Why you should 'winter clean' – 10 tips for giving your home a festive spruce-up

'Tis the season of the winter clean, so you can start the new year afresh

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You might not have thought about doing a winter clean amid the festive season – a time when the focus is on everything from putting up pretty decorations to consuming yummy food, as well as enjoying rest and relaxation among loved ones. But carving out space in your schedule to create a harmonious home during this period will help get your new year off to a seamless start.

Indeed, winter is the perfect time to – quite literally – dust off the cobwebs and cleanse your home of all the items you've accumulated, but no longer need, over the previous twelve months. While spring might traditionally be considered the best time to deep cleaning or decluttering sessions, the current season provides ideal headspace for freshening up your environment.

One of the key benefits of a winter clean is that it’s invariably a time when you're likely to be off work and perhaps staying inside, giving you the opportunity to roll up your sleeves – and perhaps rope in some little helpers, who are off school, too. What's more, getting your living spaces in order and subsequently learning how to declutter as you go can help fight seasonal affective disorder – better known as SAD – and elevate your mood. We’ve asked the professionals where to begin.

What is a 'winter clean'?

‘While spring cleaning gets all the attention, winter purging is equally as important,’ says decluttering expert Jan Arkwright, a member of the National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals. ‘There’s an inevitable build-up over the summer that almost certainly needs sorting through.’

The main thing to note is that there is no right or wrong way to winter clean – and it can mean slightly different things depending on your approach to home organizing. ‘However, the focus is on making your space one that brings joy and calm during the months when we are spending more time staying cozy indoors,’ explains Rachel Yates, a professional organizer, declutter coach, and owner of A Tidy Mind - South

Importantly, there’s a key difference between the winter and spring clean. ‘The latter has traditionally been an opportunity to get rid of the dust and grime that may have built up over the winter,’ continues Yates. ‘However, the former is actually about getting a head start on this.' Or as Kimberly Gonzales, a cleaning expert at PÜR Evergreen, puts it: ‘While spring is a time to refresh for the warmer weather, winter is about prepping for a colder climate.’

Jan Arkwright
Jan Arkwright

Jan Arkwright is an organizing professional who left her job as an attorney to start her own organizing business in 1997. Before & After Organizing by Jan LLC offers custom, sustainable solutions to help you reach your organizing goals; whether it be managing paperwork, eliminating clutter, or better space utilization. Jan is also a member of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization and a Golden Circle Member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals.

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How to start a winter clean: 5 ways

1. Do a deep clean

You've got the Christmas decorations up and have gifts set aside to wrap or find a new home for – where to begin with a winter clean? The first step, according to the professionals, is to tackle any grime. ‘Deep-clean your carpets and floors to remove dirt and allergens that may have built up over the year,’ advises Ava Wilson, a cleaning expert at Unclutterer. ‘Focus your efforts on areas where you'll spend more time during the colder months, like the living room and bedrooms.’

2. Check your heating

In advance of chillier temperatures, it's worth getting your heating systems in order to keep your space nice and toasty. ‘Clean any radiators and vents before winter sets in, as this will improve efficiency and improve air quality,’ recommends Yates. ‘If there is a working fireplace, it’s important to have the chimney swept in time for lighting it for the first time.’ Similarly, check for and seal up any drafts.

3. Tackle neglected areas

A winter clean is similarly a chance to scrub up parts of your home that you may have skipped for several months. ‘This is a great time to clean out and clear your under-sink areas in your kitchen and bathroom,' says cleaning expert Amelia Pleasant Kennedy, founder of A Pleasant Solution

'Additionally, dust your baseboards as well as lamp fixtures, and deep-clean your rugs to ensure that the internal air stays fresh.' Additionally, wipe down windowsills and the inside of your windows to allow as much natural light in as possible.

4. Get ahead outdoors

While your attention may be predominantly indoors, where you'll be spending most of your time during winter, this is also a prime opportunity to spruce up the outside of your home, too. ‘Ensure that gutters and downspouts are clear of leaves and that your walkway or driveway is clear, with de-icing equipment accessible if necessary,’ recommends Kennedy. 

‘Check that exterior pipes and faucets are adequately covered to prevent freezing, and wipe down exterior doorframes.’ Once all that's done, you could even start working on one of these front porch ideas.

What to declutter

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(Image credit: Julie Soefer/Marie Flanigan)
All-in-One Declutter Planner | $3.92 at Etsy

All-in-One Declutter Planner | $3.92 at Etsy
This printable decluttering planner is all you need to help tackle your home's clutter without missing a step. It is perfect for both keeping on top of your belongings and starting off on your first big clearout.

1. Sift through summer items

Once you’ve had a good clean, it’s now time to get decluttering the items still clogging up your space – starting with thinking about what you need for the present season. ‘This will make your home more comfortable and efficient for the winter,’ notes Wilson. 'Review your wardrobe, packing away summer clothes, and store away things that are no longer seasonally appropriate from your living spaces to create a cozy, uncluttered environment. In particular, focus on entryways to make sure they are clear for your winter gear.'

2. Streamline cold-weather items

One of the best places to start decluttering at this time of year is to go through the winter items that you might no longer make use of – whether clothing or soft furnishings. ‘It's best to sort through coats and other outerwear, like gloves and hats, in advance of winter to be ready for a change in temperature,’ points out Yates. ‘Decluttering throws and winter bedding, and washing or airing these in advance too, will also mean you are prepared.’

3. Clearout forgotten clutter

Next, it’s time to extend your decluttering further. ‘Get rid of all those jam jars, plastic bags and picnic equipment accumulating in the kitchen and declutter your bathroom of old beauty products,’ suggests decluttering expert Kate Hunter who is working with Anthony Ward Thomas Removals. Simply, anything that you haven't put to use in the previous months. What's more, this could be a good time to rehome festive decorations you no longer use as you put your preferred ones up.

4. Target kids' play areas

One of the main clutter hotspots are children's bedrooms or play areas. 'For families, we always recommend decluttering a playroom before Christmas hits,' explains Hayley Harrison, co-founder of Organise-d. 'Rehome items that are no longer age-appropriate or loved by your little ones. This creates space for more structured play and also gifts that will be received over the festive period.’ You can also get your kids involved in the process.

5. Get organized outside

Once again, don’t forget about your outdoor areas, which may have become a dumping ground for items you can't be sure whether to hang onto or not. ‘Garages and sheds are key areas to declutter during winter,’ explains Harrison. ‘This also creates space for items such as outdoor furniture, BBQs, and so on that need to move to indoor storage.’


How can I get my home ready for winter?

Focus on the cold-weather items that you'll be certain to use regularly during this season – such as thicker bedding, blankets, throws, and warmer clothing. The chances are that they've not been cleaned since the last time you wore them, or have been gathering dust on a shelf, and Gonzales suggests systematically washing everything as you dig them out of storage so that they are ready to be snuggled up in.

If you realize there are things you no longer need, but are unsure what to do with the stuff you declutter, then donating is always a smart idea.

Lauren Clark

Lauren Clark is a freelance writer and editor with more than eight years of digital and print journalism experience. She covers all aspects of lifestyle, specialising in health and wellness topics, and her work has previously been published in titles such as Women's Health, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Stylist, Woman & Home, Grazia and Dazed.