture. But with kids, you still end up with stuff everywhere, often on the floor and stirred about like a dustdevil went through the room.

How to improve the mess? I’m a systemic thinker, which means I’m always looking at the process of how we’re doing things to see if there’s one simple thing that can fix it. With toys, my approach has been that everything needs to fit a category, so that no one has to think about where it goes. Over time, the list has grown: stuffed animals, dolls, regular legos, duplos, magnetiles, animals, cars, balls, food, and dress-up. Of course, now that I list them my heart is racing, and I probably need to rethink my system. But as long as a toy can fit in one of those categories, we can plausibly put it away. If something doesn’t fit one of them, it’s shocking how much harder it is to clean up, as we have to think about each object individually. It’s that little bit of extra time and mental energy that bogs down the system, and makes the whole job more stressful.

But toys can be shoved aside if I’m in a hurry, or piled in the basement until a hypothetical future date. The bigger problem is laundry, which is why a package arrived today with all the craziness in the picture above. I have three boys aged 2, 4, and almost-6, and as of today they all wear the same size and style of socks. Hopefully.

I ordered ten six-packs of sock pairs that all match. They have different colors on the soles, but for the purposes of my kids we’ll just ignore that fact. All other boys’ socks will go into hibernation: that includes the gray crew socks with colored soles, the white crew socks with colored soles, the harry potter socks, the spider-man socks, the superman socks, the captain america socks, the star wars socks, the mickey mouse socks, and the huge assortment of baby socks. Day after day I have beat my head against the wall in the laundry room (which is concrete, by the way) trying to find pairs of at-least-closely-matching socks, all while we are in a hurry to leave the house. Now if the boys need socks, they will get a pair of short gray socks with colored soles.

This is definitely a first-world style of simplicity, since it involved buying more things. But my hope is that life will be simpler in two ways: less thinking about socks, and less time finding socks. While the kids are young, I can hardly imagine a better use of $60.

Fortunately, from now on everything in our house will be simple and easy.

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