Try these easy tips for a happier home

As a Southern California native living in Washington, D.C. for the past few years, “winter” is a strange, sometimes wonderful, sometimes horrifying novelty. I’ve found that I love the cycle of the seasons and the way my patterns of being adjust to each of them in turn. But I also find it challenging to have to swing so far from my perpetual summer lifestyle during these winter months. It’s hard to have to be inside so much, to be so cold, to have days be so.very.short. And so I’ve been looking for ways to brighten up my house, to develop uplifting habits, and to make my home a place I like to be. Here are a few tricks to my winter survival trade—I hope they’ll be helpful to you too!

1. Consider redecorating.

When I was growing up, I’d rearrange my bedroom about once every eight months, just for the pleasure that new patterns of order and decoration can bring. While that may be a little too frequent for the average adult (I can’t afford to disrupt my habits that often!), if you’ve been playing with different ideas for arranging your furniture or displaying your favorite pieces of art, winter is a great time to experiment! Take a weekend to play with things. Maybe you were gifted some cool new decorative items for Christmas; try rearranging your walls to incorporate those new things. Maybe you’ve been planning a long-term overhaul; hit the stores! Next time you want to queue up your Netflix to handle another snowstorm, take advantage of the time to research your design plans—and mine online sales, especially from home goods stores looking to clear last summer's inventory. Or, hit President's Day sales today!

2. Do a winter clean-out.

Spring cleaning and fall cleaning are well-established rituals, but what about winter? We spend more time inside during the winter, so it seems to me more important than ever to have spaces that are pleasant to be in. And this includes this hidden places where we squirrel things away that we “might use later.” On these long winter evenings, pick a project you’ve been putting off: reorganize the kitchen cabinets; clean out the junk drawer; sort through your files. It’s also a good time to do a quick closet clean-out. Are there winter/fall pieces you haven’t worn all season? Are you likely to in the remaining months? If not, it’s a good time to try to sell them at your local Crossroads or other consignment store—they’re likely still buying for those seasons, and you can get a little cash or something new that you’re in love with for your trouble! If you want a little inspiration, check out Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo for some heartwarming encouragement about how the KonMari method can change your day-to-day life for the better!

3. Do a winter clean-up.

In the decluttering process, you’re bound to discover myriad dust bunnies in corners, smudges on mirrors, and hitherto-unnoticed spots on the floor. Take advantage of this weather-mandated indoor time to give the house a good cleaning. Binge that show you’ve been planning to watch while you dust, scrub, and mop the winter blues away. It’s also a great opportunity to do some deep cleaning. Go through the fridge; wipe out the oven; pull out the sofas. Here is a great list of things to do for a one-day deep clean. Mrs. Meyer’s is my favorite line of natural cleaners (the lemon verbena is my favorite scent! It’s clean, citrusy, and not too sweet). Other great products to keep around are pure castile soap and white vinegar. Cleanliness is next to godliness, and is sure to make your home time more enjoyable.

4. Do some winter greenhousing.

A lot of houseplants struggle in the winter. Move them closer to the windows, and pay attention to how their watering needs shift in the dry air of a heated house. But there are some winter-friendly species you can bring into your life. Cyclamen is one of my favorite winter plants because it gives a much- needed splash of color in the winter drear. Another good one is the Christmas Cactus, which thrives and blooms only in colder temperatures. Both are a little finicky in their watering needs. Make sure the soil is almost entirely dry (try picking up the plant: it should feel surprisingly light) before watering it thoroughly. Be sure not to let it sit in whatever drains out. Keep both of them close to a window: they need the sunlight, and they’ll do better in that slightly cooler environment. You can also pick up one of the many winter bulbs which you can find at most grocery stores at this time of year. Trader Joe’s usually has a fairly wide color palette of Paperwhites and Hyacinths. All you need to do with these is keep the water levels up to the roots of the bulb. You’ll soon have a long-lasting pillar of blooms which give off a wintery floral aroma.

5. Spruce up your space with pretty things.

I’ve written before about the importance of using things like tablecloths and candles, so I don’t want to harp on them here. But I will say that, in these months more than ever, a new or seasonally-appropriate tablecloth will up your mood (I traded out my Christmas plaid one for a cream-and-red number). If you feel it’s too late for Christmas scents and too early for hopeful florals, try a warm and wintery candle (these two from Anthropologie are some of my winter favorites!) 

A couple of winter staples in household decor and homeiness are cozy throws (these too are on sale a lot of places! I love this one from West Elm) and warm slippers. If you don’t have any slippers you like, they’re worth the investment because you know you will use them!

6. Plan fun evenings in.

If you’re going to be inside, make it deliberate and worth your time. I’ve rediscovered game nights recently, and they’re way more fun as an adult than I remember them being as a child. Do a girls’ night with wine, or a co-ed night with fun cocktails. (Using pretty stemware will effortlessly elevate the evening!) I also think it’s important to make your alone time something lovely and lifegiving. Plan yourself a weekly night in with your favorite wine, a good face mask, and a good book.

Being happy at home is about developing habits that allow us to enjoy the here and now. I hope that these ideas make winter survival a little more appealing!

Our "Winter Survival Guide" articles are weekly pieces dedicated to help brighten up your post-holiday winter! Join our "Winter Survival Guide" Verily Facebook group to bond with other women through what can be a difficult season.