Updated: Apr 29
Folding clothes is a task that many of us learned to do in a very informal way likely from your mother or grandmother. The way my mother taught me to fold was by giving me a laundry basket full of clean clothes, and a few pointers. Then I was tasked to fold.
As my passion for organizing grew as an adult, I studied and tried out numerous methods for folding clothes to see which method was easiest, which method saved the most space, which method kept clothes the most organized over the long haul and which method was the most fun to actually do. I folded clothes into a square, I rolled them up, I and folded socks and placed them in divided boxes in my drawer. I even got certified in the KonMari Method which includes Marie Kondo's way of how to fold clothes.
What I have learned is that there is no one right way to fold clothes, but that folding clothes in certain ways can really simplify your life and keep your drawers and closet neat and tidy. Finding the best systems for my own home organization and helping my Neat Little Nest clients declutter + organize, which often includes organizing their clothes, benefit from two of my preferred ways to fold clothes, file and flat folding.
file folding clothes allows you to see everything easily and to pull an item from a drawer or basket without significant disruption to the others
File folding is a way to fold clothes primarily into thirds that allows them to "stand" on their own and then be "filed" into a drawer or basket.
File folding saves a considerable amount of space and it is often why I recommend it most often to clients with space constraints. File folding works well with tanks, t-shirts, workout clothes and certain sweaters.
file folding clothes also makes it easy to distribute laundry throughout the household
Another benefit of file folding is that helps simplify the reality that laundry is an ongoing task and by using the method it saves you time. When you file fold your clothes into the laundry basket, you are able to quickly file them into your drawers when distributing them throughout your house.
If you have children in your home, teaching them how to file fold is a wonderful life skill that you can teach them at a young age. While children are not likely going to care about their level of proficiency to the same degree as their parents, as with everything, a little teaching and encouragement can go a long way.
flat folding clothes helps both delicate and bulky items keep their shape while minimizing wrinkles
Flat folding is the type of folding you typically see on display at retail stores. It is when clothes are folded flat so they can be stacked one on top of another onto a shelf.
Flat folding works well with bulky and uniquely shaped sweaters as well as with sweaters that have delicate fabric like cashmere. I like to flat fold these items as there are less folds on the garment which leads to less wrinkles.
You can also flat fold t-shirts and pants if you do not have a drawer or basket available to you as with file folding.
folding socks is probably easier than you think
The way I was taught long ago to fold socks was to ball them up and throw them in a drawer. When I became a professional organizer, I learned that balling up your socks stretches out the elastic making them lose their shape more quickly. So I learned a different way to fold socks that took less time and kept my socks in better shape for a longer period of time.
As you can see in the photograph above, there are a few ways I recommend folding socks depending on what type of sock it is.
No show socks - Take one of the socks and put it inside of the other sock. You can then put it into the drawer just like it is shown above on the right or fold it in half and put it into the drawer.
Short athletic socks - Put the right and left sock together and then fold them in half. I face the same side down into the drawer to streamline the look.
Mid-length socks - Put the right and left sock together and then fold them in half. I face the same side down into the drawer to streamline the look as I do with athletic socks. If they are a bit longer than mid-length, you might need to fold them into thirds.
Knee-high or thigh-high socks - Put the right and left sock together and then fold them into thirds or more if necessary. You can lay them on their sides in the drawer or file them in like you would with t-shirts making it easier to see patterns better.
A word about drawer dividers: drawer dividers are an amazing way to divvy up your drawer into smaller subcategories, which helps you to keep them organized along with allowing you to find what you need more readily. Give drawer dividers a try for your socks, undergarments like bras, underwear, and tank tops, as they can make a huge difference in keeping your space tidy. Here are some of Neat Little Nest's favorite drawer dividers if you're looking for a place to start.
If you're skeptical of trying new ways to fold, I get it. We all, to some level, are set in our ways because we are so used to doing things in a particular manner. I challenge you to give file folding, flat folding and sock folding a try. Start small with a drawer or a shelf of clothes then expand as you go. Voila, watch the transformation happen.
Once you have your closet and dresser organized with whichever is your preferably method, each laundry basket of clean clothes should now be folded similarly. You will be amazed at how much additional real estate you can reclaim by folding your clothes all in the same fashion. Neat Little Nest clients are always surprised with the results too.
Photo credit: Jes Lahay Photography
Neat Little Nest, LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. All opinions are of Neat Little Nest and not the affiliate.