Fighting clutter during Nesting Season

Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are experiencing the winter solstice today and, as a result, the least amount of daylight this year. I always think of the winter solstice as being the first day of Nesting Season.

Nesting Season is a season I made up based on trends in my behavior. This is the time of year when I usually start accumulating more clutter than at other times of the year. Items come into my home, and, except for rubbish, not much tends to leave. Based on the weather, Nesting Season typically lasts until the first warmer stretch of days in March or April.

I think some nesting is a good thing. I love occasionally curling up under a blanket in front of our fireplace and reading a book instead of tackling chores. I’m also much better at eating at home during Nesting Season than I am at other times during the year.

However, I have to be diligent and make a conscious effort to keep my home and life from being overrun by clutter during Nesting Season. If you’re like me and kicking off Nesting Season today, try these strategies to keep clutter from causing chaos in your home:

  • One-in-one-out. The holiday season is a time of the year when lots of new items might be coming into your home. Try your best to toss, recycle, or donate corresponding older items as you’re putting away the new items.
  • Keep up your energy. Get the proper amount of sleep, eat healthy and nutritious meals, and push yourself to get at least 30 minutes of brisk walking in a day. You’re less likely to experience Nesting Season lethargy when your energy levels are high.
  • Invite a friend over for coffee. You’ll be motivated to unclutter your space before your friend arrives. And, your friend can help you to make decisions about some of your things. You’ll also get to see your friend during a time when you might usually be less social.
  • Play Eye Spy. As you’re sitting on your couch, make a list of all the clutter you see in your space. Set a timer for 20 minutes, and, when the alarm sounds, crawl out from under your blanket and take care of all the clutter you identified. Each night, relax in a different room and repeat the process.

Do you experience Nesting Season? What strategies do you embrace to keep clutter from taking over during this time of year? Share your advice in the comments.

34 Comments for “Fighting clutter during Nesting Season”

  1. posted by Kate on

    I actually find the opposite is true to me. Because it’s the holidays and I’m more likely to have people over, it’s more important to keep the place continually clean. Additionally, I have more trouble keeping things uncluttered during spring/summer when I want to be outside and socializing, vs. “Nesting Season” when I am inside more because it’s just too cold to go out! And because I’m inside more and there’s only so much bad TV I can watch, I turn to uncluttering…

    Guess we’re all different!

  2. posted by Terry on

    I don’t want to just “nest”. I want to hibernate and eat mac and cheese. And muffins. Luckily for my waistline, I have to go to work and I make myself go to Jazzercise.
    When charities call to pick up a donation, I nearly always agree because I have a pile of stuff accumulated for them.

  3. posted by Living the Balanced Life on

    Having guests over is a great incentive to keep the house picked up!
    FYI, I live in GA, and this is my first winter as a blogger, on twitter and on facebook. It is truly amazing to me to get to hear how people live in other parts of the world! Most of the winter we can just throw on a sweater and go outdoors, I have begun to understand (even though I “knew”) how Northerners have to live.

  4. posted by Deedee on

    I used to have that nesting/hibernating syndrome during the winter months. Last winter my daughter suggested that I buy a sunlamp because she figured it was due to lack of sunshine. I didn’t take that advice but it made me think “lack of vitamin D” and so I bought vitamin D supplements instead. I had tons more energy last winter and, so far, this winter with the extra vitamin D. It makes me *want* to keep active, not only around the house, but I am also enjoying getting outdoors for walks even when it is cold and snowing. I actually took over the duty of shoveling the sidewalks from my husband because I enjoy the exercise. Who knows, could be a placebo effect? But I continue to take the supplements daily because I am feeling good!

  5. posted by pickeju on

    If you ever have trouble finding the clutter in a room, take a picture. It’s amazing how a regular room looks so different through the lens of a camera!

    Sometimes I take a few pictures around a room with my phone and then use those to figure out what really needs to be cleaned and decluttered. Then you also have a chance to take an “after” picture, which is really motivating 🙂 It’s a quick way to target true clutter.

  6. posted by [email protected] on

    I too love curling up under a blanket with some hot chocolate and a book (or a Netflix) in the winter. But I do get lazy; I’m much more vigilant in the warmer months. My big de-cluttering secret is one that I employ year-round. And that is, every time I get new diapers, I put the box that they came in at the bottom of our bedroom closet. My goal is to fill up the box for The Salvation Army before another box comes into our home.
    When the baby is finally potty-trained, I will have to employ a different strategy. But for now, this works for us!

  7. posted by Athene on

    @DeeDee, my primary care doctor actually suggested I be tested for Vitamin D deficiency and my results were shockingly below normal. I’ve since been taking a prescription strength Vitamin D supplement and I have much more energy and less aches and pains. I now feel more motivated to clear out some of my junk and get organized 🙂

  8. posted by Aimee on

    I’ve found the best way to keep out clutter is to sort Christmas presents before I get home. I’m young and travel to spend the holidays with my large family who feel everyone needs a huge pile of presents. When I’m packing my car to return home, I sort the presents into keepers and donations. When I get home, I leave the donations in my car, bring out anything else I choose to donate, and drop off the donations during my pre-New Year’s cleaning jag. It’s harsh and I hate that they’ve wasted their money, but not everyone shares my taste.

    My other trick, (I read somewhere, maybe here) is to get rid of one thing each day, either donate it or throw it away. I try to keep an eye out for that one thing I could do without. Is that bottle of spices expired? Will I really ever read that book? Do I care enough to have a tailor fix these pants? I keep a couple boxes near my door to collect donations and remove then when they get full.

  9. posted by Maggie Rose on

    The change into the New Year usually helps me fight off that urge to hibernate. Clearing out physical clutter (As the ornaments come off the tree, they have to earn the right to go back into storage!), setting goals and resolutions (and recognizing which of THOSE are clutter!), and as we travel for the holidays, I try to come home to a tidy house to start the new year in. Makes for a frantic exit pre-Christmas, but coming home to dirty dishes and laundry kills the holiday spirit for me fast!

  10. posted by Kari on

    I also tend to want to do more to keep things tidy and declutter this time of year–since I can’t be outside very much, I want the inside to be homey and snug–and that means no clutter!

  11. posted by Lose That Girl on

    We actually sent three bags of stuff to Goodwill prior to Christmas so I don’t feel too bad about having all the holiday trinkets out, or about getting new stuff in. I think the fact that it’s cold out and I’m inside more, I am more diligent about keeping our home neat. I hate sitting on the couch relaxing under a blanket if I can see all the clutter in front of me. It’s easier to ignore in the summer when I’m outside more and not staring at it.

  12. posted by Declutter Your Life on

    I love sitting by the fireplace, sipping hot chocolate with a candy cane! Ahhh love this time of year.

  13. posted by Alix on

    It’s easier to declutter this time of year because you don’t get all hot and sweaty doing it!

  14. posted by Lisa on

    Adding Christmas decorations to my tiny townhouse makes me claustrophobic so for each decoration that goes up I remove one “non-seasonal” item to a rubbermaid container.

  15. posted by Karli on

    I’m definitely trying my hardest to unclutter this holiday season! Donating and recycling are such great ideas. I’m also thinking about mini-storage, this holiday season, Dry Dock Storage in Monrovia, CA is offering 50% off all of their mini-storage units! Check out the web site at!

  16. posted by Wanda on

    Don’t forget to take your donations to charities before the end of the year for taxes. A great time to de-clutter and you won’t be as likely to lose the receipt.
    Please don’t do the mini storage. We emptied our storage unit last Feb and the goal for 2010 is to empty the garage so the car can go back in. With those boxes in your face every day you would think they would have been sorted sooner. Saved nearly $200 per month but one of the cars has been on the street every night.

  17. posted by Joann on

    I totally agree that nesting season can be real phase.
    I love to work in the yard, but winter gives me the luxury to look out at a time that nature is resting, etc.,
    My trouble is I need to walk everyday to fight off the munchies and impulse to consume too many carbs.
    Here is to a clutter free nesting season and lots of good reads! 🙂

  18. posted by Kathryn Fenner on

    Yes, Bernice, over here in SC, I get out as much as possible in the temperate weather before sweat season resumes and I hole up in A/C during the summer–we are Famously Hot in Columbia, SC, so I walk in the woods with my dogs all winter. I also want to get as many outdoor chores done before the pollen hits, and then after that, it’s sweat pouring off me.

    I think of the season between Pre-Halloween and Easter as Candy Season. It’s when all the grocery stores seem to have giant displays of the “extra-special, super-duper, limited time” seasonal candies–I finally broke my addiction when I had to admit that Hershey’s Kisses in seasonally colored foil really did taste the same as the ones in Ordinary Time silver.

  19. posted by priest's wife on

    We are really trying to do ‘one in-one out’, but it is not very simple!

  20. posted by Zen friend on

    I love the term “nesting season”…plan to pick up vitamin D supplements the next time I go out. Thanks, all!

  21. posted by Mimi on

    nesting season means decluttering/ renovating/ cleaning season for me. when the sun shines, i mow the grass, lay in the sun, grow vegetables and watch butterflies flying :o) that´s nice but when autumn comes, i am a bit relieved because it´s a lot of work though. nesting season is the time to concentrate on the inner world, to tidy up and fix the things that you will see all winter long. and then relax, lay on the couch, read a good book, take a rest. *thumbs up*

  22. posted by julia on

    I think my house is cleaner & less cluttered during curl-up-with-a-book season – only because the stuff is in plain view more of the time while I’m home and not in a hurry to get on icy streets and go somewhere.

    If I can see it, I’ll do something about it – unfortunately I’ve trained myself over the years not to see stuff.

    In part because of this blog I now have a daily/weekly housekeeping list, so I can start new habits – and that’s forcing me to see and do what I might have ignored before.

  23. posted by Pamela on

    After all of the preparations for Christmas, including a decluttering push and corresponding donation to GoodWill in November, I let myself, my family, and my house relax for December. Clutter is inevitable when you’re not vigilant, but it’s what I see as “happy clutter,” gifts from friends, holiday decorations, etc.

    By New Year’s Eve, though, I’m over the warm fuzzies of Christmas clutter, and I do another big declutter push when I’m putting decorations away and doing a house deep cleaning.

    By the time the new year gets into full swing, we are decluttered and back to our clutter vigilance. It’s sort of cathartic to clean out the old year’s clutter after indulging in a few weeks of letting holiday clutter settled in.

    It’s one of the things that makes the holidays a different time of year than the rest of the year: the attitude of just letting things be as people come and go, and not fretting about the small stuff … until new year’s gets here … and then the small “stuff” is again targeted for decluttering.

  24. posted by SR on

    I just had a baby on the 11th, so we are truly nesting this Christmas.

    Last night I put together a “Family Binder” with 31 numbered plastic sleeves so that I can insert reminders and related paperwork (mostly to do with the baby right now) for every day of the month. It got rid of a massive pile of paper clutter that has accumulated on the kitchen counter since we got home from the hospital.

    As for baby clutter and toy clutter (from my 3 year old), the best I can do right now is to have designated stations for stuff (e.g. a baby changing area on the first floor where I keep extra diapers, blankets, etc.).

    We will do a big toy purge after Christmas. I also asked all of the grandparents to chip in on ONE gift for my 3 year old this year (a doll house and accessories) so that we can contain the clutter and give her a special gift that I know she’ll love.

  25. posted by Elaine on

    Until a few years ago, I lived in Wisconsin, and I felt the urge to “nest” every year, starting in October. I loaded up on groceries so that I would have plenty of food when I got snowed in. Got out the afgans and throws, taped shrink film over the windows and bought furnace filters, then burrowed in whenever possible and read.

    It’s a lot warmer where I live now, and winter only lasts about 6 weeks, so the nesting instinct isn’t as strong. I do load up on groceries, then end up taking them to church for our food drive every month.

  26. posted by Danielle on

    I give myself a seasonal reward if I accomplish all the tasks on my task list…something like a piece of peppermint bark or hot chocolate, or watching a holiday or winter movie with my daughter.

    If I make a Target run and stick solely to my list, I buy myself a small Starbucks on the way out.

    Things like that keep me in “uncluttered” mode without feeling deprived or enslaved.

  27. posted by chacha1 on

    I have a brief “nesting” attack every month, thanks to hormones. Am actually grateful that my PMS takes that form instead of transforming me into a two-headed monster!

    In winter of course it’s more intense due to lower sunlight levels for us here in the northern hemisphere. When I feel like just curling up on the couch with a book, that’s what I do.

    It doesn’t stop me from mentally processing the to-do list. I think processing time is essential to weeding out the things that are really not important so that we can attack the things that *are* important.

  28. posted by Declutter Secrets on

    I agree – it is harder to get up and organize/clean the house when it’s cold. Although, here, in Israel the winter is really light, but it’s still pretty cold at home.
    What I use to do is invite a friend over, turn on the heat and go through my winter clothes, for example, to decide what to keep and find new ideas for combining items, etc.
    That way, it doesn’t seem like a “chore” but more a quality time with a friend!
    You can do it with any items, not just clothes (but it’s the most fun with clothes 🙂

  29. posted by Dan Blakely on

    You call it Nesting, I call it hibernating. It is a real challenge to stay motivated in the Northern States during a cold winter to stay active and keep up on activities. It seems that coming into January and February my real challenge is that it is easy at times (like if its negative 10 below) to be lazy and lack motivation. So you hibernate. One can choose to hibernate from responsibilities or goals or from the things that they have been working on to make a better life – spending less, buying less and staying healthy. Or, you might get lazy, stray from the discipline and path that got you to where you are.

    The only real solution is to be able to recognize when it is happening and have the determination to stop it in its tracks.

  30. posted by lola on

    To keep the ‘winter clutter’ away, I cruise a few Swedish decorating websites. Their clean, light style inspires me to clear a few things out and keep the house looking open and light and user friendly.

  31. posted by Get Organized Already on

    Swedish decorating! who knew? I would’ve never known to search for that. Maybe they keep it light since they get even less sun than we do this time of year.

  32. posted by [email protected]'s on

    I love the nesting season and I celebrate it 100%. I think it is such an important time of the year and should be celebrated!!!

  33. posted by Bryan on

    The keeping up your energy level is a really big one for me. I’m also more responsible about taking my vitamins and eating healthier during nesting season due to cold/flus going around. If i’m not able to go outside and exercise, I turn down the heat and start pumping iron or doing some kind of cardio and boy does it work wonders!

  34. posted by Mary on

    Working full time, going to graduate school part-time and working as a college instructor leaves me little time to de-clutter. Some tricks I have learned is to set the timer on the stove–say 20 minutes or whatever time I have available–and then start picking up, tidying, tossing, etc. It is amazing what I can accomplish when I know that in 20 minutes I have to sit down to study or grade papers. It is an easy way to tackle first things first. The other trick I have learned is to tell myself I am going to find 10 items to toss–could be old lipsticks, socks, greeting cards, a stack of magazines–but my goal is to find ten and toss. I do the same with donation items–I run through my closets and garage and find 10 items that can be donated.

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