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Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

The Best Way to Fold Shirts

I love folded clothes. I love how folding prevents wrinkles. I love how it optimizes space. I love how it makes it easy to see your inventory of clean clothes. But I loathe folding clothes. I find it tedious and time-consuming. In the past, I would gladly hand over $15 to have one of NYC’s ubiquitous wash-and-fold laundromats transform my dirty tangle into clean, orderly columns of ready-to-go clothes. But with an in-building washing machine and a son who tears through clothes at a breakneck speed, it’s tough to justify sending clothes out nowadays. And while my wife has less of an aversion (and more skill) to folding than I do, she’s not always available to fold, which means I often find myself folding.

Let me back up a bit, folding clothes is not uniformly difficult. I find folding pants, towels and mating socks pretty easy. It’s the dreaded shirt (any type) that is my laundro-nemesis. I learned my main technique watching a Gap employee fold a shirt I bought when I was a freshman in high school (i.e. a long time ago). It always served me and my shirts well, but it is labor intensive. The method involves laying a shirt face down, folding the sleeves toward the center, then folding the outside quarter of the shirt toward the center, then folding in half or thirds from top to bottom.

My method appears to be the correct (or at least common) way for folding a dress shirt and, to a lesser extent sweaters, which are bit more forgiving. The above video shows how it’s done. The more fastidious seem to prefer using a board in the center of the fold, which helps cinch the shirt against the board and create a standard size for the shirt.

tshirt-gif-step5

This method is not an ideal way of folding a t-shirt however. Surfing the internets, there were two popular methods of folding a t-shirt. The most popular is called the pinch method or Japanese method (see above video). It’s a seemingly magic way of folding a t-shirt in about three seconds (FWIW, it’s the way Martha Stewart recommends). I gave it a shot and couldn’t quite figure it out after a couple tries, though because of its speed, I might try harder.

The other way is the ranger-roll, so-called as it’s the preferred way military personnel fold their t-shirts. It involves folding clothes in toward a six inch center channel, rolling very tightly, then closing off the roll with a crease made at the hem of the shirt. This method is super simple and has a number of advantages: It compacts the shirts as much as possible; it allows various different storing methods, e.g. you could store your shirts butt side up; and it makes t-shirts very portable as there is little way they will come unfolded accidentally. It is however relatively slow to do compared to the pinch method.

This is by no means a definitive list of correct methods. We would love to know your preferred method of folding all clothes and shirts in particular. Let us know in our comments section.

Pile of colorful clothes image via Shutterstock

  • Tracy

    for folding shirts while traveling this is the best: http://www.amazon.com/Eagle-Creek-Travel-Pack-It-Folder/dp/B002YIRBU8

    Its a Packing folder for Dress shirts. I have two that I use for my husbands travels. One for a suit and the other for dress shirts. We have used them several times. It comes with a folding board fold a dress shirt neatly every time.

    Also when folding suits, I use the SECOND METHOD shown here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQJWLU8Yvdg&list=FLjVZ-1yzslebSb_-YDPKlbQ&index=10

    It might look crazy but it is seriously the best way to travel with suits.

  • Matthew McKenzie

    Wait am I on lifehacker? But seriously this was good advice. I’m gonna use that ranger roll when travelling and maybe in general.

  • PerthGirl

    How does folding prevent wrinkles? in my experience, the reverse is true. I put all mine on hangers. No wrinkles.