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Fall Cleaning and Winter Prep: Keep Your Family Well!

I have never understood the practice of spring cleaning! I don’t know about you but in the spring all I want to do is go outside and enjoy the nice weather! Truth is I also want to do that in the fall because I know it won’t be long until I’ll be cooped up in the house. The thing is, whether you love winter or not it’s coming. And whether you love outdoor winter activities or not you’ll likely be spending A LOT more time inside! So, how do you prepare for these chilly months indoors? What can you do to keep your family as healthy as possible during this germy season? Follow these simple instructions for fall cleaning and winter prep to keep your family well and prepare your entire household inside and out!

Fall Cleaning & Prep Projects

There are some extra cleaning projects you should take on in the fall. And there are some prep things you should do as well. Even if your calendar is full and you’re extremely busy it’s worthwhile to tackle these projects and will save you time later. I suggest dedicating a weekend day or two do getting the list completed or even taking a half an hour a day to make progress.

Don’t do it all alone though! Your home is the responsibility of everyone who lives in it! Get the family involved in fall cleaning and weekly household tasks!

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Outdoor Cleaning

Flower Beds & Gardening

Don’t give up gardening yet! This is a great way to spend some time outdoors and enjoy these crisp fall days! Plus gardening is REALLY good for your health and well being! I even wrote a post about 12 ways gardening improves your health (and there are WAY more than 12).

I you want a healthy garden next year it’s important to get your fall gardening done. Be sure to prune any shrubs, bushes or trees that need it. Remove all debris and wrap any of your more delicate plants with burlap to protect them from the harsh winter. Now is the time to move anything that needs to be brought inside into potters as well. Don’t take the chance that you have another month. You never know when we’re going to get frost (and neither does the weather reporter, it seems).

You may also want to split any plants that have gotten too big and replant them. This is also true for bulbs. Fall is the best time for planting most bulbs. So if you’re hoping for spring tulips, crocuses or daffodils, dedicate some extra time to your garden now.

Raking

Yes… you do need to rake. This is incredible exercise and if you do it you can totally count it as your workout for the day!

If you’re having your leaves removed be sure to find out how your city hauls them. In our community they have to be bagged but in others you can just leave them in a pile at the curb. If your city allows them to be piled at the curb NEVER let your kids play in them and NEVER drive into them! This is one of the reasons that practice has been stopped. Too many accidents!

If you don’t have many leaves you can put them into your flower beds for the winter or you can compost them. Just be cautious. If the tree is diseased or the leaves don’t look right be sure to remove them! You don’t want them contaminating and possibly killing other plants!

Gutters & Outdoor Home Maintenance

If you aren’t the most handy or are afraid of heights you might not want to take this on! So hire someone to do it! A lot of landscaping companies and handyman services are willing to do it (or will give you a referral). Just make sure that the person you hire is licensed and insured! You don’t want a lawsuit if someone falls off of a latter in your yard.

Your gutters MUST be cleaned annually, even if you have gutter covers! This prevents ice damning which can cause serious water damage!

While you’re on a latter you should also consider trimming any tree branches that need trimming.

Also, don’t forget to shut off any outdoor water. You don’t want your pipes to burst over the winter! That’s a costly repair! If you have an outdoor sink turn off the water supply and turn on the faucet to drain the water in the pipes. And, have your sprinkler system winterized.

Indoor Cleaning

Get Some Fresh Air

While the weather is still nice, get some fresh air in your house! Open the windows throughout your house and consider running a fan or two. Indoor air pollution is a serious problem that can be very bad for your health!

Since you’re airing everything out this is also a great time to get rid of things that contribute to indoor air pollution. Start swapping out or tossing products that contain artificial fragrances and switch to natural scents like essential oils. To select the best essential oils and find out what you should toss check out this post: Synthetic vs. Natural Fragrance! Switch Today For Your Health.

This is also a great time to check the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector and smoke detectors and to check the radon levels in your house. Really, you could do this anytime but it should be done annually and since fresh air is on your mind, why not now?

Smelly Projects

If there are any indoor projects you’ve been planning to do that are stinky or require good ventilation now is the time!

Whenever possible you should take these projects outside! Spray painting and soap making should never be done indoors! There are some projects though that we have to do inside!

If you need to polish silver for Thanksgiving (do people still do this?) Or if you need to tackle your shower grout now is the time! Are there less smelly options for shower grout? Sure! But, if you’re anything like me you are likely to throw everything you can find at soap scum, grout stains and mildew. I know that I always get carried away with projects like this and sometimes turn to bleach or other intense cleaning supplies. Be sure to get these projects going now when you can open the windows and get some good air flow!

Disinfect

If you haven’t already made some disinfecting spray you need to now! Store bought bleach wipes and disinfecting sprays don’t work better but often have ingredients that are damaging to your health and the environment!

Once you have your disinfecting spray made you’ll want to go through your house with it. Be sure to get those doorknobs, handles, light switches and faucets! These are likely the most germy parts of your house. Oh, and spritz a cleaning cloth and gently run it over your tv remote and keyboard (don’t get liquid inside the keys and buttons though). You’ll want to do this at least once a week if no one in your house is ill. If anyone has so much as a sniffle you’ll need to do this daily or even a couple times a day!

Garage / Shed

First things first! Make sure that your garage door is in proper operating order! This is especially important if you have an attached garage and you plan to park there in the winter! Also, NEVER start your car until the door is fully open and NEVER close the door until the car is off. It’s best to close it from the wall button not inside your car to give the garage some time to air out.

Even if you don’ t plan to park in the garage, this is the time to reorganize! Put your bikes and outdoor summer sporting goods away and get out your winter stuff (just like you do your closet)! Be particularly attentive to making sure that your shovels, snowblower and rock salt are easy to get to. We use calcium chloride instead or rock salt. It’s more expensive than rock salt but we usually don’t even go through a whole bucket. It lasts a lot longer and you don’t need to use nearly as much. Plus, it’s safer for our pavement, cars and flooring.

Clean & Prep Your Car

Speaking of cars… Be sure to clean them inside and out and replace your carpet mats with all weather ones! You should also have all of your fluid levels checked (especially your windshield washer solvent). Any you might want to check your tire pressure! If you have a mechanic or take your care routinely for oil changes they will often check all of this and top it off at no charge. The place I go doesn’t even require an appointment!

Winter Preparation

Snow Removal

Whether you’re prepared or not SNOW IS COMING!!! If you live in a place where it never snows you can disregard this and skip it or you can read it an pity us!

Make sure that you have oil and gasoline for your snow blower if you have one! If any routine maintenance needs to be done on it, have it done now! Even if you have a snowblower you’ll need at least one good snow shovel for those wet, heavy snowfalls. And, you’ll also need rock salt (or calcium chloride, see above). Buy them now. They’ll sell out fast!

If you’re considering buying a snow blower, generator or any other winter gear, do it now or at the end of the season! Don’t wait until the first big snow storm to decide! They’ll be outrageously expensive (if you can find them)!

Illness

Preventing illness or quickly recovering are significant considerations in the winter. Prepare yourself and your family now for a healthy winter!

Humidifiers

One of the biggest reasons for increased illness in the winter isn’t the cold, it’s the dry air! Having a humidifier can make all of the difference in the world! I like to have one in my primary living space and one in each bedroom. Make sure you follow the manufacturers instruction regarding cleaning and maintenance, especially related to filter care or changing.

Nutrition

I know the holidays are coming and in the cold winter months we all crave comfort food. Sticking to a good nutrition plan really helps prevent illness as does intermittent fasting (timed eating). Eat plenty of fruits and veggies. And make sure that you get a variety! Shoot for 20 – 30 different types a month so that you get all of the vitamins and minerals you need to support your immune system!

Supplements

Even though you’re eating super healthy you might want to consider taking some supplements. It is always a good idea to check with your doctor or a naturalpath (or both) before starting supplements. This is especially true if you have any medical conditions or are pregnant or nursing. During cold and flu season I like to take vitamin C, zinc, echinacea (not safe for pregnant or nursing moms), golden seal (not safe for pregnant or nursing moms), and oil of oregano. These are all known to prevent or shorten the duration of colds and other illnesses.

Hydrate

You might not notice that you are thirsty as often as you do in the heat of summer. Make a point of staying hydrated! Any zero calorie decaffeinated beverage can be counted as water! I love decaf herbal tea in the fall and winter! Whatever you’re drinking be sure to consume half of your body weight in ounces of water a day. So, if you weigh 150 lbs you’ll want to drink 75 oz of water. If this feels overwhelming to you make sure you’re getting 7 – 8 8oz glasses a day!

I like to carry a 20 oz water bottle with me all day and fill it regularly to make sure I get my water in!

Disinfecting

Preventing the spread of colds is top priority in the winter! Especially for those of us with school aged children. They can seem perfectly fine and still be contagious! They’re germ machines!!!

Make disinfecting spray and use it regularly! Even if no one in your house appears sick you should be spraying surfaces routinely! Most illnesses are contagious before the first symptoms show!

I’m sure you already know this but, wash your hands! You should avoid using antibacterial soap. It is unnecessary and does more harm than good! Simply make sure that you thoroughly wash for long enough and that your kids do the same. Sing the ABC’s while washing. By the time you’re done you’ll be squeaky clean! Hands should always be washed after using the restroom, before eating and anytime you return home from a public place.

Speedy Recovery

You’ve done everything you can to prevent illness but you or someone in your family is sick! Here are the things you should have prepped for just this situation!

Bone Broth

There’s some truth to the saying that chicken soup cures the common cold. But chicken soup sure has changed! The thing that really does the trick is bone broth and the best thing to do is make it yourself. It isn’t difficult and it stays good in the freezer for up to 6 months! Follow my tutorial or recipe and make a big batch of bone broth so it’s ready for you and your family this winter!

Lemon & Honey

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know that I LOVE to collect jars! This is one of the many uses I have for them! I like to use a smaller jar (8oz or less) for this since it only stays good for about 3 – 4 months. Clean a couple lemons with vinegar and water (or use organic) and cut them into slices. Put as many slices as you can fit into a jar (wedge them in). Then fill the jar with raw (preferably local) honey. Put the lid on and store it in your fridge. Add a teaspoon or two to tea or hot water. It is soothing and beneficial for coughs, head and chest colds and the flu. (Pregnant women shouldn’t consume raw honey, check with your doctor if you’re nursing.)

Other Natural Remedies

Eucalyptus and Tea Tree essential oils are incredibly beneficial when you are fighting illness. In the weeks to come I’ll be posting some tutorials for how to use these oils in natural remedies. You can also simply diffuse them or add them to your homemade cleaning supplies!

Mental Health

Being stuck inside for the winter can really take it’s toll on our mental health and well being. To stave off the winter blues follow all of the recommendations above and check out my post 9 Things You Need To Do Right Now To Avoid The Winter Blues & SAD.

Snow Day / Power Outage Preparation

If you live in an area that gets any snow at all you might end up with a snow day or power outage! Oftentimes when this happens it’s important to stay off of the roads. This makes it extra important to be prepared!

Snow Day

If you know that you will be required to work even in inclement weather make sure that you have a couple of child care options already planned out. Contact a few people in your family or community and create a resource list for yourself! Keep in mind that if school is canceled there may be a trusted teen in the neighborhood who can baby sit!

I always liked to keep a game or craft supplies set aside for snow days. These weren’t in the regular rotation. Since my kids didn’t know about them and hadn’t played with them before they were a novelty! This is a great way to resolve snow day boredom and arguing! Pick up some items on sale this fall so you have a few go to options!

Power Outage

Make sure that you have plenty of batteries and flashlights on hand! We always prefer to have lantern flashlights (they can be used as either). We set them up around the house and make sure that each of our kids has a flashlight, lantern or book light as well.

If you have a power outage that can be very unsettling. It can help to have a small radio in your house that takes batteries or works by crank. You’ll want to minimize time on your phone so you don’t drain the battery.

Make a power outage an adventure! Be creative and stock supplies for such an event! Don’t forget to throw in some fun items as well! You might even end up getting out your snow day games or crafts if you have a power outage. Having something to fill the time is very helpful!

Cutting Down on Drafts & Heat Loss

Check out all of the seals on your windows and doors. You may have some that need repair. Spending a little bit of money now will save you a bundle in heating costs!

When I was young my parents always put plastic over the windows to keep out drafts. This can be very helpful, especially in older homes! They now make handy kits that make this task very simple and they look a lot better. This might be a sustainability concern for you but consider the increased carbon footprint from heating your home! The best option down the road will be to replace your windows and doors but until that’s a project you want to take on you might want to try this.

I’m also a BIG fan of those door socks! They’re so handy! You can even make them yourself. Don’t make them so heavy that they aren’t easily moved though. You should be able to open your door without any difficulty.

Your Fireplace

If you have a fireplace, you’re going to LOVE it this winter!

Schedule all of your routine maintenance ASAP! If your fireplace is due for any work do NOT use it! My sister’s house caught fire due to a faulty fireplace liner! Thankfully no one was injured but they lost most of their belongings and a beloved pet. Not to mention that they were displaced for months and had to deal with all kinds of inconvenience. They were in a new house and not due for maintenance. It isn’t the worst idea if you haven’t had the fireplace checked to do so.

Be sure to have your chimney cleaned and that your flue is in working order (and you know how to open it) before using your fireplace!

If you have a wood burning fireplace you’ll need wood. It is a lot cheaper to buy a cord or half cord than to buy a bundle at the grocery store. Usually this is delivered to your driveway and you stack it yourself. This totally counts as a work out too! You’ll need to stack it outside your house preferably near your garage or shed. It can be helpful to put it on a rack and you should definitely cover it or it will be too wet or snowy to burn.

Start Today, Get Prepped, Get Cleaning and Be Well!

Even if you can’t get everything on this list done before the first snow fall it’s worthwhile to get started! Getting your gardening done and your house cleaned and prepped will make all of the difference!

If you don’t know where to start, let me suggest that you call any outside vendors first and line up their services! Then either work in the order presented here or tackle the list in your own way. Do you prefer to eat the frog and do the thing you least want to first or would you like to take a random approach? No matter how you do it just get it done! Set yourself up for the healthiest, best winter yet!

Use the social media buttons to share with your family and friends! Help keep everyone you know safe, happy and healthy this winter!

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Posted in Adulting Basics, Fall, Outdoors, Wellness, Your Surroundings, Your World

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