How to fold - Tidying by category works like magic

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

How to fold
Tidying by category works like magic

The best way to fold for perfect appearance

The laundry is done and ready to be put away, but this is where many people get stuck. Folding seems like extra work, especially as the clothes will be worn again soon anyway. Many people can’t be bothered and soon they have a heap of clothes on the floor. They fall into the daily routine of picking something out of the pile to wear while the mound continues to grow, eventually spreading from one corner to take over the rest of the room.

If this describes you, don’t worry. None of my clients have ever known how to fold clothes properly when they began taking my lessons. In fact, quite a few of them declared that it was their policy never to fold their clothes. I have opened closets so full that the clothes look like they have been hardened in a jelly mold, and I have witnessed drawers filled with clothes rolled and twisted like noodles. You would think my clients had never seen the first letter of the word “fold.” But once they finish my course, all of them, without exception, have told me, “Folding is fun!”

One of my clients, a young woman in her twenties, hated folding so much that her mother used to come and do it for her. Through the course, however, she came to love it and even taught her mother how to fold properly. Once you have mastered this technique, you will actually enjoy doing it every day and will find it a handy skill for the rest of your life. In fact, to go through life without knowing how to fold is a huge loss.

The first step is to visualize what the inside of your drawer will look like when you finish. The goal should be to organize the contents so that you can see where every item is at a glance, just as you can see the spines of the books on your bookshelves. The key is to store things standing up rather than laid flat. Some people mimic store displays, folding each piece of clothing into a large square and then arranging them one on top of the other in layers. This is great for temporary sales displays in stores, but not what we should be aiming for at home, where our relationship with these clothes is long term.

To store clothes standing, they must be made compact, which means more folds. Some people believe that more folds means more wrinkles, but this is not the case. It is not the number of folds but rather the amount of pressure applied that causes wrinkling. Even lightly folded clothes will wrinkle if they are stored in a pile because the weight of the clothes acts like a press. Think of the difference between folding one sheet of paper as opposed to a hundred sheets in one go. It is much harder to get a sharp crease when folding a whole stack of paper at one time.

Once you have an image of what the inside of your drawers will look like, you can begin folding. The goal is to fold each piece of clothing into a simple, smooth rectangle. First, fold each lengthwise side of the garment toward the center (such as the left-hand, then right-hand, sides of a shirt) and tuck the sleeves in to make a long rectangular shape. It doesn’t matter how you fold the sleeves. Next, pick up one short end of the rectangle and fold it toward the other short end. Then fold again, in the same manner, in halves or in thirds. The number of folds should be adjusted so that the folded clothing when standing on edge fits the height of the drawer. This is the basic principle that will ultimately allow your clothes to be stacked on edge, side by side, so that when you pull open your drawer you can see the edge of every item inside. If you find that the end result is the right shape but too loose and floppy to stand up, it’s a sign that your way of folding doesn’t match the type of clothing. Every piece of clothing has its own “sweet spot” where it feels just right—a folded state that best suits that item. This will differ depending on the type of material and size of the clothing, and therefore you will need to adjust your method until you find what works. This isn’t difficult. By adjusting the height when folded so that it stands properly, you’ll reach the sweet spot surprisingly easily.

Folding goes even more smoothly if you fold thin, soft material more tightly, reducing it to a small width and height, and thick, fluffy materials less. In cases where one end of the piece of clothing is thicker than the other, it also helps to keep the thinner end in your hand while folding. There is nothing more satisfying than finding that “sweet spot.” The piece of clothing keeps its shape when stood on edge and feels just right when held in your hand. It’s like a sudden revelation—So this is how you always wanted to be folded!—a historical moment in which your mind and the piece of clothing connect. I love the way my clients’ faces light up at that moment.