When I first stumbled across 'file folding', a clothes folding technique Marie Kondo swears by, I was convinced that it was yet another 'hack' that would add more time to my laundry routine. I never expected that one year on, it would be the only method I use to organize my bedroom dresser.
I am always on the lookout for the best home-organizing ideas, and that often involves hunting for the perfect bedroom storage organizing hacks to get my small bedroom in order. I knew I simply had to give 'file folding' a go for my overflowing dresser packed with tops that didn't fit in my narrow closet.
File folding is, by far, the best tip I have tried for organizing clothes – and now I use it for almost everything in my home, including my dishtowels and my bedding.
Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for six months, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers.
The 'file folding' hack for organized dressers
Here, I explain what the file folding hack for clothes is, how I use it in my home to organize a dresser and linen closet, and why I think you should try it out too.
What is the 'file folding' technique?
File-folding is one of Marie Kondo's top five tidying tips and first popped up in her book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’, on Amazon. It changed how many of us looked at our dressers. While a chest of drawers is a common option for clothes storage, they can easily be thrown into disarray as we search through for a particular top or pair of trousers. File folding is a real game-changer because it allows us to see exactly what we have in one glance.
By folding clothes into neat packages and stacking them vertically in rows rather than on top of each other (like standing files in a filing cabinet) no garments go unnoticed – and they don’t unfold either, helping to keep my clothing – and towels, and bedding when organizing my linen closet – neat and tidy.
How I file-fold clothing
How I approach file folding depends on what I am folding. Bedding, for example, needs a little more space and more folds than a smaller t-shirt. Here I how I fold each piece:
T-Shirts and Tops
- I start by folding the sleeves inwards to move them out of the way, both for short and long-sleeved shirts.
- Then, I fold the top of the shirt down one-third and fold the bottom third upwards so that it covers it and I am left with a neat rectangle.
- Finally, I fold one end of the rectangle into the middle once again. I like to add an extra step to help my folded clothes stay together in my drawer by opening up the end of the folded section like a pocket. Holding the upper segment open, I fold the other side over into the pocket, tucking it in like an envelope.
- Then all there is to do is stack it tidily in the drawer.
Trousers and Pants
- To file fold trousers and pants I want to store in my dresser to save space in my small closet, I begin by zipping up zippers and closing fastenings to make folding a little neater.
- Next, I fold the trousers in half, tucking in the small crotch segment that sticks out to make a neater line.
- From here, I fold the trousers in half again, from top to bottom before folding them in thirds. I change up the method again by using my pocket method again, folding the top waistline of the trouser down first so that I can tuck the bottom half into the waistline like a pocket once again.
Bedding and towels
I find that folding towels and bedding is a little simpler than a t-shirt, as they already have even sides.
- I start by folding the item into a more manageable size. For my full-sized duvet covers I usually fold them in half and half again before starting to file folding. Large sheet towels I fold in half once, and for hand towels I begin file folding right away.
- I then proceed just as I folded the t-shirts, folding them in thirds one way and in thirds again, tucking one end into the open pocket.
Dish and cleaning cloths
It might seem silly to fold something so small, but as someone who doesn't use single-use paper towels, file folding makes storing my excessive amounts of cleaning cloths much easier when organizing my cleaning supplies.
- Given that cloths are already so small, I start my folding the flat cloth into thirds straight away to make a long rectangle.
- Then, all there is to do is to fold in thirds the other way, opening up the pocket and tucking the opposite end inside.
- I then stack these cloths in an large, old plastic tub to keep them all contained and stop them sliding around the cabinet under my sink.
I won’t lie, trying to get this technique right took a few tries with different garments and linens to work out what this technique is good for and how to perfect the fold. This certainly added time onto my laundry routine at first as emptying my laundry basket took longer as I paid more attention to how I fold shirts, for example.
I discovered that jumpers and sweaters were simply too thick for this file folding to work effectively, and slippery silk blouses and shirts with stiff collars benefitted from hanging in my closet instead.
For short- and long-sleeved t-shirts, trousers, bedding sets, and towels however the method was a godsend. My favorite decluttering tip to help save space when organizing a bathroom closet, was to fold smaller facecloths inside of my hand towels when folding them away so that matching sets stayed together nicely on the shelf and were always used in my bathroom together to help it look a little more luxurious.
I used a similar technique for my best bed sheet sets, laying my pillowcases on top of my duvet cover before file folding to keep them contained together in my bedding drawers.
It is not just aesthetic, it is super practical too!
Is it better to fold or roll clothes in drawers?
While rolling clothes is best for packing a bag and saving space, folding clothes is best for long-term storage in dresser drawers. File folding can help to keep your clothes folded to prevent them from unrolling or unfolding in the drawer and making it untidy.
If you are worried about creasing it is best to hang the garment in your closet.
What is the most efficient way to fold clothes?
One of the most efficient ways to fold clothes is to file fold. Folding and tucking garments into itself may not sound like the quickest way to get your fresh laundry back into your drawers, however, once you are well practiced it takes a similar amount of time as folding clothes in quarters.
What's more, file folding means your clothes are less likely to become untidy when searching through your drawers, meaning you will spend less time refolding clothes too.
I may have taken file folding too far now that I also use it for my cleaning cloths and tea towels, but I can't think of any better way to keep my drawers and shelves organized!
Will you be trying out file folding?
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Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.
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