Reader Josephine recently sent us the following question:
I don’t own a lot of clothes, but yet my drawers are always out of control. What are some ways to fold and store clothes to best use the space that you have?
That’s a great question Josephine. Maximizing storage space depends on many factors including the amount and types of clothes that you have as well as the design of the space in which you store them.
Our writers each lead different lifestyles so I asked each of them this question and compiled their reports.
With any clothes storage effort, the first step is always to unclutter. There’s no point in figuring out how to store clothes you’re not going to wear.
But let’s assume you’ve done that. There are products designed to help you fold things neatly and make the most of your drawer space, such as the Pliio clothes folders. I know people who use these and think they are terrific. And in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo presents her own folding technique for clothes, including socks. Many people won’t have the patience to do that careful folding — but if it works for you, that’s great. You can find numerous online videos showing folding techniques, if you prefer visual instructions.
Personally, I’m not someone who likes to fold. So, it works out well that my home has very little drawer or shelf space for folded items. The only things in drawers are a few knit items (which are folded), pajama bottoms (folded, but not carefully), socks, and underwear (which just get tossed into the drawer). Everything else is on hangers or hooks. I don’t own many clothes, so it’s easy to keep the closet and the drawers about 20 percent empty, making it easy to put things away and take them out.
Sock storage becomes easier if you buy multiple pairs of the same sock. For example, you might buy just one type of black dress sock, one type of white sports sock, etc. Then you don’t need to worry about rolling socks, folding them into pairs, or otherwise matching them up — the pairings are obvious. You might still want to fold them as a space-saving technique, though, if space is a concern.
One more space-usage tip: Sometimes I see people with some sentimental clothes items in their closets or dresser drawers. Since these are not being kept to be worn, they can be stored somewhere else, freeing up limited closet or dresser space.
Last year I taught a group of Cub Scouts how to unpack, set up, and then store a tent. They were very interested in getting it out of the bag and set up as quickly as possible. Later when it was time to put the tent away, I quizzed them while they worked.
“What’s the most important aspect of using a tent?” They offered answers with enthusiasm: “Finding a good spot,” “Proper staking,” and so on. I told them that the most important part is actually putting it away. By taking the time to put the tent away properly now, you save yourself time and headache later.
It’s the same with storing clothes.
When I was a college student, “storing clothes” meant “somewhere in this room.” As I matured, I recognized that a drawer stuffed with T-shirts only makes more work for me so I developed a new way to store my clothing – a system I’ve been using since I left school.
- Top drawer: Sleepwear, socks and underwear. I roll up each like a burrito to maximize space used.
- Second drawer: T-shirts only. Each is folded thirds lengthwise (arms and sides together) and then in half and in half again. This way I can fit several into a single drawer.
- Drawer three: Jeans or shorts, depending on the season, folded up in thirds.
- Drawer four: This last drawer is for what I call “dress pants.” I almost never go in this drawer (I can wear jeans to work), unless there’s a wedding, funeral or job interview I must attend.
Long-sleeved and button-down shirts are hung on hangers.
Sweaters are never hung, as they get those “bumps” in the shoulders. They usually live on top of my dresser during sweater season and in the off-season, in labelled bins on a shelf in my closet.
Until recently, I’d never given much thought to how I fold my clothes, but then after two years of living in our apartment, my husband decided to give our walk-in closet an overhaul. We ended up having several discussions about the pros and cons of folding clothes in certain ways, and although at first, I thought the conversations were bordering on absurd, but we realized that how the clothes are folded can make a real difference in how they are stored.
My husband has more clothes than I do, so has five shallow shelves to my two deep ones. While he has one full shelf each for t-shirts, trousers, sweaters, pyjamas, and scarves and such, I have a pile for each. How we store our clothes therefore has to be different.
Let’s look at trousers, for example. He folds his in four and has several piles of no more than five. I fold mine in three and have all of them in a single pile.
My t-shirts and sweaters need to be folded much more narrowly than his, again taking advantage of depth and height to compensate for the lack of width.
The one area of clothing that I outdo him on is dress shirts. For me, the trick has been to use the same type of hanger for all of my shirts, to iron them as soon as they come off the clothesline, and to do up at least the top button on the hanger. Everything hangs at the same level and being ironed, the shirts don’t bunch up or twist at the collar, and by being buttoned, they lay flat against each other.
After the overhaul, we now leave the closet door open a lot more because it’s actually a joy to see everything so nicely folded and hanging straight.
I purchased drawer organizer cubes for my dresser to store my clothes. Here’s how they are organized.
Socks and undergarments
Like Jeri, I don’t fold these items, just put each type of clothing into cubes; socks cube, panties cube, hosiery cube. I do however, neatly roll my hosiery because it is less likely to get snags and runs. For bras, straps are folded into the cups and they are all lined up in a rectangular shaped drawer cube.
T-shirts, sportswear, sleepwear
T-shirts are folded lengthwise in thirds then rolled from the collar to the bottom of the shirt.
Athletic wear very slippery and doesn’t stay folded, so it is rolled similar to the t-shirts. However, after the shirts are folded, I add a pair of folded sports shorts, sports bra, panties, and sports socks then roll the whole thing up like a burrito. All I have to do is grab a roll of sportswear and I have everything I need to go to the gym.
Pyjamas are folded/rolled the same way as sportswear, bottoms rolled up inside the tops.
Spending most of my life in cold climates (I’m Canadian), I have one drawer specifically for long underwear. It is stored in rolls the same way I store pyjamas.
Hanging clothes and shoes
We’ve lived in several different houses. In some houses sweaters have been stored on shelves with the help of dividers. In closets with more hanging space I’ve used a set of hanging shelves to store sweaters.
Shoes are stored in plastic shoe boxes, sometimes piled on the floor below the hanging clothing, sometimes stacked on shelving.
Thanks for your great question Josephine. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for.
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