My Mom Has an Ingenious Method for Seasonal Decluttering (and Decorating)

published May 9, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Jessica Rapp

In addition to my blonde hair and aversion to physical affection, I inherited my love for cleaning and organizing from my mom. Ever the cleaning superstar, my mom has cycled through various scouring, categorizing, and disinfecting eras of her own (Cathy’s version). I recall a particularly lengthy period when her sole focus was identifying the best method for cleaning grout. She hasn’t found CleanTok yet, but when she does, there will be signs.

Not only is my mom famous for her cleaning and organizing, but she also adheres to a strict cyclical rotation of seasonal decor. Every month and a half to two months, she’ll completely upend the house, carting cardboard boxes of decor up and down the basement stairs, singularly focused on the task at hand. 

Allow me to detail her decor schedule for your reference:

  • January: Snowmen
  • February through March: Birds (Yes, just “Birds”)
  • Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday: Easter
  • April through Memorial Day: Birds: Part II
  • Memorial Day through July 4: Red, White, and Blue: a Celebration of American Patriotism (Featuring one of my favorite crossover decorations, an ice-skating Uncle Sam!)
  • July through Labor Day: Fruits of the Season (Imagine fruits of every shape and size, particularly watermelons)
  • Labor Day through the end of September: Harvest (The shortest season)
  • October: Halloween
  • November: Thanksgiving
  • December: Christmas

It wasn’t until recently that I pieced together how her seasonal habit not only serves to make our home a whimsical, comforting, and inviting place but also presents the perfect opportunity for frequent, scheduled deep cleans. 

My mom begins the process by replacing one season’s decor into storage boxes. But in doing so, she is forced to remove nearly every item from every surface of our home, similar in theory to the “move-out method” of decluttering. As she stows away countless snowmen, birds, or watermelons, she quickly and intuitively assesses which items may need repair, replacement, or retirement. While it’s easier simply to toss everything back into a box and wait a year to deal with the aftermath, my mom wisely closes out the seasons properly, a gift to her future self.

Some decorations require more care or maintenance than others. For seasonal dishware, items must be cleaned before storage, and chipped or worn items can be disposed of, making room for new options my mom may have purchased on a whim somewhere. Additionally, linens like blankets, tablecloths, place mats, and towels must be laundered and neatly folded to eliminate wrinkles, making next year’s unpacking less burdensome. 

After the house is stripped of its decor, the runway is clear for my mom to tackle the surfaces. Tabletops, shelves, mantels, and other surfaces are dusted and polished. Bare surfaces also simplify vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping, since furniture is easily moved without the weight and fragility of additional decor.

Next, out come the next season’s boxes. My mom piles these on our kitchen counter, which serves as the decor home base or distribution center. Dozens of Uncle Sams, turkeys, or carrots taste the joy of freedom as they’re freed from their container and placed strategically throughout the house. Box after box is emptied, then returned to their shelf in our basement storage room. 

This process requires multiple days for our household’s major holidays, like Christmas or even Halloween. My mom powers through it subsisting on Triscuits, sliced cheese, and TCM playing black-and-white movies in the background. Once the new season’s decor is placed and storage is hidden away, we’re in the home stretch. The kitchen might get a quick vacuum and mop to erase evidence of unusually high traffic. The countertops are disinfected. Lastly, my mom lights a scented, seasonally themed candle for a comforting ambiance. 

My mom’s reliable and habitual system eliminates frequent cleaning and decluttering. While some tasks must be completed during different times of the year, especially in our Midwestern region, the pressure of spring cleaning is off. Throughout the calendar year, she’s got it covered. 

My mom loves creating a clean, comforting home. And while I have neither the energy nor storage to adapt her cyclical decor tradition to scale, I’m grateful to have inherited her knack for cleanliness, order, efficiency, and whimsy.