5 Ways to Invite Fall into Your Home

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Decorating your home for fall can be both fun and inexpensive. Free materials are abundant and collecting them is a great way to spend quality time out of doors with kids, pets, family, and friends.

There are countless DIY fall craft projects plus arrangement and presentation ideas just a Pinterest searchaway. Colorful, fallen leaves can be made into seasonal art, candle containers, and fairy-lit garlands. Other free fall decorating materials you might find outside include fallen pinecones; hydrangea blooms (which can be dried); bittersweet and grape vine; oak, crabapple, and other tree branches, to name just a few. Even everyday groceries can serve as great fall decorations—from a bowl of apples or pomegranates to the assortment of squashes and pumpkins that keep for a long time and can be made eventually into soups and pies.

The key to fall decorating is to create a feast for the senses plus a feeling of comfort and sanctuary from the stresses of busy fall schedules and pre-holiday workloads.

Sight. When it comes to color, think outside the classic autumn palette of oranges, yellows, browns, and reds. Adding greens, whites, and blues to the mix makes it easy to update your fall décor for the holidays and the winter beyond. Adding warm, low lighting—from candles and twinkling white lights—is another great trick for making fall visuals pop.

Touch. There are plenty of great reasons to keep your home at cooler-than-comfortable temperatures through fall and winter. Strategic placement of soft, cozy throws and blankets, slippers, and sweaters creates a perfect balance.

Smell. A fall-themed simmer pot starring apples, cinnamon, citrus, and cloves, or a crockpot warming flavored cider or mulled wine permeates your home with familiar and comforting scents. So too, will plenty of baking and cooking of fall favorites, which brings us to…

Taste. Fall is the time to enjoy a bounty of nutritious and fiber-rich seasonal fruits and vegetables. And, while some fall favorites—roasts, pies, cider donuts, and caramel apples—might not be the healthiest, trekking out to farms and harvesting your own food can provide at least a partial offset in terms of exercise. What’s more, basically every traditional fall recipe now has a lightened-up a version you can easily find and try.

Sound. Finally, for the sense of hearing in fall, enjoy the crackle of a wood fire or simply the sweet sound of silence that descends after summer’s cacophony of the lawn mowers and weed whackers. Trade-in your leaf blower for an old-fashioned rake and your neighbors will love you for it. Plus, you’ll burn enough calories to enjoy all those sinful fall favorites guilt free!

Fall Chores to Ensure a Bright, Healthy, and Safe Home for Winter

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There are certain big household chores that need to be done only once a year, and fall is the perfect time. Here is a quick checklist of things you can do to ensure a bright, safe, and healthy home now that temperatures are beginning to drop and winter lies just around the corner.

Wash your windows inside and out. Now that windows will be closed more often than open, you’ll want them to allow in maximum light and to keep views crystal clear. While you are at it, remove and wash all screens and thoroughly vacuum outer sills.

Replace batteries in all smoke detectors (even hardwired devices use batteries for backup). Also, test all carbon monoxide detectors and check original paperwork so you know exactly when your CO1 devices are due to reach end of life. Typically this occurs every 10 years or so and will be indicated by some type of signal, but better to be safe than sorry.

Disconnect and thoroughly clean your clothes dryer vent. Unplug and move the machine, so you can clean both behind and underneath as well. Consider removing the back panel to clear lint trapped inside the machine. Trapped lint is a big fire hazard and also reduces the drying efficiency of your machine.

Unscrew, clean, and disinfect all airflow vents, and replace HVAC filters as needed. With less fresh air circulating throughout your home, you’ll feel good knowing your vents are free of added dust, dander, and pathogens.

Remove and clean all permanent lighting fixtures so your lights can burn more brightly. For the same reason, consider taking the time – or hiring a professional – to give your walls a good scrubbing down. Clean walls reflect light better, which is definitely what you want as the days grow shorter and darker.

Clean and inspect all fireplaces, chimneys, and flues. This is one task for which you definitely want to hire a professional who is trained to look for cracks and other damage that can pose winter home safety hazards.

Cleaning For Baby

If you are expecting a baby within the next few months, you are probably focused on getting all of your gear and decorating the nursery. Something else you need – but probably aren’t thinking much about – is a good cleaning plan. The presence of a newborn in your home means two things: more cleaning work and different cleaning methods. Here’s how to get ready for the big arrival:

Before Baby Comes

Assume you are facing at least a six- to twelve-month window in which you will:

  • Have little time or energy for large cleaning jobs.
  • Want to avoid using harsh cleaning chemicals that generate fumes and leave residues.

Make a list and plan with your significant other to tackle large jobs or consider having them done professionally not long before baby arrives. Focus especially on tasks that will improve air quality by removing dust, dander and other potential allergens from carpets, mattresses, upholstery, textiles and so forth. The overriding objective: bring your whole home up to a standard of clean that will be very easy to maintain after baby arrives.

In Baby’s first Weeks And months

Dr. Sinner’s famous cleaning formula says that four variables, chemicals, temperature, time and action – working together – equal clean. Shrink one variable and the others need to get larger to deliver the same result. Where newborns are concerned, chemicals are the variable you want to shrink, so time, temperature and action (elbow grease) need to increase.

Deep-cleaning your home before baby arrives is a good start. Another good strategy is to avoid dirt and allergens in the first place, for example, by asking people to remove their shoes before coming into your home to visit baby. After the big arrival:

  • Baby’s nursery should be dusted, vacuumed and – weather permitting – aired out at least weekly or even more frequently.
  • Specific areas of baby’s room: sheets, changing table, waterproof mattress cover and diaper pail should be disinfected often with a nontoxic disinfecting solution.
  • And, because diaper leaks and blowouts are common occurrences, plan on sanitizing your washing machine at least weekly or more frequently as well.

Where you do need to use cleaning chemicals, be sure to select high-quality cleaners that are effective in small amounts and designed to avoid leaving residues (many inexpensive and so-called ‘nontoxic’ or ‘green’ cleaning chemicals don’t meet this criteria). Also, be sure to read and follow directions closely to ensure you are realizing cleaners’ disinfecting and sanitizing benefits.

When Baby Starts To Move

While always bearing in mind that babies are born with wonderfully effective immune systems that need some exposure to germs to work properly, plan to increase the frequency with which you dust, vaccum, mop and scrub the floors throughout your home once baby starts rolling, dragging him or herself around and crawling (typically between five and nine months). Since babies love knobs and buttons, plan also to pay more attention to disinfecting things like remote controls, drawer pulls and cabinet knobs that are typically within baby’s reach.

One final piece of cleaning advice: when babies spit and/or throw up, it’s generally going to hit your clothing, carpet, furniture upholstery, bed spread or some other absorbent textile in your home. Depending on baby’s age and food stage, permanent stains will result if these textiles are not treated immediately and thoroughly to remove the agents that can interact chemically with your textile’s fibers.

14 seldom-cleaned areas that need your attention this fall!

Chances are you stick to a set list of weekly cleaning chores in your home. Here is a checklist for 14 not-so-routine cleaning tasks that should get your attention anywhere from 2-4 times a year with fall being one of them.

  • Undersides of counter overhangs, tables, chairs and other surfaces. People tend to grip the edges of things especially when leaning. The resulting accumulation of grime and gunk may not be visible but can harbor germs and trap odors.
  • Insides of drawers and cabinets. Emptying and cleaning cabinets, drawers and organizing solutions creates a great opportunity to sort and reorganize their contents and to toss expired items.
  • Drawer housings and tops of cabinets. Pull drawers all the way out if you can. Depending on what a drawer gets used for, you may find crumbs, scraps of paper and even a few long-lost items that got pushed up and out the back of overfilled drawers.
  • Inside your dishwasher. Especially if you live in an area with high mineral content (hard) water, you may notice deposits or odors building up inside your dishwasher. The good news: very little scrubbing is required. Use an appropriate solution in an empty dishwasher on a high-heat cycle; the only thing that may require a good scrubbing is the edges around the dishwasher door.
  • Inside your washing machine. Newer washers may offer a sanitization cycle; be sure to use to remove germs from the washer drum and agitating elements. This cleaning can also be managed manually with careful application of a 1:10 bleach solution.
  • Light fixtures and bulbs. Cleaning dirty light fixtures and dusting bulbs improves the illumination of your home just as the days start growing shorter and nights longer.
  • Toys. Dirty toys can harbor germs and contribute to an overall impression of dinginess in your home. Colorfast plastic toys can be soaked briefly in a solution of bleach and water then rinsed thoroughly and dried. Smaller toys can be cleaned in your dishwasher.
  • Small appliances. Think coffee makers, toasters, mixers, blenders, portable fans, built-in bathroom fans and so forth. While many small appliances only need a little extra attention to scrubbing out the crevices, your coffee maker may need decalcification to improve taste while portable fans should be dismantled and cleaned thoroughly either before placing into storage for winter or removing from storage during the warmer months.
  • Closet floors. This is a quick hit. Next time you are vacuuming, dusting or mopping your floors, remember to pull everything off your closet floors and go over them as well.
  • Dryer vent system. Lint accumulation inside your dryer housing and venting tubes poses a fire hazard. A quick vacuum four times a year is all it takes to minimize the risk.
  • Refrigerator vents and coils. Dust accumulation here contributes to inefficient cooling and greater electricity use. If you have water filtration or automatic ice making system, you may need professional help to pull out the appliance and accomplish this maintenance (if you have a plumber in for any other job, it’s a great time to ask for this help). While you’re at it, replace your water filters too.
  • Window screens and housings. While washing windows is a 2X/year task, screens and screen housings should be vacuumed and/or cleaned at least once every season to improve views and prevent more pollen and dust from making its way into your home.
  • Chimneys and flues. This is important home safety maintenance that should be conducted by a professional at least once a year. If you didn’t do it in the spring, now is the time before winter sets in.
  • Computer keyboards. You may be in the habit of dusting keyboard surfaces, but they occasionally need a little inside cleaning too. Compressed gas for doing so can be purchased at local office supplies stores.

Set your home maintenance to run on autopilot, Part 2

A Working Mom’s Cleaning Schedule

In Part 1 of this series, we offered recommended cleaning tasks and frequencies to ensure your home looks good, maintains its value over the long term and promotes a healthful and safe living environment for your family. However, the checklist comprises some 40 tasks, many of which break down into smaller tasks, pushing a typical family’s cleaning checklist well into the thousands for a given year. Weekly tasks alone, which are embodied in MaidPro’s 49-Point Checklist™, add up to some 2,500+ individual cleaning jobs per year!

To get it all done – while also preserving leisure time and avoiding frustration – scheduling is a must. Three important rules are to,

  • Understand ahead of time what needs to be accomplished and approximately how long it should take to do a job well,
  • Know best practices, tools and solutions for doing a cleaning task both quickly and effectively, and
  • Assign reasonable – yet ambitious – completion times and match them to available time blocks.

So, for someone who works full time outside the home (say, from 8:30-am – 4:30-pm), MaidPro’s Chief Cleaning Officer (CCO), Melissa Homer, shares her home’s daily, weekly, monthly and annual cleaning schedule to keep her home in tip-top shape.

Daily:

Weekly:

Monthly:

When scheduling bigger, less frequent cleaning jobs, MaidPro’s Chief Cleaning Officer (CCO) considers how each one will fit with what is happening at a particular time of year – back-to-school, seasonal weather and lifestyle changes, plus other factors such as holidays and vacations. A few of her seasonal guidelines can be found below:

  • As winter heads into spring, plan to clean long-term storage areas – attic, basement, and garage – so you can pack and/or donate unwanted items for yard- and rummage sales that typically occur in the spring.
  • As spring transitions to summer, finish heavy indoor tasks – buffing and restoring floors after mud season, cleaning your oven and cooking ventilation systems (which are typically going from heavier to lighter use), vacuuming and flipping mattresses, cleaning and storing winter bedding.
  • As summer moves to fall, focus on tasks that will support your family’s transition back to a more hectic work, school and fall sports schedule – for example, make plenty room in your cabinets, refrigerator and freezer for fast, healthy meal options.
  • And, finally, as winter approaches, focus on important annual maintenance around safety of cooling/heating appliances and chimneys, indoor air quality (air ducts and filters), and the overall brightness of your home (walls, ceilings, windows and window treatments, lighting fixtures) as days are due to become shorter and darker.

MaidPro’s CCO schedules her quarterly, semi-annual and annual cleaning tasks as follows:

  • Deep clean/defrost refrigerator and freezer – Aug, Nov, Feb, May
  • Clean oven and cooking ventilation system – Aug, Nov, Feb, May
  • Shampoo or steam clean carpets and furniture upholstery – Aug, Nov, Feb, May
  • Clean/dust permanent light fixtures – Aug, Nov, Feb, May
  • Remove lint from back/inside of dryer venting system – Sep, Dec, Mar, Jun
  • Vacuum, flip and rotate mattresses – Sep, Dec, Mar, Jun
  • Deep clean and treat hardwood and tile floors to protect from etching – Sep, Dec, Mar, Jun
  • Clean out and purge food cabinets, storage drawers and bins, bureau drawers and closets – Jul Oct, Jan, Apr
  • Clean curtains, window treatments – Jul, Jan
  • Wash windows inside and out – Oct, Apr
  • Vacuum screens and window frames (between window and screen) – Oct, Apr
  • Wash ceilings and walls – Sep, Mar
  • Clean electronics (use compressed air to blow dust out of keyboards, backs and insides of computer towers, etc) – Dec, Jun
  • Clean/inspect chimneys and flues – Aug
  • Clean/inspect heating and cooling appliances – Sep
  • Inspect air ducts for mold/dust buildup (clean as needed) – Oct
  • Clean basement, attic, garage and other long-term storage areas – late Mar or early Apr

Regardless of whether or not you are able to complete each task exactly as scheduled, you will be – at very least – consistently aware of what ought to be accomplished without having to expend a lot of mental energy thinking about home maintenance. If you keep track of how long various cleaning tasks take to complete, you can refine your schedule over time to ensure both effective cleaning and a maximum amount of free time for leisure activities and general enjoyment of life.

Learn how to delegate, outsource and use modern technology to make your home cleaning run on autopilot in Part 3 of our series.

Fall is the New Spring

How to clean your house and prepare for winter months.

The winter months bring shorter days, cooler temperatures – more time indoors – and a rapid succession of holidays which often translates into house guests, visitors and entertaining. Here is a fall cleaning, organizing and home-maintenance checklist to help you prepare:
• First, complete any outstanding items from our Prepare Your Home for Fall checklist as you will want this list completed before winter sets in.
• Clean and dust permanent lighting fixtures to maximize indoor brightness. While you are at it, replace any spent bulbs you have neglected to change because they require a ladder to reach.
• Wash walls and ceilings. You might see this more as an end-of-winter task but – again – the idea is to maximize brightness in your home. Using the right cleaning solution to remove accumulated oily grime from flat surfaces will allow light to reflect rather than being absorbed.
• Deep clean and treat wood and tile floors to guard against etching from winter grit and salt. This is a good idea even if you live in warmer climates where grit is less of an issue. Over time, embedded soils of all types cause etching, which diminishes your floor’s ability to reflect light evenly (meaning it can’t shine). Also, place rubber mats or low-sided trays near doorways to receive shoes and boots so grit never comes inside.
• Flip and rotate mattresses. To maintain shape, resiliency and comfort, mattresses should be flipped and rotated at least four times a year. Take the opportunity to vacuum thoroughly for dust mites, accumulated skin cells and other air-quality hazards as well as underneath and behind beds.
• Clean winter bedding and leave in sun for a few hours. While your winter bedding may have been laundered before going into storage, it is likely to have picked up dust mites and possibly a bit of mold or musty odor over the summer.
• Deep clean your guest room (if you are fortunate enough to have one and are expecting visitors for the holidays). Chances are it’s a room you clean infrequently. Stock with fresh linens and other items you might expect to find in a hotel room. If you do not have a dedicated guest room, clean underneath and change linens on any spare beds you may have; pull out and vaccum sofa beds; blow up and test air mattresses or other temporary accommodations you may have.
• Polish silver and clear space in your kitchen or dining area for seasonal platters, bowls and other holiday serving and entertaining items that are typically in storage for much of the year.

Feel free to post any other suggestions. Thanks Leah