Urge to Purge: Simple Strategies for Winter Cleaning

Sorting clothes by color or style helps you easily find the duplicates that can be donated.

Once the holiday decorations are put away, I am always by how much clutter I’ve shoved in drawers and closets. Like many others, as I put things back in order, I have a strong urge to purge. Why wait for spring? These long cold months provide the perfect opportunity for true winter cleaning!

Purging does not have to be as ruthless as Marie Kondo’s “tidying up” can feel, but it should follow the same principles. For example, the reason for doing it should be clear to you. In my case, I look at my winter clean-up from two perspectives: I am giving myself room and space for more good things to come into my life, and I am letting others have what I no longer use or need – I can part with things more easily if I think, “It is someone else’s turn for this now.”

By taking the time to be thoughtful in your approach, a winter clean-up can even be fun! Here are four simple strategies for an easier winter clean-up:

  1. Clean by category – Rather than trying to do your whole closet at once, try just going through one type of clothing. For example, sort through all your jeans or blouses. Pull everything from one category out and lay it on the bed or in a large enough space where you can see it all. It is easy to see the duplicates then and recognize patterns in your shopping that could help prevent clutter later. For example, when I did this recently I found I had 7 or 8 French marine type tops – the white ones with vertical navy blue stripes. Go figure! But now I am much more aware of how I am drawn to this style and can (hopefully) restrain myself when shopping.
  2. Clean by space – One source of embarrassment to me is how completely ridiculous my “junk” drawers are. I have four drawers in the kitchen that hold what some would call “junk”, though I can say that two are probably semi-organized. At least I know when I open them that I’ll be able to close them again, and that what is stored inside is there for a reason. The other two? Both are “catch-alls” – places where things I don’t know what to do with go to die. I have no doubt that there is a better way to organize all this stuff, so I will take all four drawers and empty them on the table, where I can sift through everything and organize it by drawer, and see what can go or be stored somewhere else entirely. My guess is that I’ll gain at least one whole drawer of space this way!
  3. Clean with fresh insight – I realized when I had some work on the house done recently that my most disorganized spaces had one thing in common. When I moved in four years ago, I had put things I didn’t know what to do with into cabinets or drawers wherever, resulting in certain storage areas where nothing could be found easily and nothing made sense. Rather than just reorganize what was there, I pulled it all out, and thought about each item, asking the questions, “Do I really need this? Will I use it? Can I live without it?’ I looked at what remained with fresh eyes and then rearranged it in the same spot or in places that made more sense, and where I was more likely to remember to use it!
  4. Clean with patience – Your home (and mine) did not become disorganized and cluttered overnight, and to expect it to become clean and uncluttered that quickly is to set yourself up for failure. Rather, use the long winter months to really look at your possessions, ask those three questions, make a trip or two to the Container Store for storage solutions that will work for you, and take a break when you need one. Make a game of it – a cup of cocoa, some music, and those junk drawers are waiting!