I recall a scene in the movie Moscow on the Hudson where the main character has recently defected to America from Russia and is overwhelmed by the choices available in an American supermarket. In some aspects of my life, I'm starting to understand that feeling of being overwhelmed by choice. While in general I support and embrace choice - think it leads to the best choices, products, etc, I'm starting to consider the question: when is choice a blessing, when is it an unnecessary burden best shed when possible?
I'm starting to think that in some areas of my life, less choice would be better - simplification in lieu of constant optimization. I've read of this strategy being recommended as a tool for losing weight (pick a reasonably healthy breakfast, eat it every day, don't give yourself any choices). For me, my current target for simplification is socks.
I am surrounded by socks. Piles of socks. Literally hundreds of socks (see picture above).
My socks, Ryan's socks, Quinn's socks, socks of unknown origin. I don't want to spend the time sorting them, so the pile remains, with us digging into the pile each time socks are needed, trying to find something that resembles a pair. We've collected these socks over a lot of years - there was a bag of unmatched socks that we brought here from California a year ago that have remained unmatched; I still have socks that I received when I was an editor at Triathlete magazine over ten years ago and received all sorts of gear from sporting goods companies.
I don't like to throw things away so there's very little exodus of socks except by complete deterioration. At the same time, any time I see new socks that
claim to be better for running for x or y reason, I've given them a
try. Or I like the design. Or I forgot to bring socks to the gym and I
don't have time to run home but there's a sports store nearby.
I've caught myself on more than one occasion unable to find matching socks for Quinn and telling him that it's cool to occassionally wear mis-matched socks. I realize I may be encouraging some rather odd fashion choices, but, sometimes, it just seems easier than diving into the pile to try to find a matching pair.
But I've been embarking on a new effort of late to simplify our lives and eliminate any unnecessary sources of stress or things that are taking up more time than they warrant. So, today, I've decided to follow Ryan's lead of simplifying this tiny little aspect of my life.
Ryan had long been a fan of socks as a vehicle for creative expression and had a vast collection of funky socks - Jhane Barnes and Ted Baker were particular favorites. After ten years together and me being the one who does our laundry, Ryan seemed to finally come to the realization that he hadn't married June Cleaver. Considering himself lucky if I managed to get clean underwear in his drawer each week, it has proved beyond my ability to ensure that he had matching socks on any given day from his vast collection of creative but distinct socks. So, Ryan's solution was a trip to Nordstrom's from which he returned with one bag of black socks and one bag of sports socks. He told me that he didn't want any of the other ones in his drawer any more - it was to be black socks with gold toes or nothing at all - he told me I could throw away any others.
Of course, I couldn't do that. It just felt so incredibly wasteful. There's nothing objectively wrong with the socks. At the same time, I realize that the pile hasn't been doing anyone any good, and every time I head out for a run I have to dig into the pile and find two suitable running socks. For the past month or so, I've started opting to just wearing mis-matched socks and not spend any extra time on the process.
But, today is the day for me. Earlier this week I bought Quinn 15 pairs of white socks. And today I'm going to head to the running store and do the same for myself. Tuesday is trash day and I think I will just pack the whole pile of socks into a bag and dump it. I might have to ask Ryan to do it as I know if I start picking up the pile, I'll see one perfectly good sock and then another and another, and pretty soon I will have the whole pile back on my floor and I will again be forced to spend that time each morning picking out socks for my run.
So, while eliminating the choice of socks is rather low-hanging fruit in
the stresses-of-life department, that's my charge for today. I'm looking forward to getting up for my run tomorrow morning and grabbing two socks - any socks - and having a match.