The easy yet innovative technique is a true life-changer.

About two years ago, I overheard some coworkers gushing about a book that helped them finally get rid of a bunch of stuff they no longer needed. The palm-sized manual by Japanese organising expert Marie Kondo vows to help readers declutter their homes once, very thoroughly, and then never have to do it ever again. That appealing promise turned the book into a longstanding New York Times bestseller—and inspired me to pick up a copy of my own to see what the fuss was about.

In short, Kondo encourages you to assess every single item you own to determine whether or not it “sparks joy.” If it doesn’t, she says you should get rid of it. Her decluttering process, called the KonMari Method, requires you to sort everything by category rather than by room, which means your home will get a LOT messier before it actually gets tidy. 

I have a confession: I didn’t have the motivation to work the full KonMari magic in my apartment. I started, and then the sorting piles that accumulated in my bedroom drove me nuts, so I stashed everything back away as neatly as I knew how. But the one lesson from the book that stuck—and that I intend to use forever—is Kondo’s technique for folding and storing clothes. I won’t go into excruciating detail about exactly how to fold each type of clothing this way (watch the video below for that), but the gist is this: You fold each article so that it can stand up in a row with other clothing items like it. This way, you see all of your shirts, socks, pants, and other wearables like books on a shelf.

See how to fold clothes the KonMari way:

“This method enables us to see what we have at a glance without having to move any clothing items out of the way,” says Lisa Mark, a certified professional organiser. “Of course the effectiveness of this method also assumes that there is no overflow and that our storage space is big enough to accommodate what we have.” Though Kondo's book turned this technique into a phenomenon, Mark points out that many people (including herself) have always stored their clothes this way. She also notes that there’s no one-size-fits-all folding method, so this technique won’t help everyone declutter their wardrobes.

“Although I really like this folding method, whether or not I use this method with my clients depends on whether a client is willing and able to take the extra time needed to learn to maintain the system,” Mark says. “I figure that as long as the clothing lands in the drawer or on the shelf, it is an improvement over having it in piles on the floor regardless of what method is used to fold it.” Certain life obstacles make it challenging to keep the system up, Mark points out, like if you just moved, had a new baby, or are suffering from a serious illness.

For me, the KonMari folding method was simple to work into my routine. Sure, it took some getting used to at first, but I soon learned that the benefits far outweighed the extra time spent folding. Here are five ways the method has streamlined my life:

Packing my suitcase is so much simpler.

To be fair, I've always been a light packer, but the process has become total cake since I've changed how I fold clothes. Just like in a drawer, tidy vertical rows in a suitcase maximise space and keep items from getting badly creased during travel. I can actually take more outfit options than I used to be able to fit in there, which is perfect when I don't know how dressed up or down each night of vacation will be.