The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

68° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    On socks and stress: A laundry lesson

    How am I doing? Ask my clothes hamper. That is, if you can find it.

    My hamper is no match for two weeks of dirty laundry. Crumpled dresses, wrinkled T-shirts and dirty socks have superceded the capacity of not only the hamper, but the entire corner of my room – they have spilled out onto the floor, under my desk and over all furniture. One skirt has even gone where no skirt has gone before – in the floor air vent.

    As my to-do list grows, so too does the pile of laundry – my domicile disarray is and always has been a barometer of my busy-ness.

    Now that midterms have descended upon us all, so too has stress and subsequently, soiled socks.

    Sometimes attempting to cram school, work, extracurricular activities, relationships and even a little me-time into your day planner is a lot like trying to fit all of your clothes into an average-sized IKEA hamper – it is a logistical impossibility.

    As much as we try to uphold the responsibilities we have to school, to work, to others and to ourselves, the balance isn’t always obvious. Some things are like socks; they fall through your arms and just get left behind.

    The trick is making sure the important things aren’t the things left behind.

    Finding myself sprawled on my floor after a bra-strap managed to wrap itself around my ankle, I realized the stress just may kill me…literally. My near-death experience made me realize my life may be missing something more than fabric softener.

    I just may be missing a little balance.

    But balance is a tricky thing – it is defined in so many ways.

    Some advocate perfect balance: An equal amount of time and energy should be spent in every aspect of life, ensuring one commitment does not overshadow others. Workaholics, bookworms and romance-obsessed schoolgirls are society’s archetypical violators of this perfect balance; they all focus on one thing and one thing only.

    While a perfectly adjusted life in which we can show up to every class, go to every party and take a shower every day is desirable, it is also a dream.

    On the other hand, some advocate a passion-driven existence, one in which we do only that for which we have passion. If you know what you love, then give 110 percent. The problem with this lies in the math: 100 percent to 110 percent doesn’t leave much for anything or anyone else.

    These definitions represent the extremes, however. Most of us lie somewhere in the middle.

    We try to evaluate what is important and get rid of what is not. For some it is personal hygiene. For others, it is a love life, the grade point average, party attendance or work ethic that suffers. Others suffer detriment to mental, emotional or physical health; stress-related illnesses are one of the most common problems seen at Campus Health Service.

    Our greatest challenge is to strike an appropriate balance, to find the midway between maintaining a harmonious existence and still pursuing that which we are passionate about.

    Just like laundry, this requires a little sorting.

    Regardless of your priorities, the ability to step back, gain perspective, evaluate what is truly important and simplify accordingly is a skill that transcends this week of midterms. An ability to prioritize, to simplify and to balance will serve a lifetime.

    The most important lesson I have learned from college wasn’t found in a classroom. For me, it was found in a hamper.

    I learned that without some semblance of balance, the things that bring the most substance to your life can easily become the things that take substance from your life. I have come to realize that you can’t have everything and do everything at the same time.

    Sometimes you will have dirty socks. And that’s OK.

    Courtney Smith is a senior majoring in molecular and cellular biology and anthropology. She can be reached at

    More to Discover
    Activate Search