Clothing storage - Tidying by category works like magic

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing - Marie Kondo 2014

Clothing storage
Tidying by category works like magic

Fold it right and solve your storage problems

After the selection process, my clients are usually left with only a third to a quarter of the clothes they started out with. As the clothes they want to keep are still piled in the middle of the floor, it is time to start putting them away. Before I go on to that step, however, let me tell you a story.

I once had a client with a problem that I just could not understand. A woman in her fifties, she told me during our initial interview that she didn’t have enough closet space in her house for all her clothes. From the floor plan, however, it was clear not only that she had two full closets to herself but that those closets were one and a half times larger than average. Although this should have been plenty of space, she also had a clothing stand with three rods full of clothes.

Amazed, I roughly estimated that she must have more than two thousand outfits in her wardrobe. It was only when I visited her home that I finally understood. Upon opening her wall-length closet, my jaw dropped. It was like looking at the crowded racks at the dry cleaners. Hanging neatly on hangers were not just coats and skirts but also T-shirts, sweaters, purses, and even underwear.

My client immediately launched into a detailed explanation of her hanger collection. “This type is made especially for knits so that they don’t slip off. And these are handmade. I bought them in Germany.” After a five-minute lecture, she beamed at me and said, “Clothes don’t get wrinkled if you hang them up. And they last longer, too, right?” Upon further questioning, I discovered that she did not fold any of her clothes at all.

There are two storage methods for clothes: one is to put them on hangers and hang from a rod and the other is to fold them and put them away in drawers. I can understand why people might be attracted to hanging their clothes. It seems like far less work. However, I strongly recommend folding as the main storage method. But it’s a pain to fold clothes and put them away in the drawer. It’s much easier to pop them on a hanger and stick them in the closet. If that’s what you’re thinking, then you haven’t discovered the true impact of folding.

Hanging just can’t compete with folding for saving space. Although it depends somewhat on the thickness of the clothes in question, you can fit from twenty to forty pieces of folded clothing in the same amount of space required to hang ten. The client described above had only slightly more clothes than average. If she had folded them, she would have had no problem fitting them into her storage space. By neatly folding your clothes, you can solve almost every problem related to storage.

But that is not the only effect of folding. The real benefit is that you must handle each piece of clothing. As you run your hands over the cloth, you pour your energy into it. The Japanese word for healing is te-ate, which literally means “to apply hands.” The term originated prior to the development of modern medicine when people believed that placing one’s hand on an injury promoted healing. We know that gentle physical contact from a parent, such as holding hands, patting a child on the head, and hugging, has a calming effect on children. Likewise, a firm but gentle massage by human hands does much more to loosen knotted muscles than being pummeled by a massage machine. The energy that flows from the person’s hands into our skin seems to heal both body and soul.

The same is true for clothing. When we take our clothes in our hands and fold them neatly, we are, I believe, transmitting energy, which has a positive effect on our clothes. Folding properly pulls the cloth taut and erases wrinkles, and makes the material stronger and more vibrant. Clothes that have been neatly folded have a resilience and sheen that can be discerned immediately, clearly distinguishing them from those that have been haphazardly stuffed in a drawer. The act of folding is far more than making clothes compact for storage. It is an act of caring, an expression of love and appreciation for the way these clothes support your lifestyle. Therefore, when we fold, we should put our heart into it, thanking our clothes for protecting our bodies.

In addition, folding clothes after they have been washed and dried is an opportunity to really notice them in all their detail. For example, we might spot places where the cloth has frayed or see that a certain piece of clothing is becoming worn out. Folding is really a form of dialogue with our wardrobe. Japanese traditional clothing, kimono and yukata, were always folded into rectangles to fit perfectly into drawers designed to their uniform dimensions. I don’t think there is any other culture in the world where storage units and clothing were matched so precisely. Japanese people quickly grasp the pleasure that comes from folding clothes, almost as if they are genetically programmed for this task.