What Should You Hang vs. Fold? (Closet Organizing)

I was recently asked what you should hang versus fold in your wardrobe and closet. Now you’ve touched on an almost religious debate in some circles.

What Should You Hang vs. Fold?

But the real truth is that what to fold and what to hang depends on several factors:

  • How much space you have in your closets and dressers
  • What your personal habits are
  • What type of garments you own
  • What types of fabrics they are made of
  • Whether you find folding relaxing
  • How much of a perfectionist you are

Definitely hang anything that you might otherwise have to iron. Many fabrics today can skip the iron if you remove it from a hot dryer immediately before they are completely dry and shake or hand-smooth the remaining wrinkles. This includes sheer and light blouses in almost any fabric, and casual dresses and tunics.

Pro tip: Bring your laundry to your hangers, not your hangers to your laundry. Keep nice hangers inside the closet where they are used, and each person in your house will always have the right amount of hangers for their wardrobe.

Better slacks and lightweight jeans can be flipped upside down, match all four side seams together, and either hang long from a clip hanger or fold over a pants-friendly hanger with a thick or rolled bottom rod. This preserves the hint of a center fold, reminiscent of iron marks. It won’t be as crisp as an ironed center seam, but it’s good enough for today’s casual workplaces.

Jeans can be folded and hung in the same way. This helps prevent a pronounced side seam from forming, which can be annoying.

Sorry, linen almost always needs ironing to look its best. Definitely hang anything linen.

Mid-weight sweaters can often be hung on a soft hanger with rounded shoulders. Flocked hangers from Bed Bath and Beyond are my favorite.

Pro tip: Layer a sweater on the hanger over a blouse or shirt that you wear it with to preserve the sweater’s shape even better.

Really chunky sweaters should generally be folded. There are folding techniques to gently wrap your sweater around a hanger to avoid making hanger marks, but I don’t think they are easy or intuitive for most people. A chunky sweater can take up a lot of hanging space, often the space of six or more hanging blouses. If you can, fold them and give them their own cubby to avoid crushing their fibers and knits.

Better nightgowns, coats, costumes, formalwear, and work uniforms are all good bets for hanging.

Here’s where it gets contentious: T-shirts can be hung, folded or stacked. There’s no doubt that hanging them reduces the chance for wrinkles. But most modern tees have some amount of stretchy fiber in them (Lycra or similar) that allows them to be relatively wrinkle-free in any case. If you have very little drawer space, conserve that for things like camisoles, socks, and underwear. If you have an abundance of drawer space, consider folding your tees into rectangular packets and “file” them into your drawers so you can see the folded edge of every tee in the drawer. If you have more shelf space than anything, fold and stack them.

Pro tip: Keep your stacks only two or three shirts high to make it easy to get to all of them. Have more shelves cut and installed in your closet for shorter shelf heights, if needed.

What will you fold? Again it depends on whether your folded items are going into a drawer or onto a shelf. If you can’t see it, you might as well not own it.

You will probably fold shorts, athletic/athleisure wear, sweatshirts, undies, and socks.

Pro tip: You don’t actually have to fold undies and socks, depending on their size and fabric and your level of perfectionism. There is no folding police. Feel free to use your limited time on folding garments that people notice.

Leggings can get out of hand quickly. And really, how easy is it to find your favorite black leggings in a dark drawer? We recommend rolling them and placing them in a small bin that you can carry to a lighted part of your room to select from. This bin can be in a drawer or on a shelf.

Most jeans can also be folded and stacked, so if you are out of hangers and drawer space, put these in short stacks, no more than three pair high to avoid tipping stacks, on a shelf.

Pro tip: You can purchase shelf dividers or use rectangular bins to keep taller stacks neat for longer.

You have to decide to fold, stack or hang some accessories, too.

  • Purses should generally be stuffed (to keep their shape) and set on a shelf rather than hung, which can damage their handles.
  • Belts can often be hung from their buckle unless the hardware doesn’t have any type of loop. In that case, it’s usually better to coil them and place them in a single layer inside a shallow drawer.
  • Scarves can be folded, rolled, or hung. We generally find that clients like them hung on hooks or a specialty hanger, just so they can see them all in one glance.
  • Ties can be hung or they can be rolled and stored in a drawer. Mini cubbies for ties are fun, too.
  • Necklaces can be placed in individual jewelry trays, but longer necklaces also like to be hung on hooks to avoid tangling.

My best advice is still to think about how you will care for your clothes before you even buy them. I’ve put sooooo many cute tops and outfits back on the rack in the store because they were going to be too much trouble or expense to keep nice. Try the crush test in the dressing room. Remember, there are a million cute outfits out there, so don’t settle for ones that don’t make you happy.

Try the Crush Test to avoid packing mistakes