Everyday efficiencies: Why I stopped folding clothing
It's Sunday evening and I'm nestled in the mental state often had at the close of a deliciously slow weekend. Inviting preparatory thoughts of the coming week with the calm reserve of someone more organized than myself, it hits me like the disheveled, dirtied pile of the past few days that it is – the laundry.
Since becoming a parent, laundry has become the opposition. Laundry has to be dominated. And really, it's not the laundering of clothing that frustrates me, but the subsequent self-imposed task of folding and returning each item to a clothing receptacle from which it will be pulled, donned, and dirtied again; every pile of worn wares mentally representing X number of minutes folding fabrics.
Like many addressing the daily demands of parenting and professionalism, I am protective of my time. Any given minute could be spent discussing the eating habits of Triceratops with my son or crafting a client presentation that helps guarantee our family's financial solidity, and in attempts to calculate the purpose of folding clothing into geometric shapes, the cost/benefit analysis does not compute. So much time, so much effort, and why?
Why do we fold our clothing?
When I began investigating why many households host drawers and shelves of carefully folded clothing, I expected to discover some sensical logic in support of the practice; it's so time consuming, it must make sense. But, no.
It's marketing. Really.
The activity of forcing t-shirts and jeans into stacks of rectangles is merely decades old, introduced by retailers like The GAP in the late 80s. With a plethora of clothing items available for the first time en-masse due to the decrease in production costs, clothing retailers needed a display approach to showcase various colors and sizes of merchandise, and make it easier for customers to sort. Think in terms of a candy store model: visible abundance encouraging quick, impulsive selections. Retailers soon found folded displays resulted in stronger sales, and many hired teams of staff to wander the floors in search of clothing stacks in need of maintenance.
Like the colloquial use of brand names to label a variety of household items, from facial tissues to adhesive bandages, the practice of folding clothing has been engrained in the Western day-to-day without much rationale. Perhaps some of us maintain a closet of folded clothing to mimic the shelves of our favorite retailers, or we're convinced our tees are best preserved against wrinkling in a folded state, but these standards are about as resilient as a 100% silk blouse on a "heavy duty" cycle.
So, I stopped folding my clothing, and you can, too.
To rid my life of laundry folding, I needed to identify a method of processing clothing from dryer to drawer in as little time as possible, while preventing wrinkling and remaining readily navigable.
I began hanging most pieces where fabric and form permitted, and grouping and laying remaining clothing flat in drawers at a grade, with the edge of each item visible so I am able to see all items in the stack. Now, selecting a t-shirt provides the interactive feeling of a filing cabinet; I take hold of the layers atop the item I want, peel them back, and lay them flat once more after removing the chosen goods.
And for items I rarely wear, I've purged my closet of them entirely, and placed seasonal necessities in small cardboard boxes stored elsewhere, like in the rear of the closet or under a bed. I spend no more time returning my clothing to their respective drawers and hangers than I do prepping them to launder – five minutes flat.
While some wardrobes may demand additional flux, I'm certain most would conserve precious time nixing folding. And consider the endeavors you can tackle with the time saved refusing to perpetuate an inefficient display marketing practice by origami-ing your outfits each week. Like teaching your toddler to do the laundry, or writing an instructive article on everyday efficiencies.