Tips for getting ready for spring – Outside and Inside
Today begins the first of our five-part weekly series on shaking off the dust of winter and getting your home ready for Spring! Taking things step-by-step, I’ll be covering ways to effectively get the primary areas of your home cleaned up and organized. In Part One, we’re going to take a look at getting the outside of your home cleaned up so you can fire up the grill! In Part Two, we’ll be tackling the kitchen – including some tips on how to improve the cooling efficiency of your refrigerator. In Part Three, we’ll hit the living and dining areas because everyone knows the most important things in your home are where you eat and watch television! In Part Four, we’ll be fighting the closet monster (you know it’s real… admit it,) and going through the steps of making your bathroom sparkle. In Part Five, we’ll cover the home office and throw in some bonus tips for college students preparing to come home for the summer.
So, break out the sun-screen because summer is on the way! Now is the time for all good folks to dust off the cobwebs from their winter hibernation and get things cleaned up, organized, and ready for the warm weather to come. Let this series of articles serve as a Call to Action! Coming home to a messy house every day can really make simple things chaotic. Taking the time to get your living space cleaned and organized will help make your life less stressful and easier to manage. I can tell you from experience… it is easier to relax in a clean house than it is in a messy one! And, unless you can afford a yard-man and a house-cleaning service – or have kids you can bribe into action, you’re going to have to step up and do it yourself. So, to help you get started, I’m going to break it down for you step by step – Outside and Inside. Now gather up your work gloves, mop, broom, and dust-pan. We’re going to get rolling with some Spring Cleaning!
Oh, you should probably drink a cup of coffee or guzzle down one (or two) of your favorite energy drinks while your at it… you are going to need it.
Cleaning Outside Your Home:
Spring is the time to be outside! Now that things are starting to warm up you’ll certainly be wanting to bask in the sun a bit. But, first you’ve got to clean up that yard! You’ll need a few things: a rake or two, work gloves, lawn bags, a shovel wouldn’t hurt, nor would an untangled garden hose (mine is always a tangled mess – isn’t yours?), a broom, and maybe a stiff brush or two. You will probably want to put on your roll-around-in-the-dirt clothes, because you’ll certainly get a little dirty… but, its a fun kind of dirty! From backyard barbecues to tending a small vegetable garden, follow these tips to get the outside of your home as welcoming as the inside.
- Clean all of your door mats – hang them up and whack them with a broom. You can even take them by the corners and smack them against a tree. Door mats collect a lot of dirt, giving them a good beating is an effective way to clean them. It is also a great workout and reliever of stress! If they’ll take it, hose them down with your garden hose nozzle on it’s tight stream setting. That’ll really help flush out all the dirt. Then lay them out in the sun to dry.
- I hate raking! Where I live it seems like the leaves fall all year round. But, if you want a healthy lawn, you need to rake them up. A thick layer of leaves on the ground smothers the grass, and we can’t have that! If you have kids, make it a family affair to get the job done faster. I tend to use my lawnmower to mulch up a lot of leaves then I mix them into my compost pile. If you’re not into gardening, simply bag them up and put them on the curbside for pick-up.
- Leaves on the roof and in the gutters? Take the time to clean them off before you rake the yard or you’ll be raking twice! I don’t know anyone who wants to rake the same yard twice in the same day… well, actually I do, but they’re a bit weird. Leaves collecting on shingled roofs and left to sit there for long periods can eventually cause rotting damage and your roof will start to leak. So, always try to keep leaves from collecting on your roof no matter what time of the year.
- Now that you’ve got all that raking, mulching, and bagging done, you need to fertilize your lawn. Distribute “weed-n-feed” granules on your lawn for nice, lush grass. Make sure you read the instructions so you don’t over-fertilize. Over-fertilization is probably worse than doing nothing at all.
- If you have a pressure washer or don’t mind renting one, it is a good idea to pressure wash your house, wooden decks and/or concrete patios. When pressure washing your house, make sure the pressure isn’t so high that you strip off the paint! If you don’t have a pressure washer or want to rent one, you can do it the old-fashioned (i.e. HARD way) and use a long-handled, stiff brush and your garden hose. I highly recommend the pressure washer. See if you have a pal who can loan you one if you don’t want to rent one… you’ll save yourself a lot of time and back pain.
- Clean your screens and windows! First, take your screens down and use a soft brush with some soapy water to clean them up nicely. Hose them down and let them dry thoroughly in the sun before you re-hang them. Any decent window cleaner should be fine for cleaning the windows on the outside. It is always best to clean your windows on the outside first. If you don’t, when you move inside and start cleaning them, you won’t be able to tell if the windows are clean because of all the dirt on the outside!
- If you have raised beds for gardening, now is the time to fertilize. You can use fertilizer stakes, granular fertilizer, or if you have a compost pile, add compost and turn it into the soil with a garden shovel or tiller.
- Make sure your lawnmower, weed-whacker, and other gasoline-powered lawn and garden tools and oiled up and ready. If you left gasoline in them over the winter, siphon it out and replace with fresh gas on the next use. Old gas, especially ethanol-blended gas, can gunk up the works! Always use fresh gas!
- If you MUST use the old gas, run it through a coffee filter or some doubled-up cheesecloth to get out any particulate matter. All those little flecks of stuff floating around in the gas can clog up the engine’s fuel filter. Once you’ve filtered the old gas, you can mix it with fresh gas using a 50/50 ratio. You should then be able to use it in your lawnmower without any trouble. Whatever you do, don’t dump it on the ground… it is not only bad for the environment, it will pretty much kill anything green it touches. I have read that you can use old gas to kill fire ants, but I wouldn’t recommend it. They may mutate and take over the world. Hey, it could happen! I saw it in a movie once.
- If you live in termite territory, contact a local pest control company and have them treat around your home and any out-buildings. Because termites like cellulose of any sort, never allow leaves or a compost pile to be right next to your home or any out-building. You should always try and maintain a good distance from any structures on your property because they will use a pile of leaves as an appetizer and casually move on to your walls, floor, and home in general. Not a good thing!
- Have an authorized HVAC technician come out and clean your main climate control unit. Getting this done just before summer is the best way to ensure your central air conditioning is operating as efficiently as possible and that everything is working correctly. You don’t want to find out your A/C is on the fritz when it is 90 degrees outside, right? So, call now and be cool this summer!
- I’ve saved the most important thing for last: The Grill! I’m sure you’re chomping at the bit to get the grill fired up now that things are warming up. So, put your work gloves on – ’cause this can be nasty work – and let’s get started:
- Gas & Propane Grills:First, make sure everything is off. With a Natural Gas grill, make sure all the knobs are turned off. If it is a Propane grill, make sure the main tank valve is off and go ahead and disconnect it from the grill. First, remove the grates and set them aside. Use a wire grill brush to clean off the bits of food and carbon build-up from the heating elements. Once you’re done doing that, use some tin-foil to cover the heating elements to protect them from what comes next. Get a bucket of warm, soapy water and a stiff (not wire) brush and clean the underside of the lid and the lower inner chassis of the grill. Be careful around the heating elements. If you have some stuck-on bits of food here and there, or some thick carbon build-up, go ahead and break out a wire grill brush and knock that stuff loose before you clean it with the soapy water. Once you’ve done all that, use some paper towels to dry things off and discard the tin-foil. Use the same soapy water to clean off the outside of your grill from top to bottom using your stiff (not wire) brush.
- Charcoal Grills:I love cooking over natural charcoal. I prefer the flavor that comes from charcoal over gas or propane. I consider charcoal grills easier to clean and maintain as well. Just pull out the grates and clean the inside and outside the same way you would a gas or propane grill. Then move on to the grates.
- Cleaning the Grates of your Grill:First, clean the grates with your wire grill brush to get any food bits and carbon build-up. Then with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush – again, not a wire brush – scrub the grates well and dry them with paper towels. I like to give the grates a light coating of vegetable oil using a can of vegetable oil spray. This helps seal them and gets them ready for that first steak or slab of ribs.
- Touching up the Outside of your Grill:If the outside of your grill is still looking shabby, it may need a new paint job or a bit of touch-up. You can buy food-safe enamel paint made just for stoves and BBQ grills at your local home store. Just get the color that matches and go to it. You will want to take some medium grit sandpaper to remove excess rust and roughen up the surface a bit. Either on a spot-by-spot basis or the whole thing if you are going to paint it all. This will help the paint stick better. Keep the spray can 6 to 8 inches away to ensure an even coating of paint with no drips or runs. And, just to be safe, make sure you let it dry/cure overnight before you fire up your grill.
Download our Spring Cleaning Outside Checklist in PDF format to help you get started!
Tune in next week for Part Two of our Spring Cleaning series: Cleaning the Kitchen.