Do socks have feelings?

Ever since Marie Kondo wrote about how unkind it is to your socks to store them balled up, people have been writing to ask me if this is really true.

Do socks have feelings

According to Marie Kondo, the socks stored in your drawer are essentially on holiday, so it is cruel to ball them up with their fabric stretched, in a state of tension. ‘The time they spend in your drawer is their only chance to rest,’ she says.

It sounds like something from a child’s fiction story until you realize she means this to be taken seriously. In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, she explains that socks must always be folded and stored upright. ‘You’ll notice your socks breathing a sigh of relief at being untied,’ she claims.

I do agree that folding socks and storing them vertically in a drawer, grouped in their various colours, is aesthetically pleasing. It also allows you to store more of them in a smaller space than if you roll them into balls, and it’s fun to thumb through them as you would search through index cards, looking for the ones you’d like to wear that day.

But to suggest that socks need to be stored in this way because they are tired and deserve to have a rest is utter nonsense.



Projecting human characteristics onto inanimate objects, plants, animals, deities and so on is what psychologists call anthropomorphism. It’s common in many cultures, especially those that practise animism. However, when I lived in Bali for twenty years, where animism is practised in many forms, I never once saw a Balinese person do this. For them a sock is a sock, a plant is a plant, and a dog is a dog. They treat certain items, such as ritual objects, respectfully, but they would never think of attributing human traits.

From a spiritual perspective, most Third World cultures, including Bali, are still predominantly immersed in what’s known as the prepersonal stage of human evolution. They are still etherically connected to land energies below, to spiritual forces above and to their earthly environment. Because of this, they have a spiritual culture that is more alive and vibrant than most other places in the world.

Most people living in western countries, by comparison, have entered what is called the personal stage. This has given us all the wonders of industrialization and technical advances, but has resulted in wide-scale etheric numbing and spiritual disconnection, which in turn has led to many forms of neurosis. Anthropomorphism is a symptom of this stage and is, in my view, a type of neurosis, as this Ikea lamp video so beautifully illustrates.

The path of human evolution mercifully does not stop at the personal stage. We are designed to pass through this to the transpersonal stage, in which permanent conscious spiritual connection becomes a way of life, although the human race is a long way from this at the present time. If you would like to know more, the best starting point is the Knowledge Track titled Subtle Bodies, The Fourfold Model, published by the Clairvision School.

Talking to things

I’m a tactile kind of person so I’ve been known to caress the furniture in my home and I like to wear the type of clothing that has textures. I also freely admit that I love my car and sometimes, as a show of affection, I stroke the exterior or pat the top of the dashboard. I even give my cars names.

But I draw the line at talking to my things as if they are sentient beings with feelings.

At the highest levels of consciousness, there is no separation. In the sublime levels that some meditators experience, there are states of consciousness of being at one with the whole of creation. Everything is everywhere and everywhen. It is all connected. And that’s essentially what animists are tuning into.

However, these exalted states are exceedingly rare. A person can meditate for years and never even glimpse this. When people attribute feelings to inanimate objects, it is not because they have had high-level experiences of consciousness that have changed their approach to cosmic realities. It is because they are mistakenly anthropomorphizing. They are projecting human attributes onto animals, plants or things.

In cultures where animism is practised, certain items may be venerated because they are imbued with a particular spiritual presence or are an anchor for specific spiritual forces that can tangibly be felt. But this does not mean those items have feelings. Yes, they need to be treated respectfully, but it is the high spiritual presence that is being respected, not the physical item the presence is anchored on.

In any case, the way to commune with high spiritual presences is not by talking to them. They don’t communicate with us in words. If you ever find yourself talking to a spiritual presence (and especially if you think it answers you), you are either imagining it or connecting to a low-level astral force that likes to play with gullible humans for its own amusement. I’m sorry to say that most New Age channelled writings are products of this.

So about your socks

If you’ve been treating your socks better because you believed they can get stressed and tired, hopefully some of this kindness has extended into other areas of your life and into how you treat yourself too. But imagining that they have even the tiniest shred of feelings is ludicrous.

And if you’ve gone one step further and started thanking your socks or anything else you own, you need to read this article too.

Copyright © Karen Kingston 2020

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About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fourth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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7 Responses to Do socks have feelings?

  1. I’ve read part of Marie Kondo’s book and didn’t take anything she said too literally, there could be some translation issues at work here too.

    I did use to roll up my socks but have reorganized my drawers the way she suggested because it makes sense to me. No I don’t think rolling socks in a ball makes them tired. However I have had a lot of ankle type socks lose elasticity at the ankle and start to slide down into my shoes. Since I’ve started folding my socks this doesn’t happen. I also like to be able to open my drawers and see what it there, rather than constantly wearing the top 1 or 2 items in the pile.

    As with any practice you can learn about it and then use what makes sense to you. I know Karen recommends to keep your laundry basket outside of your bedroom (which I do) and to wash clothing after you have worn it (I quite often wear items more than once, I don’t have time to do that much laundry).

    1. Hi Lynn – The reason I wrote this article is because a number of Japanese people have told me that the English translation is very high calibre. I’m therefore pretty sure that Marie Kondo means what she says to be taken literally, which is why so many people have contacted me to ask if it can possibly be true that socks feel tired, stressed and so on.

      On the topic of washing clothes, even though it’s not related to this article, I’ll just mention here that this is a question that often comes up in my Declutter Your Clothes online course. I’m not sure where you got your information from but it’s not the case that I advise people to always wash every item after wearing it. There are a range of situations when this is not necessary.

  2. I suppose it’s easy here to choose one’s IDEOLOGY based on the PRAGMATICS one goes for, before even giving it a thought. I tend to side with Karen in the sense that I also ball up my socks and have always done so. My idea of a good sock situation is to have a big plastic picnic basket that is filled to the brim with inexpensive cotton socks, so that one pair may be grabbed at any moment, without hesitation. For all that, I think Marie Kondo has a point. We get a better conscience if we care for anything in a thoughtful way, even inanimate objects. Or – maybe Kondo just represents the ultimate “collector spirit”, treating socks just as another type of an object to add to a kept collection. Collectors are known to obsess over their possessions.

    I think nevertheless that Karen’s advice is a bit better because outside USA, walk-in wardrobe closets are uncommon, and you need one to properly care for all of your garments. “It’s a rich (wo)man’s World.”

  3. Sorry but I find the tone of this “essee” to be little bit obsessive. If Marie Kondo herself believes that socks have feelings and wants to write a book about the topic…then what’s the problem? 🙂 I must say the state of the world is really really great if people have the luxury to occupy their minds with the theme whether socks have feelings or not! We should care more about the feelings of other people and animals.

    Could it be that Marie Kondo meant it some metaphorical way, that socks need “holiday” and “rest”? Using common sense, I think all clothes need that! I once saw a fashion and clothes expert talking on the tv how for example bras need rest. So therefore it is good if a woman owns more than one bra, so the other one has always time to “rest”. I think that makes sense. The fibers somehow need time so “re-arrange” and “renew”, which will prolong the longevity of the bra. Bras/their fibers need to stay firm…if for example a t-shirt becomes loose, it doesn’t matter so much I understood.

    1. Hi Julia – The reason so many people write to ask me about Kondo’s teachings is because her ideas do not come across as being metaphorical. I have heard the advice from some experts that fibres such as cashmere last longer if they are not worn every day and that makes perfect sense to me. It gives the material time to reshape back into its original state, which is one of the unique properties of wool. However, that is very different to suggesting that clothes need the same kind of rest that people do when they are exhausted after a hard day’s work or that they feel stressed if you roll them into a ball. That’s giving them human qualities that they simply don’t have.

  4. I’m not particularly a fan of Marie Kondo, but I translate what she says as “the fibers of the socks need some time off.” I have several cashmere sweaters and I notice that in care instructions for cashmere sweaters or even good quality lambswool sweaters, that it is often recommended to give the garment a breather – not wearing the same sweater everyday, to extend the life of the garment. I’ve worked with textiles for many years and know that fabrics made with natural fibers do have a life of their own. Maybe it’s just semantics…

  5. I read this in a purely physical, not emotional, sense. When the socks are on our feet – they are “working”. Their elastics and fibers are under tension and friction. When they get washed, it is also no “holiday” – the time of “rest” is in the drawer. Putting the fibers and especially elastics under tension will wear them out faster. I also read of a belief that objects carry the energy of the maker. Surely, if someone puts loving energy into creating something – he would like it to be cared for and respected. For all these reasons I think it’s worth to care for the socks when they are resting in the drawer. Greetings

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