When sorting clothes, go through each nook in the house and gather every article of clothing—absolutely every article—and put it in a pile on the floor. The author will usually ask the homeowners if they’re sure they’ve gathered everything because any clothing items found after that point will automatically be discarded. Ruthless? Perhaps. But if you can’t readily recall that item hiding away somewhere, it probably doesn’t spark joy for you.
Once you’ve gathered everything, further divide the clothing into categories: tops, bottoms, clothing to be hung like jackets and suits, socks, underwear, handbags, accessories like belts and hats, clothes from special events like swimsuits and kimonos, and shoes. Again, go through items in the given order. Why? The author is not sure why this is the best order of operations, but extensive experience has revealed it to be so.
Loungewear is to be discarded automatically. Don’t give an inch here or “lounge wear” will pile up and you won’t get far reducing volume. If you get in the habit of wearing sloppy attire, it will impact your self-image.
At the end of the discarding process, most people are left with only a third or a quarter of their original wardrobe. With the remaining clothing articles that spark joy, you can begin the process of storage. There are two ways to store clothes: hanging or folding. Hanging might seem convenient, but folding is by far the superior method. For one, hanging is incredibly space-inefficient. You can fit anywhere from 20 to 40 items in the space needed to hang 10.
Now, folding must be done properly. It gets a bad rep for leaving wrinkles, but wrinkles come not from the folds themselves, but the weight of stacked folded items impacting the creases. With a shirt for example, fold in the sleeve sides toward the center, and then take the bottom of the shirt and bring it up to the back collar, folding it in half. Then fold it again into halves or even thirds, depending on the thickness of the fabric. The goal is to make each article more like a bundle than a piece of paper to be stacked. You want to fold clothes compactly enough that they can “stand up,” so you don’t have to stack your clothes at all. The neatly-folded bundles should be compact enough to be laid side-by-side. By arranging items side-by-side instead of stacking, you can see every item that is available to you in a single glance.
Another blessing of folding is that it requires you to handle each and every piece of fabric you own in a manner you wouldn’t if you merely hung your clothes. You imbue energy into the cloth as your hands touch it. The Japanese word for healing is te-ate, which is literally translated “to apply hands.” There’s a strong connection between touch and healing. Caring for our clothes has a positive effect, both on the person and the clothing. Touch keeps the fabric supple, vivacious, and wrinkle-free.