Raking leaves is not the only chore you should be tackling this fall before winter sets in. There are plenty of outdoor tasks that you should be doing to your home and backyard to get ready for the cold months.
Deck and Patio
Before your outdoor entertainment area heads into hibernation, give it a quick bath. Yes, a bath. Hose down your patio and deck–this will keep it from growing mold or fungi which can stain the surface when spring arrives. If you have a wood deck and notice that water is soaking in the wood, you should apply a water sealant before winter arrives. Next, hose down all patio furniture and dry it off–opting to either cover items for the long winter months or store them inside. Click here for more ideas on cleaning your outdoor furniture.
After you’re done with the hose, you can wind it up and store it inside the garage or basement so the hose doesn’t freeze. Don’t forget to bring clay pots and planters inside too–once water gets inside the soil and freezes, it will expand and crack the planter.
Clean out your gutters and downspouts, making sure all debris and dead leaves are removed by flushing them with water. Repair any loose or damaged areas so that the gutters will work properly during the icy winter months and in the spring during the big thaw.
A change of season is the perfect time to re-organize your garage–a task that not only looks good, but saves you money. According to Erica Ecker, a professional organizer in NYC, people with cluttered garages waste time searching for misplaced items and end up re-buying things they already own.
Empty out your garage and go through each item–tossing or recycling things that are broken, returning borrowed items and donating things you may no longer need. Consider creating zoned areas–an area for tools, toys, etc.–and replace all summer items (lawnmower–empty fuel first) with more cold-weather equipment (shovels). This way, you will have the most-used items in an easy-to-reach location. Reuse things you already have for organization–such as old jars for storing nuts & bolts and garbage cans for storing salt to be used on icy sidewalks.
Need more space? Look up. Install shelving to get things off the floor and use hooks to hang bulkier items such as bikes and ladders. If you still feel you are living in cramped corners, put seasonal items into a storage facility.
Front and Backyard
Thinking of skipping the fall leaf raking? Think again. Raking the leaves is important because it keeps your grass from drying out over the winter. After you’ve raked, it’s important to weed and feed the lawn. Fall is the best time to do this so that your grass will be greener and thicker in the spring. Then give your grass one final cut – cut it short and bag up the clippings (or toss in your compost bin!) so bacteria and insects don’t have anywhere to flourish during the winter months.
In your garden, trim dead limbs from trees, cut back perennials, add mulch around young plants and plant new shrubs. “Planting shrubs in early fall gives the plants a head start at establishing roots in the season’s cool, most soil,” suggests ThisOldHouse.com.
If you have a built-in lawn sprinkler system, you’ll need to call the company who installed the system to come out and winterize it for the colder months. Call them early so you can get an appointment before the first freeze comes!
After the yard has been raked and cleared, walk around the outside of your house and seal any cracks or holes that need to be filled in your foundation and caulk open areas such as where pipes are entering the house or around window frames. This will keep heat from escaping as well as ensure you won’t have any unwelcome cold-weather company (think insects and rodents).
Talk to us: What is the one outdoor task you always do in the fall?
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Recycling is one of the more significant things we can all do to help the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that 75% of the garbage we throw away can be recycled–this means, nearly all your trash can be recycled including paper, aluminum, glass, plastic, batteries, cell phones, light bulbs and electronics.
Building a home recycling center will provide you with a convenient place to collect and sort your recyclables, but will also serve as a reminder of how important it is to recycle to help the environment. Here’s how to get started:
1. Learn your local rules and regulations
You should first contact your city to see what you can recycle and how you need to recycle it. Some cities require residents to separate their recyclables into their own bins, and others require residents to purchase one large bin from the city for all their recyclables. Furthermore, some will pick up at the curb during garbage pick-up and others require you to drop off at a recycle center. If you live in the New York City area, DSNY provides regularly scheduled curbside recycling and garbage collection for residential households in the City, and collects food scraps and yard waste from buildings with NYC Organics Collection. Click here for more information.
2. Consider where to place your recycling center
The recycling containers can be bulky so finding a place to put all of them may be the biggest challenge when creating a recycling center. Converting a cabinet to the left or right of the sink is the best option if you can find space in your kitchen for your center (great DIY tutorial here) That way, you are able to easily rinse out the containers before placing them in their recycling spot. You can also look at installing a lazy-Susan holder with bins inside those often odd-shaped corner cabinets.
If you don’t want to take up precious space in the kitchen, then consider moving your center to the garage, laundry room or mud room. Just be sure to consider the path that the items take from the kitchen to get to the curb or outside to be taken to the recycling center. You want the chosen location to be convenient.
3. What type of containers?
Now, depending on how you recycle (do you separate your recyclables or not and do you take them to the curb or transport to an off-site center) will determine what type of container you need for your recycling center. If you do need to separate paper from plastic, plastic from glass, etc., stacking containers can be helpful, because they take up less space. Be sure to label your containers so that everyone in the house knows which recyclable goes in which container. If you have younger kids, consider adding an image (i.e. bottle) so they know where things should go.
If you don’t need to separate them, you’ll only need one large container. Don’t forget to check with your city to see if it needs to be a specific container placed at the curb (see above for a link to DSNY). But if you have to move the recycling bins down a long driveway, or if you have to transport it to a center, consider a container with wheels or attach the bins to a wagon or cart to make transport easier.
The best way to get your whole family involved in the recycling effort is to set up a system that’s easy to use.
Talk to us: Where is the best place for you to create a recycling center at home?
image courtesy of flickr CC/Bob Doran
Ready to have more productive meetings with your team? Here are 4 things you should add to your company conference room that will make your meetings more effective:
The biggest complaint about corporate meetings is that they are a waste of time—literally. Experts agree that you should always start your meetings exactly on time (don’t wait for latecomers) and end on time. While adding a clock to the wall helps with keeping track of actual time, consider adding a timer to the table to countdown the minutes—giving the team a 2-minute warning before the meeting is to end. At Google, they keep a giant timer on the wall. “It’s literally a downloadable timer that runs off a computer and is projected 4 feet tall,” writes BusinessWeek. “The timer exerts a subtle pressure to keep meetings running on schedule.”
While a laptop may be needed to project a presentation, keep a decorative bin or basket by the conference room door where meeting attendees can leave their tech devices. As soon as attendees walk into the room, have them turn off there phones, tablets, etc. and place them in the bin. This will help you avoid interruptions and keep people focused on the task at hand.
Create a Parking Lot
Getting distracted by side conversations or ideas can lead us off our agenda and keep us from being effective with our meeting time. Create a space in your conference room for “parking lot ideas”—these are the things that come up during your discussions that are good points and issues, but do not necessarily need to be addressed during this particular meeting. The space can be a white board or even a flipchart where you write down the thoughts and get to them if time allows (and if the right people are assembled). Didn’t get to your “parking lot items”? Be sure to document the issues and find ways to address them in the future.
Yes, essential oils are not just for the home. “Our sense of smell can powerfully affect our mood, mindset and thus our productivity,” writes Lifehack.org. If adding candles or incense to the work environment is not an option (many people do not like added scents in the office), keep some essential oils in a conference room drawer along with some cotton balls. Encourage employees to add a few drops of their favorite scent to keep them focused and creative during meetings. Some great oils to include: pine, cinnamon, peppermint and citrus.
Talk to us: What is one thing you do to make your meetings more productive?
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If your linen closet is holding more than just linens—or holding linens you no longer use—it might be time to purge and organize this space. From sheets to towels to toiletries, here are some great tips for getting your linen closet clean and organized:
Empty your linen closet and sort through all your items to decide what you need to keep, what you need to put in another location and what you need to purge. “Try to limit yourself to three sets of sheets per bed and as few as three sets of bath sheets or towels, and washcloths per person,” suggests Real Simple. “This gives you one set to use, one in the hamper, and one in the closet ready for action.” Consider reusing what you don’t want—turning old sheets into dusting rags or handing them over to the kids to use for building tents in the playroom.
Placement is Key
In order for your closet to stay clean and organized, your most used items need to be accessible and easy to find. According to HGTV.com, towels should be folded in thirds lengthwise, then into a rectangle and placed on shelves at eye level or below. For sheets, store sets neatly inside a matching pillowcase and store in collapsible storage containers.
Keep Toiletries Hidden in Plain Sight
Invest in baskets or bins where you can store personal care products, cleaning supplies and bathroom staples such as toilet paper and tissues. Use labels or tags to identify the content of each basket, giving you a clean appearance for those often hard to store items. In addition, keeping things in one bin will help you quickly see which items need to be refreshed.
Toss Pillows on the Floor
Bulky items such as pillows, blankets and beach towels often topple down as soon as you open the closet door. Add an oversized basket or tote (we love this one from Pottery Barn) to the floor of your closet for storing the bulkiest of your items.
Think Beyond the Shelf
Shelving attached to the back of the door is a great place for extra bottles of shampoo and bars of soap and hangers hung from the bottom shelf (if you have wired shelving) create a great storage option for table linens.
Don’t have a linen closet? We love this idea from Country Living—turn an old armoire into a storage space by simply adding adjustable shelves and hooks.
Talk to us: What is your greatest challenge in keeping your linen closet organized?
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While we enjoy kicking off the warm weather season with some spring cleaning, we also love saying good-bye to hot temps with a little pre-winter purge. Here are 5 things you need to get rid of (or replace) before fall:
Sunscreen has a shelf life of three years, so check to see if the bottles you have been using have reached their peak or will reach their peak by next summer. Not sure of the expiration date? When in doubt, toss it out—old sunscreen loses its effectiveness.
Expired Medicine & Makeup
The change of season is a great time to go through your medicine cabinet and get rid of products that have expired. You can use some of the great tips we shared for organizing your medicine cabinet for summer, but replace warm weather medicines with those you will be using during fall and winter (i.e. cough and cold medicines).
Air Conditioner Filter
Cooler weather means you can give your air conditioner a break. Use this time to check and replace you’re filters—not only prepping your furnace for the cold, but keeping your A/C in good shape for next summer.
According to PopSugar, a University of Arizona study found that a kitchen sponge can be up to 200,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat—yikes! While periodically tossing your sponge in the dishwasher is a great way to keep it clean, replace your sponge every 2-3 months.
Your favorite toothbrush probably accompanied you on many a summer adventure (at least we hope it did!) and now it is time for it to be retired. Even if you were careful to not expose your brush to additional travel germs and dirt, the American Dental Association recommends replacing your toothbrush once every three months, making September the perfect time to find a new one.
Talk to us: What type of “end-of-summer” organization and cleaning do you do?
image courtesy of flickr CC/Anderson Mancini
Being part of a carpool for school is a great way to save time, money and the environment. However, in order to truly grab the great green benefits, you need to keep these tips in mind:
Make sure your vehicle is in good working condition including properly inflating tires—tires that are underinflated have a negative affect on fuel efficiency. Also, if you anticipate idling for more than 30-seconds, turn the car off—idling wastes more gas than restarting the engine.
Set up carpools with families in your own neighborhood. If you are new to the area, check with your school to see if there is a carpool list or visit Carpooltoschool.com. So many parents drive miles out of their way to participate in a carpool—this doesn’t help the environment, your wallet or your schedule
Carpooling little athletes? Make a DIY air freshener spray by combining one tablespoon of rubbing alcohol, 25 drops of your favorite essential oil and warm water in a spray bottle. This will keep your car smelling fresh even if the kids in your backseat are not.
Speaking of little athletes, if you are carpooling to or from after school activities, consider keeping some snacks and drinks in your car to avoid late afternoon hunger meltdowns. Buy healthy snack food options in bulk and divide them into reusable snack containers (love these from Pottery Barn Kids). You can also freeze water in reusable containers and put them in your car at the beginning of the day—when school or practice is over, the ice will have melted and your carpool kids will have a deliciously cold beverage.
Fill a reusable grocery bag with eco-friendly cleaning supplies, a microfiber cloth and a small handheld vacuum cleaner. Keep the bag in your trunk so you can do a quick clean up after a muddy day on the soccer field.
Stash 3 reusable bags in your car. During those moments of waiting (when your car is off—not idling!), do a quick clean of your car—putting trash in one bag, recyclables in another and use the third bag for items you find that don’t belong in your car—or even to your child. This will help keep your car organized and clean throughout the carpool season.
Talk to us: What tips do you have for surviving the school carpool?
image courtesy of flickr CC/Ben Francis
This weekend marks the unofficial end to summer and reminds us that fall will be here before we know it. With fall’s arrival comes shorter days, cooler weather and busier schedules (that may have already started!). Take advantage of these last warm, long days of summer and add these four things to your “must do” list this weekend:
Hit the Water
Thanks to an end-of-summer heatwave, it will still really feel like summer this weekend. So, hit the beach (or the pool, or the lake, etc.). Most beaches and pools remain open through the Labor Day weekend (NYC Parks has numerous free outdoor options) so grab your swimsuit and take one last dip, go down the water slides, enjoy your favorite water sports or just layout and soak up the sun. Before you head out, toss in these 5 items you never thought belonged in your beach bag.
Taste Test Some Ice Cream
What says summer more than ice cream? Start a new end-of-summer family tradition by forgoing your regular ice cream stop and trying new places and flavors. Get one or two small samples from each shop over several different nights and see which you like best. Stock up on the flavor so you can enjoy even when the weather turns colder. You can also make your own ice cream–we have some great recipes for creating your own all-natural frozen concoctions.
Attend an Outdoor Concert
There is nothing like listening to a live band outside and NYC has some pretty amazing (and FREE!) opportunities for you to catch some outdoor music before the cold weather arrives. From Bargemusic at Brooklyn Bridge Park to Dee Dee LeVant Gospel Ensemble at Harlem Meer Performance Festival, grab a blanket and some food and enjoy the beautiful sounds under the summer sky. Be sure and pack your picnic basket with disposable and sustainable dinnerware.
Watch the Sunset
The sun sets every day, but there is nothing like a summer sunset. The large summer sun produces the best sunsets that you can’t find during the other seasons, so plan to spend your evening hours outdoors. It’s as simple as taking a walk after dinner, driving to the beach or enjoying a night out on your patio (perfect time for an end-of-summer s’more party!). Witnessing this colorful sunset may just take the sting out of knowing the season will soon change.
Talk to us: What will you be doing this weekend to soak up the last bit of fun out of summer?
image courtesy of flickr CC/Chris Ford
Organizing your office supply closet is well worth the effort.
Is your office supply closet a very high mountain of unorganized rubble? If it’s avoided more than utilized because of its clutter, then it’s time to get organized!
Here are 5 tips for organizing your office supply closet:
- Empty Closet and Take Inventory. Make a list of all items you currently have in stock as well as those you routinely use such as staples or folders. In addition, check with employees to see what other items are needed—much-needed supplies that are kept in desk drawers are often overlooked on the inventory list. Extra tip: Print out the master inventory list and tape it to the supply room door along with the name and contact info for reordering supplies.
- Design the Space. The problem with most supply closets is that there really is no rhyme or reason to where things are kept. Make sure you have shelving and utilize wall and door spaces. Consider organizing supplies by how and when they are used. For example, presentational items are on one shelf, printer supplies on another, etc. In addition, put well-used items like desk supplies (pens, staples, etc.) near the front to avoid people sifting through the entire closet just to grab a pencil.
- Invest in Storage. Clear containers work best for items like paper clips, pens, staples, rubber bands, etc. This way you can easily see when you are running low without opening the box. You can also reuse items you already have in the office such as cups to house pens and pencils. Whatever your storage container, make sure you label it so everyone can easily find what they need.
- Think Outside the Supply Closet. Not all supplies need to be in one closet. Keep the reams of paper near the printers; and keep the cleaning supplies stored under a sink rather than in the supply closet.
- Keep It Organized. Now that you have everything in order, be sure to keep it that way. Consider asking one person to be in charge of reordering supplies and regularly organizing the closet (a quick task for a Friday afternoon), create an easy-to-use system for employees to request items they may need and pay attention to items that tend to be used up faster than they should.
Your business may focus on marketing, sales, customer relations, financial reports, or healthcare, but your office supplies are just as important. Organizing the supplies is well worth the effort. It can minimize every day headaches and maybe even save the day!
Talk to us: What is the one item in your office supply closet that is used the most?
image courtesy of flickr CC/Krissy Venosdale