Marie Kondo folding guide: The ultimate guide to how to fold clothes and save space

Decluttering queen Marie Kondo revolutionised the way we approach organisation. Her best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up introduced her minimalist methods to the masses. She demystified how to organise your closets and inspired millions of people to tackle tidying. Thanks to the runaway success of her Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo; and her second book Spark Joy, her advice continues to motivate dramatic wardrobe makeovers. Starting a closet cleanout may seem daunting, but Kondo offers an easy-to-follow guide that anyone can use to completely overhaul your home.

The KonMari formula is essentially a two-step system to get rid of excess stuff. First, you have to touch everything you own and ask the fundamental question – does this spark joy? Once you have only happiness-inducing belongings left, create categories and find a place to store each item that’s visible and easily accessible. The goal is to arrange the contents so that you can see every item at a glance, just as you can see the spines of books on a bookshelf.

That’s where the famous Marie Kondo folding routine comes in. The neatness guru advocates approaching it like origami, folding garments into neat bundles that can stand up on their own (think of them like file folders in a row). Her space-saving techniques are so popular because they simply work. By the time you finish, you’ll see something you adore everywhere you look. A functional space makes life easier, and when you surround yourself with the things you love, Kondo promises your house becomes your own personal paradise.

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How to fold T-shirts

If you have a graphic or logo tee, you’ll want the front to be on the outside so you can identify it at a glance, which means you should lay your shirt face down. Your gut may be to fold it in half lengthwise, but doing so creates a crease down the middle. Instead, take one side and fold it in toward the centre, then fold the sleeve back in the other direction. Repeat on the other side. Once you have a long rectangle shape, fold the top of the shirt down toward the hem, leaving a little space on the bottom. Fold the shirt in half again (you might need to fold it into thirds depending on how long it is) to reinforce its shape. The result should be a neat little packet. If it collapses or falls over, it needs readjusting (the rectangle might be too wide, or the height of the folds too low or high). Experiment until your top can stand upright by itself, an accomplishment Kondo calls the “golden point of folding.” Another Marie Kondo folding commandment: After each fold, smooth your hand over the entire garment before moving to the next step. It helps the item, no matter the style, to keep its shape long term. It also reinforces the idea behind her strategy: Folding properly deflates clothes and maximises the amount you can store.


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How to fold a long sleeve shirt

This KonMari folding method starts with laying your shirt on a flat surface with the sleeves spread out to the sides. Follow the basic procedure of how you folded a T-shirt, bringing the edges toward the centre to make a rectangle. The trick is to fold the sleeve back away from the centre of the shirt (roughly around the underarm area), and then fold it again toward the bottom, following the line of the garment (it should look like an upside-down L shape). Repeat with the opposite side, but not quite to the edge. The aim is to avoid having the sleeves overlapping each other, which would add bulk. When you run your hand over the final product, you’ll see there is almost no perceptible bump where the sleeve is, which helps the garment stay put without collapsing. Once you have your rectangle, fold it in half from the top down, leaving a slight gap between the neckline and the bottom. Fold again into thirds, stand it up, and you’re done!


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How to fold a sweater

When it comes to winter weather knits, the KonMari method doesn’t offer a one size fits all formula. Kondo says if you try to fold thick sweaters or fleece into compact bundles, they will always expand with air, so her trick is to fold them relatively loosely to begin with. If they won’t stand up in your drawer, it’s fine to lay them down instead. It’s the only time Kondo suggests a storing method that stacks items on top of each other. To start, lay your sweater flat on a surface facing up. Imagine a line going down the centre, then fold both sides of the sweater in to meet that middle line. Fold the sleeves in the same way you would for a long sleeve shirt (over and down so it creates a triangle). The two sides of the sweater should meet in the middle, and the cuffs of the sleeves should be touching the sweater’s hem. Start from the top and fold down into thirds. If it’s very bulky, you may only have to fold it in half. Pro tip: When storing multiple knits, try folding the sides in so all your sweaters have the same width – they’ll stack more easily that way.


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How to fold a hoodie

Kondo’s technique for folding clothes isn’t an exact science, so you may have to experiment to get the best fit for a hoodie. Lay it flat facing up and turn both sides toward the centre to make a rectangle. The trick here, because it’s most likely a thick fabric, is to not meet all the way at the middle line. Instead, fold the sides in just shy of the centre. Continue by folding the sleeves the same way as a sweater. Spread out the hood so it’s flat, making sure to tuck any strings inside the hood, then fold it over so it fits into the rectangle. This simplifies the shape, and from there you just need to fold the garment (in half or thirds): The number of folds should be adjusted so that the folded garment, when standing on edge, fits the height of your drawer.


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How to fold pants

The Marie Kondo folding rule of thumb is to fold any bottoms that are made of cotton (like jeans), but to hang anything more formal, such as suit pants or styles with a centre crease. The first step is to place the pants flat, face up. Fold in half lengthwise, putting one pant leg on top of the other (the zipper should be on the inside). If the seat of the pants sticks out, you can fold the protruding piece (yes, right where the crotch is) back against the pants so you now have a straight line. Next, fold the legs up toward the waistband, but not quite touching it, leave about a 2cm gap. Then fold this in thirds again until you have a neat little package. With the waistband facing down, line them up like soldiers in a drawer for easy access.


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How to fold shorts

Similar to how you handled pants, except much simpler, shorts only need to be folded once lengthwise, and then once in half. Put one leg on top of the other, and don’t forget to fold over the point that sticks out. Then fold them in half, bringing the hem up to the waistband. For styles that have more volume, such as wide-leg culottes or wool shorts, it’s often best if you begin by folding them in thirds. After that, fold them in half.


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How to fold underwear

When folding your undies, which are often made of light and flimsy material, the Marie Kondo method is to focus on making them as small as possible. The bottom is the most delicate part and should be folded inside, while decorations like bows in the centre of the waistband should be folded to show on the outside. Begin by spreading out a pair with the back facing upward. Fold in half lengthwise, bringing the crotch up to just under the waistband. Next, fold both sides over so that the crotch is wrapped inside (this should create a square shape), then roll up from the bottom. When you turn the undies over, they should be shaped like a spring roll with only the front waistband showing. For boxers and briefs, fold both edges toward the middle to make a rectangle, then fold in half, and then in thirds.


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How to fold socks

Kondo’s feet accessory decree: Never, ever ball up your socks. If they are balled or tied up, they are always “in a state of tension,” their fabric stretched and elastic pulled. Getting your sock drawer in order is actually pretty simple. Start by placing one sock on top of the other, and laying both flat. For low-cut “no-show” socks that just cover the feet, folding in half once is enough. For ankle socks, fold the toes inward about an inch from the top. Fold over again toward the centre, and once more in half so it stands upright. Knee socks and over-the-knee styles will get the same treatment, folding them four to six times, depending on their length. You can adjust the number of folds to achieve the height that best suits the drawer. Just remember, with the Marie Kondo folding system, your aim is to always make a simple rectangle. Store the socks on their edge and you’ll be amazed at how little space you need compared to your “potato ball” days.


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