The way you fold clothes — or, conversely, don’t fold them — can make a world of difference. If you fold properly, you’ll save lots and lots of space. Plus, who doesn’t want their shelves to look like a carefully assembled store display? Check out our various tips on which specific folding methods work for various items of clothing. And to help you along, we’ve embedded videos along the way for those of you who are visual learners.
Before you begin: Figure out which clothing items you’d like to tackle first. And do them one at a time, in chunks. The ultimate goal of folding is uniformity. For t-shirts, that means that they’re all the same width. For pants, that they’re all the same length.
You’ll need a nice flat surface. Unless you’re particularly adept at folding clothing on your knees — which, most of us are not. A table, a desk, an unused portion of your couch, your bed will all do just fine.
Let’s begin with the ubiquitous t-shirt. Grab your short- or long-sleeved t-shirts and let’s begin (we’ll tackle halter/tank tops a bit later). Lay your t-shirt down flat. Some folks prefer right side up, and others, with the back facing you. See if there’s a method that works easier for you, and once you’ve figured it out, stick with that.
You’re going to fold the sides to the edges of the t-shirt’s collar on both sides. Fold over one side, and give it a nice smoothing with your hand. Do the other side. Then, turn back the sleeves. If they’re short, they’ll just fit into the space you’ve folded. If the sleeves are long, fold them so that they run down the length of the t-shirt.
And now, you’ll want the last fold to match whatever the depth of your drawers is. Grab a ruler, piece of string — anything that’ll let you match that depth to the fold of your t-shirt.
Expert tip: If you’re looking for that extra bit of perfection, grab a piece of paper. That’s right, just a regular 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper. Doesn’t matter if it’s blank or not. Line up the top of the paper with the collar of the t-shirt so that the width (the shorter side) is just below the collar. Then, fold the sides of the t-shirt onto the sheet of paper so that the fold lines up with the edge of the paper. Smooth down the sides. Turn back the cap sleeves, and fold them over.
And just as above, match the ultimate folded length to the depth of your drawers. Then slide out the piece of paper and voila! Perfection.
HALTER + TANK TOPS: FOLD
As tempting as it might be to fling these into a drawer or onto a shelf, take the time to organize them and you’ll be surprised at how much space you’ll save. Since most of us have multiple pairs of sleeveless shirts, their volume can add up.
Put the item face down (or, face up! your choice) but so that the straps are facing upright. Smooth it out (especially if your halter has a lining inside). Take the bottom, and fold it to meet the top of the collar. Grab the straps, and fold them down. Now you’ve got a neat little rectangle. And depending on the space that you’re going to put these into, you can either do a single fold or a double fold.
T-SHIRTS, HALTER + TANK TOPS: ROLL
Now, there’s another method of organizing your tops, and that’s rolling. If this sounds like more your thing, then you’ll begin as with everything: Put your clothing item on a nice flat surface. Grab the bottom and fold it up 3-4 inches. Smooth it out.
Fold the left side over (including the sleeves if they are there), and then the right side so that there’s about half a foot remaining in the middle. Then, roll from the top down. All the way until you hit that fold in the bottom. The tighter you roll, the more space you’ll save. Once you hit that fold, tuck the material in.
Let’s tackle your sock drawer next. Lay each sock down flat. Put the heel so that it’s laying flat down (not to the right or left).
Place one sock on top of the other. Grab the bottom, squeeze, and roll. All the way up to the top. The tighter you squeeze, the more space you’ll save. Along the way, tuck in any material that peeks out from the side. When you’ve reached the top, grab the top of the bottom sock and pull it over. Tuck everything in, and you’re done.
For even more perfection, you can roll your socks like the Air Force does, and this young cadet will show you how.
PANTS + JEANS: ROLL
While you’re going to want to hang your nice pants on the proper hangers let’s see how to save space by rolling pants and jeans. Sure, you can fold, but, since we’re on a space-saving roll, pun intended, let’s keep rolling (too easy!).
Grab a pair of jeans, zip up the zipper and button any buttons. We’re going to do the same fold/tuck trick we used to roll t-shirts, but this time, start with the top of the jeans and fold the top over 5-6 inches. Straighten the legs out. Lay one leg on top of the other. Grab the bottom, and start rolling up. Squeeze as you roll. When you get to the top: Hold the part you’ve rolled with one hand, and use the other hand to bring that top folded part over the rest of the roll.
Since the jean material is stiff, this might take a bit of practice. But the end result will be worth it in terms of how small you can make the jeans’ footprint. Use this method for a variety of other bottoms, too: yoga pants, sweatpants, pajama pants.
Now that you’ve got beautiful piles of a uniformly folded piece of clothing, take the time to figure out how to best arrange them in your drawers or shelves. You might be a color-coordinated type of organizer. Or, a utility type of organizer, meaning that you’re going to have your gym clothes in one spot, casual wear in another, and so on.
You can lay your clothing one on top of the other on shelves. If you’re going to do this, shelf dividers will make a world of a difference, preventing your nice and neat stacks from toppling over as you grab a t-shirt from the middle or bottom. Another method is to arrange your clothing vertically in your drawers, versus one on top of the other. This way, you’ll be able to see the entirety of your clothing choices at a glance.
The above methods are also highly efficient when it comes to packing: Whether you’re trying to fit a week’s wardrobe into a carry-on, or you’re packing boxes to ship or move, take the time to fold or roll your way into nicely organized piles of clothing that’ll beautifully fit into whatever suitcase or box you’re putting them into.