This year, the phrase “winter is coming” has new, anxiety-provoking overtones. After a year in which our lives were upended and our roots planted firmly at home, it can be daunting to think about another significant stretch of time inside.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little forethought, you can transform your house into a home, making it a haven for cool weather ahead — a place you really to be. Here’s how.
Build your cleaning arsenal.
As we head into cold and flu season — in a year where viruses are already top of mind — there’s nothing more important than stocking up on all the tools you’ll need to keep your home cleaner and safer during the cold season.
It’s a common misconception that all cleaning products disinfect, says Carolyn Forte, director of the Home Appliances and Cleaning Products Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. And cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are not one and the same. Cleaning removes any visible mess from a surface by washing and rinsing, typically with soap and water, but it does not automatically disinfect. Sanitizing is one step better, as it kills illness-causing bacteria. Disinfecting is what you really want, though, as this kills most illness-causing bacteria and viruses.
When shopping, look for products, like Weiman Disinfectant Granite & Stone Clean & Shine, with labels that specifically say they disinfect. If you’re unsure, look for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration number on the product label, says Forte. Then, type that number into the agency’s database for specifics on what type of bacteria and viruses against which it may be effective.
Do a “fall fix-up.”
Though spring cleaning gets all of the attention, fall is a great time to do a quick pass through — a “fall fix-up,” if you will. First, hit any spaces where clutter tends to accumulate — your closets, the family command center, or your home office. Make two piles: One to toss; one to donate.
Once you’ve done that, make the space sparkle. Use your new and improved supply of products to disinfect any high-touch surfaces, like counters, doorknobs, appliance handles, and even remote controls. Cleaning wipes make quick work of this task.
Now is a good time to do a spiff-up on items that tend to accumulate a lot of dust, too. Use a pillowcase to strip caked-on dust from ceiling fans, break out your long-handled duster to scour pendant lights and sconces, and use your vacuum’s special attachments to give upholstery a once-over.
Stock up on cooking essentials.
While you’re in purge mode, take a peek inside your pantry. Toss expired goods and donate anything that’s still good, but has remained untouched for months. Then, take stock and craft a shopping list. Make sure you have everything you’ll need for multi-purpose cooking—think olive oil, salt and pepper, beans, and grains like rice and pasta.
And while you’re at it, consider adding a slow cooker or a multi-cooker to your arsenal of cooking tools—these little gadgets are relatively inexpensive, but make quick work of big-batch winter comfort food.
Tap into a fall-appropriate color palette.
Find ways to incorporate rich, autumnal hues into your space—think orange, greens, and browns, says Monique Valeris, senior home editor for Good Housekeeping. And, no, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend a ton of money on new decor pieces.
There are plenty of easy ways to breathe new life into your space on a budget. Cozy up couches and chairs with extra blankets and throw pillows or try swapping out any art prints that have a beachy vibe for something more appropriate for the season, suggests Valeris.
You can also bring some natural autumnal elements indoors. For example, pop some pinecones into a pretty wooden bowl and display it on your coffee table. A potted plant is a great way to do this, too. And—bonus—studies suggest plants not only help purify the air, but they also boost overall happiness.
Switch up your bedding.
Another easy decor move that can pay off big in both aesthetic and comfort: New bedding. Trade crisp, cotton sheets for something softer and warmer, like flannel. Alternatively, you can simply put away that light summer quilt and fill a duvet with a nice, plush down comforter. For texture, be sure to layer on pillows and some cozy throws in fabrics like fleece or even cashmere.
Put something cozy underfoot.
Though hard surfaces are all the rage in contemporary flooring, there’s nothing quite as chill-inducing as stepping out of a cozy, warm bed onto an ice-cold floor. Place a soft rug under your bed, or opt for runners on either side of it. You can also consider the concept of layering, says Valeris. For instance, layering a sisal rug with a patterned design can make a big design impact.
You’ll want something in your main space, too—especially near the entryway, because nobody wants wet, muddy footprints tracked throughout the house. Add a decorative mat in this location, or try a washable rug.
Consider alternate lighting.
When the days are so short and darkness creeps in at an unnaturally early hour, you’ll need sufficient lighting. But nix the harsh overheads. If you have recessed lighting, swap bright bulbs for smart LEDs — you can use your smartphone or set up voice command via a smart home hub to dim them, set timers, and even change the color of the light. Also consider replacing any bright white lights in lamps with softer warm-toned lights.
Candles are another way to cast a warm, cozy glow in your home once the sun goes down. They come in so many great fall scents like pumpkin and patchouli, plus set the mood and are great for entertaining, says Valeris.
Elevate your outdoor space.
When you’re home for months on end, even a little chill in the air can’t stop you from getting a quick change of scenery by heading outdoors — especially if your backyard, balcony, or terrace is equipped with some type of heat source to lessen the chill. If you have the room and local ordinances or building codes allow for it, invest in an outdoor fire pit, says Valeris.
Sitting around the fire is surprisingly relaxing and rejuvenating, plus gives off enough heat to make a nippy night much more comfortable. If you’re not permitted to have a fire pit, an electric patio heater may do just the trick.