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  • Writer's pictureMarni Jameson

Discover the 'Life-Changing Magic' of Folding

“Going through life without knowing how to fold is a huge loss.” — Marie Kondo

If you’ve been reading my column for a while, you know that whether we’re discussing furniture foam or the sharpness of fork tines, no domestic detail is too dinky to delve into. And that includes … the art of folding. In my constant pursuit of an orderly home, I have come to believe that after godliness and cleanliness comes folding.

Perhaps no one has elevated this art more than Marie Kondo, that famous neatnik who in her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, turned folding into a sort of religious experience. About folding, she writes: “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.”

I don’t know if I would go that far, but I do agree that proper folding imposes a certain serenity and calm in spaces that in most households look like chicken roosts. When folded, clothes, sheets and towels take up less space, get less wrinkled, are easier to find, and look better on shelves or in drawers.

Besides, folding is therapeutic. When you feel powerless in the face of pandemic politics, global warming, or personal weight gain, here’s something you can control.

For you folders out there, I am going to bet you can do the job better. For you non-folders, those of you in the why-fold-at-all camp, and I am not pointing fingers here, you might, after reading on, consider giving folding a try.

You might discover, for instance, that the difference between a linen closet or a drawer filled by the stuff-and-shove method and one filled with carefully, deliberately folded items is like the difference between a bacchanalian street fair and a chapel. But to each her own.

“The goal should be to organize 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,” Kondo continued. If you, too, want to discover the life-changing magic of folding, these 10 tips might help you bend your ways:

1. Get ‘em while they’re hot. The best time to fold clothes and linens is straight out of a warm dryer, said Emma Glubiak, spokeswoman for The Spruce, a digital lifestyle publication that offers practical tips to help consumers make their best homes. Folding clothes fresh from the dryer lets you hand press them before wrinkles settle in. When folding sheets, grab pillowcases first since they will be most visible. Sheets are easier to smooth flat when they are on the bed. Fold towels last since they don’t wrinkle.

2. Miss the bell? If you left a load in the dryer too long, steam the wrinkles out by placing a wet, clean hand or dish towel in the dryer with the wrinkled load, and running the dryer on medium heat for another 10 to 15 minutes, Glubiak said. Then fold immediately.

3. Find your folding place. Fold garments on a large flat, surface, like a kitchen table, the top of your dryer, or even a bed. By using a flat surface you'll get cleaner, sharper folds and have space to stack folded items by household member and category.

4. Aim for same. When folding one category of clothing or linens, whether t-shirts or towels, fold them all the same way. Strive for smooth, compact, uniform rectangles, Kondo says. Adjust the size of the rectangle to fit the shelf or drawer.

5. Go for thirds. When folding shirts, pillowcases, or towels, think threes. Lay the piece flat and fold each lengthwise side in so the edge is past the center, and sides overlap. The shape will resemble a stick of gum. You will have three even layers, and no visible free edges on the sides. Tuck sleeves in. Then take up the short sides and fold again in thirds, or, depending on shelf depth, in half and, possibly, in half again. The goal is to hide free edges, leaving only thick folded sides showing.

6. Don’t hang if you can fold. “By neatly folding your clothes, you can solve almost every problem related to storage.” Kondo writes. For instance, depending on their thickness, you can fit from 20 to 40 garments in the same amount of space needed to hang 10.

7. Store in drawers vertically. Kondo upended the world of folding by demonstrating how standing folded items upright in a drawer instead of stacking them in piles lets you see all items at once without rummaging, and also saves space. Would recommend.

8. Face folds out. Whether storing items vertically in drawers or stacked on shelves, face the thickest folded edges up and out. Free edges should face the wall or drawer bottom. This not only streamlines the look, but also makes pulling items out easier, Glubiak said.

9. Roll ‘em. Another attractive, space-saving way to store towels is to roll them. Fold them into thirds longwise, then fold in half, and roll. For washcloths, fold them in half then roll them and place them vertically (free edges down) in a basket.

10. Folding fitted sheets. You can do this, for heaven’s sake. With the fitted sheet inside out, place one hand in each of two adjacent corners. Bring hands together and nest one corner inside the other, flipping the outer one so the right side now faces out. Do the same for the two remaining corners below. Lay flat on a surface. Smoothing the curved, elastic edges in toward the center, then fold into a neat square or rectangle to match the size of its corresponding folded flat sheet.

Join me next week for 10 tips to organize a linen closet you’ll be proud of.

Photo caption: Stand-Up Storage — Folded clothes take up less space, get less wrinkled, and look nicer. When in drawers, storing them vertically make garments easier to find, too. Photo courtesy of Oleksandra Naumenko/Dreamstime

Have you ordered your copy of my newest book, "What to Do with Everything You Own?"

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