AD It Yourself

5 Home Organization and Cleaning Tips for Hibernation Season

Because fresh starts aren’t exclusive to springtime
The dining room inside Kai AventdeLeons upstate home is organized to perfection.
The dining room inside Kai Avent-deLeon’s upstate home is organized to perfection.Photo: Chris Mottalini

Spring cleaning is all about a fresh start and bringing in the brightness of a new season through home organization. It’s the warmup to spending less time indoors. But where’s that same level of enthusiasm for a winter reset, that can ensure our spaces are fully optimized for ease and comfort during the long months ahead?

“A lot of cultures practice ‘spring cleaning’ for various religious and historical reasons, and it has been passed down through the generations,” says Charlee Ostander, organizer, woodworker, and founder of Build & Create Home. “Our lifestyles and homes have changed significantly, however, and it may not be relevant anymore.”

Now that fall is here, it’s time to approach the gradual shift to winter with the same vigor as we do in spring. “The cold evokes feelings of coziness and hunkering down, whereas the warmer weather is seen as an ‘awakening’ and ‘kicking off cobwebs,’” says Maria Arrington, cofounder of the New York–based home organization studio Home Ease. Even if you love the cold, a refresh and reset for this time of year is necessary. We consulted three experts to find out exactly what they do to prep their homes for a peaceful and cozy season indoors.

Swap out and store

Marie Kondo once drew a direct line from our joy to the pile of clothes sitting in the chair in your bedroom. Not only does winter require more layers, but there’s also gloves, hats, heavier coats, and bulkier footwear. You need more space and different cleaning and upkeep than your warm-weather wear requires. “We tend to hoard winter gear because we just want to add layers in the cold,” Arrington explains. “I think that constant editing is important to keeping your home organized.” She says we only really need two to three coats, sets of gloves and scarves to keep in heavy rotation and to donate the rest.

Arrington emphasizes sending winter accessories like gloves and hats, which are commonly overlooked, to the cleaners, or wash them on the delicate cycle in cold water and lay them flat to dry before it’s too cold out, when you need them most. For multi-person homes, she recommends a designated coat hook per person for everyone’s winter gear to “keep the clutter contained.” Ostander is also in favor of this setup over bins and recommends mitten clips to keep pairs easy to find.

Don’t neglect the senses

While we love function, preparing for hibernation season is also an opportunity for focusing on setting up your home to feel good. Juliette von Hess, founder of Von Hess & Co, a home organizing and style company in New York, recommends switching your lamp lightbulbs. “Softer light can make a home feel cozier and is a great way to add a warmer vibe to your home as the days get shorter.” Consider trying warm white or soft white lights in the 2700–3000K range.

Von Hess notes, “Adding heavier texture in your home will automatically bring a sense of warmth into your rooms.” She likes to keep her heavy, fuzzy, real and faux-fur throws, pelts, or rugs stored until the winter months. “[You can] bring them back to life with a hairbrush,” she says.

Although she’s not a pumpkin spice or pine type of girl, Arrington argues that a winter fragrance is essential. “Something clean and warm like atlas cedar or fig to evoke a cozy mindset,” she says. “Scent is such an important and neglected sense, and it can do so much to create the right energy in a home.” Balsam fir is also pine-like without being overwhelmingly holiday-focused.

Clear out the dirt and purge your pantry

Spring cleaning rituals have existed for decades (and maybe centuries), but Ashley Dixon, a decor, DIY, cleaning, and organization consultant and content creator based in Atlanta, believes that winter cleaning is even more important. “Cozy spaces with closed doors and windows keep in germs, viruses, and bacteria that can then live in your home for several months,” she explains. Yuck, much?

Von Hess points out that “dust and dirt accumulate and people tend to forget to clean the items they use most if you can’t physically put it in a washer and dryer.” Don’t forget about vacuuming your furniture, lampshades, and drapes, along with cleaning light switches, drawer handles, door knobs, and other high touch areas.

Fall is also a great time to purge your pantry, wipe everything down and restock. “Clean out those old and expired soup cans and boxes of packaged food,” Ostrander says. “Make a list of your favorite cozy-weather meals and stock up while the weather is nice.”

Don’t forget your outdoor areas

While the weather is still nice out, you’ll want to prioritize outdoor spaces like the backyard, balcony, patio, and garage. “If you’re really ambitious or short on space, you can build an insulated storage cabinet for paints and glues,” Ostrander says while pointing out some things we store in our garages need to be protected from extreme cold temps, like paint which needs to be kept between 60 and 80 degrees.

Dixon recommends you look out for your future self early while shopping and caring for your outdoor furniture. “Investing in furniture that can withstand the conditions is helpful, but regardless, spring cleaning is much easier when you have covered your furniture through harsh winter weather,” she adds. Ostrander recommends brands like Outer and notes that pieces made from poly resin (which you can find from Ledge Lounger) or poly wood seem to last longer.

Finally, when it comes to staying warm, there’s a little maintenance to keep in mind. Ostrander recommends checking that there isn’t any furniture blocking your radiators or heat sources and says wood-burning stoves, chimneys, boilers and heating systems should be annually checked out by a pro. “Prepare a space to store your chopped wood that will be dry and easily accessible,” she says.

Declutter your entryway with trays

Winter boots are often a huge culprit for clutter and making a messy entryway. Boot trays or baskets are a great way to avoid accumulating a pile of footwear at your front door. “If you can have a stool with a basket tucked underneath, you are really winning,” Arrington says. “Trying to put on boots standing up is rough.”

Beyond apparel and accessories for winter weather, Ostander reminds us to also, “make sure those cold weather toys have a home for the winter months.” Skis, snowboards, and skates need a home that’s easily accessible enough to be ready to use, but designated enough to be out of the way for daily comings and goings.

Von Hess also advises wiping down shoes and handbags with rubbing alcohol before putting them in storage. As she continues, “put away seasonal clothing with dryer sheets and vacuum out all your luggage and handbags to be crisp and ready for next year.” There’s no reason to bring sand into the storage unit, back of the closet, or anywhere else for that matter!