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Whether it's improving your garden or making your patio BBQ-friendly, these clever tips will have you taking your space to the next level, all for practically nothing.
1. Bring in the Birds
Don’t throw out those net bags that onions and citrus fruits come in! In early spring, fill them with anything that might appeal to nest-building birds: pet hair, human hair, lint, plant clippings. Then tie off the bag and hang so birds can help themselves and nest nearby. You can use the same bags to serve suet to your feathered friends in the winter.
2. DIY Birdbath
Want to try a birdbath but don’t want the expense and commitment of those heavy commercial types? Simply use a sturdy tomato cage as your base, topped with a round drainage tray for potted plants. It’s easy to move and very affordable! Place some colorful marbles or pebbles in the tray before adding water—the brighter the color, the better to attract birds.
3. Get Reddy for Hummingbirds
These fast fliers are attracted to red. But if your garden color scheme is less fire engine and more pastel, you can fake it. Just wire some red silk flowers around the garden until they discover nectar-filled flowers you’ve offered in other colors.
4. Make Your Own Nectar
Don’t spend money on hummingbird nectar when it’s so simple to make! Just dissolve 1 part sugar in 3 parts water, then add a few drops of orange extract or orange juice. Use it immediately, or keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
5. The Butterfly Water Cooler
Butterflies like puddles to gather around and drink. Make a butterfly water station out of an old cookie sheet or big saucer lined with gravel. You can also “plant” an old mug up to its rim in the soil, and fill it with water when rainwater doesn’t keep it supplied.
6. Baby Your Garden
Got some old baby gear in the basement or attic? Make your family wonder by getting it out! Then take it outside. Baby gates, spindle cribs, and even the metal springs from cribs make easy trellises you can train flowers or vegetable vines to climb.
7. Stones From a Tree
Having a tree taken down? Put it to good use! Cut some “slices” (about 2 inches thick) to use as stepping-stones.
8. Mulch with Souvenirs
Every beach vacation, we bring home more shells and stones than we can use for decoration around the house. So we now bring many into our outdoor spaces. They make perfect mulch and accents around plants, just like purchased pebbles from home centers (without the steep price)!
9. A Sweet Concrete Cleaner
Powdered lemonade mix can come to the rescue to help scrub away stains on your concrete! Simply add a few drops of water to the drink mix, just enough to form a paste. Apply the paste to a concrete stain and use a stiff scrub brush to scrub the area clean.
10. Lanterns for Much Less
Trendy outdoor dÃ©cor stores sell lanterns for a pretty penny. But you can make your own with all kinds and sizes of jars—from baby food and minced garlic to pasta sauce and even large pickle jars. Once they’re clean with the labels removed, simply place a votive candle in the jar. You can add pebbles or sand to the jar to raise the height of the candle or steady a taller candle. Want a hanging lantern? Fine-gauge wire can be bent to form a handle, with the rest wrapped around the mouth of the jar to secure.
11. Create Your Own Luminarias
Have empty tin cans you can repurpose? Fill them with water and freeze overnight. Once frozen solid, you can use a large nail and hammer to punch holes in a decorative design on the cans. Need a guide? Draw the design you want with a dry-erase marker that you can wipe off later. After the design is complete, simply let the water thaw, empty, and dry the can. Light a tea light inside for your own custom luminaria!
12. Color Swatch Your Lights
White string lights can go from simple to sensational with a trip to the paint counter—or maybe even your junk drawer! Collect some paint swatch strips in fabulous, bright colors. Curl them into cylinders (with the color sides facing out) and secure with clear tape. Slip one sleeve over each bulb on your light string, and attach it to the wire with tape or a small binder clip. Magical mini lampshades for free!
13. Ladder Up
Need more serving space while entertaining? Place plywood planks across the rungs of a stepladder. Runners can cover the plywood for a fancier look. Now you have a tiered serving station for food or drinks that tucks away again until the next time you need it!
14. Protect Those Drinks
Keep bugs out of drinks by supplying cupcake liners. They easily slip over the tops of cans and glasses. And you can pop a straw through them if desired. Put a stack in a mason jar for a pretty display that you can label with the intended use.
15. Forget the Ice
Replace the ice for your drink cooler, tub, or kiddie pool with frozen water balloons. To make them, fill the balloons two-thirds full and stick in the freezer. When the drinks are gone and the ice has melted at the end of the day, have fun!
16. Condiment Cleanup
Repurpose inexpensive, clear soap dispenser pumps as condiment servers. You’ll upgrade your picnic table from plastic bottles, and make topping that burger or hotdog easier, with less mess.
17. S’more Solutions
Is it feeling crowded around the fire, or are flames rising too high for kids to toast s’mores? Line terra-cotta pots with aluminum foil. Then add charcoal and light. These handy little cookers allow each person to have their own fire to toast marshmallows with ease. Sticking with one big fire but need to toast a lot of marshmallows for the hungry masses? Use a clean metal rake to fit them all over the fire at once.
When it’s too cold to open the windows, freshen your whole house fast by placing a few drops of vanilla extract on your furnace’s filter. Your house’s heating system will do the rest of the work for you. To scent one particular area, take a small jar and place several cotton balls inside. Dab a few drops of vanilla extract onto the cotton balls. Before putting the cover on the jar, use a nail to puncture a few holes into it for your very own vanilla air freshener.
To easily deodorize your kitchen, put a cinnamon stick and other favorite spices (such as cloves or ginger) in a mug of water, and microwave it for 2 minutes. Remove the mug and set it on the counter so that the aroma can fill the kitchen. This trick is great for winter, when the scent of the spices will create a warm, cozy atmosphere.
Have a sliding glass door that’s rarely used during the winter? Seal it with duct tape to keep cold air from coming in.
SEE ALSO: Domestic CEO's How to Make Your Home (and Everything in it) Smell Good
To keep your metal deck furniture free from rust and wear all winter long, reach for the petroleum jelly Just apply a thin layer (especially in areas where the furniture tends to rust) after cleaning the surface with simple soap and water.
Many dogs love to play outside in the snow, but their paws can cause them pain if ice starts to build up between their pads. Before heading out for a winter walk, rub some petroleum jelly between each pad. The ice will stay away and your dog can enjoy the outdoors! If your poor pet’s pads are already cracked or dry, gently rub a little petroleum jelly into her pads while she’s sleeping.
Petroleum jelly is completely safe if your pet decides she wants to lick it off later.
Spray WD-40 in the lining of car doors. Doing this once in the beginning of the winter should keep your doors opening easily.
Use baby powder or baking soda to absorb the moisture that collects on the rubber seal lining of your car door. Just wipe the weather strip with a dry cloth before sprinkling on the powder. Repeat every few days in the dead of winter to make sure you can always get into your car.
RELATED: Who Knew's 7 Car Hacks for Winter Weather
Don’t forget to clean under your car, especially if you live in an area where salt and ice assault in winter.
A trick for these hard-to-reach areas: Run a lawn sprinkler underneath the car and drive back and forth.
To keep your car’s door locks safe from ice during the cold winter months, place a refrigerator magnet over the lock. You can even take an old magnet (last year’s calendar from a local realtor, perhaps) and cut it into pieces that fit perfectly.
For lips that need a little extra TLC, especially in the winter, try this effective scrub. Mix together 2 teaspoons baking soda with enough lemon juice to make a paste. Gently scrub the mixture over your lips with a dry toothbrush for a minute or two, then rinse, and apply some petroleum jelly or your favorite lip balm.
For a seasonal solution to chapped winter lips—and a great DIY gift idea for the holidays—try this cranberry lip balm! In a microwave-safe bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon avocado or almond oil, 10 fresh cranberries, 1 teaspoon honey, and 1 drop vitamin E oil (from a capsule). Microwave on high until the mixture begins to boil. Remove carefully as the bowl may be hot. Mash the berries with a fork and stir well to combine. After the mixture has cooled for 10 minutes, strain it into a small portable tin, making sure to remove all of the fruit pieces. Cool completely. You’ve made your own great-smelling lip balm!
If your favorite cashmere or angora sweater is looking a little worn, put it in a plastic bag and place it in the freezer for half an hour. The cold causes the fibers to expand, making your sweater look new again! Who knew there was such a thing as sweater cryogenics?
JUST FOR FUN: Savvy Psychologist's How to Harness Light to Defeat Winter Blues
Make your winter boots a little warmer—and make sure they’re completely waterproof—by lining the bottom of the insides with duct tape. The tape will create a waterproof seal, and the shiny silver will reflect your body heat back onto your feet.
Can’t stop scratching a bug bite? Just place a piece of papaya (the fleshy part, not the skin) on it. Papaya contains an enzyme called “papain,” whose protein-digestive properties helps to decompose insect venom, which will stop both itching and swelling.
That jar of vapor rub at the back of your medicine cabinet isn’t just good for breaking up chest congestion, you can also use it to stop mosquito and other bug bites from itching and swelling. Just dab a little on the spot, and you’ll stop scratching in seconds, thanks to the combination of menthol and eucalyptus.
Covered in mosquito bites? Get some relief with a surprising ingredient: whipped topping. The same nondairy topping that you’d use for ice cream or pies also helps stop insect bites from being so darn itchy.
To help reduce the itchiness associated with insect bites, try applying an antiseptic mouthwash (such as Listerine) to the area with a cotton ball.
See also: How to Get Rid of Bad Breath Naturally
Ease mosquito and other bug bites by rubbing them with some dry bar soap like Ivory. It will provide quick relief from itching!
If you don’t have any bar soap on hand, you could also use hand soap (it’s just harder to keep on the bite!).
Tame that painful bug bite with a little tea. Soak a bag of black tea in warm water and then apply it to the bite. The tannic acid will help reduce swelling and pain.
If it’s bug season and your family has got the itch, apply this solution to the affected areas for relief: Add two tablets of Alka Seltzer to a half a glass of water. Use a cotton ball to rub this into your bites, and let it sit for 30 minutes
Want to eliminate the itch from a bug bite? Look no further than the milk of magnesia in your medicine cabinet. Dab a little bit on the spot, and the antacid will stop the itchiness in its tracks.
You may have heard that hemorrhoid cream can relieve undereye puffiness, but did you know it could also help your mosquito and other bug bites? Applied topically, it will reduce the pain and the swelling of an insect bite.
We love this quick fix for an insect bite! Just rub antiperspirant or deodorant over the spot and the itch will go away. It contains some of the same ingredients as anti-itch creams.
Related: 6 All Natural Ways to Get Rid of Body Odor
Here’s a clever use for that roll of antacids you’ve got at the bottom of your purse: an itch reliever! Crush one tablet with enough water to make a paste and spread it over any itchy spots for relief, especially mosquito bites.
We know this one sounds a little goofy, but it actually works. The next time you get a bug bite, try applying a little thousand island dressing to stop the itch.
Have a bug bite that won’t stop itching? Get relief with a dab of toothpaste (the white, non-gel variety works best) and it will take the itch away as well as a dab of calamine lotion does.
A great way to stop mosquito (and other) bites from itching is with a dab of diluted rubbing alcohol. In fact, ammonia is the main ingredient in many of the itch-relief products currently on the market. Just mix four parts water for every one part alcohol. You can also use ammonia in place of the rubbing alcohol.
Caution: Don’t apply rubbing alcohol or ammonia if the skin is broken near the bite! It will sting.
If you’ve just come back from a long weekend camping, you’ll love this tip. Use meat tenderizer to treat insect bites! Moisten a teaspoon of tenderizer with a little water and rub it immediately into the skin. Commercial meat tenderizers contain papain, the same enzyme as papaya. It actually decomposes insect venom, easing itchiness and swelling.
The next time you get a bug bite, crush an aspirin tablet and rub it into damp skin. The active ingredient in aspirin, salicylic acid, is an anti-inflammatory, and it will reduce the pain of the swelling and itching.
Just for fun: How to Solve Your Biggest Summer Problems
For more ways to deal with insects and bites from all around the internet, check out our Bug and Pest Natural Remedies board on Pinterest. And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram!
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Who doesn’t want to cover themselves in chocolate? Here’s your opportunity with this hydrating, revitalizing scrub.
Mix together all of the ingredients in a bowl, making sure to break up any lumps in the cocoa powder. Apply this luscious mixture to your skin, rubbing in a circular motion. Leave for 5 minutes, then rinse with warm water. Divine! (Leftover scrub can be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.)
Here’s a great scrub for smoothing out rough spots on elbows, hands, feet, or wherever you need a little extra help.
Mix together all of the ingredients, then rub onto the skin. Rinse with warm water.
Dry, itchy skin bothering you? Try this super-moisturizing light scrub.
Mix together the ingredients, making sure to break up any lumps in the brown sugar. Massage immediately into skin, as the sugar will begin to dissolve. Rinse with warm water.
This invigorating scrub is great for those sleepy mornings when it’s almost impossible to drag yourself out of bed. For best results, make it the night before and store in the refrigerator until morning.
In a food processor, add the rice and pulse until ground. Transfer the contents to a bowl. Then process the yogurt and mint together and add to the ground rice. Add the essential oil, stir well, and refrigerate. Then, during your morning shower, rub the mixture into your skin. You’ll feel it working!
SEE ALSO: Who Knew's 18 Natural Remedies to Get Rid of Acne and Pimples
For beach-ready skin, try this body polish. Ginger will help stimulate the skin, salt and sugar will rub away dead skin cells, and the combination of coconut and olive oils will provide deep hydration.
In a small saucepan, add the coconut oil and grated ginger, and heat on low until the oil melts and the ginger has infused it. Strain into a bowl. Stir in the olive oil, sugar, and sea salt, and allow the mixture to cool. Transfer to a cosmetics jar. To use, massage a little into the face and body, and leave for 5 minutes before rinsing under warm water.
Is the skin on your elbows looking a bit rough? Here’s an easy treatment: Cut a lemon or lime in half, then sprinkle it with brown sugar. Bend your elbow and shove it right into the citrus, then twist the fruit back and forth. The fruit’s acid will slough off dead skin with the help of the sugar.
This powerhouse of a body mask is loaded with vital nutrients to help rejuvenate and revitalize skin.
Mash together the avocados and carrots in a medium bowl. Stir in the milk, lightly beaten eggs, and honey. Apply the mixture to damp skin, then leave on for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water.
Try this body mask to help soothe irritated skin. The lactic acid in the yogurt gently breaks down dry skin cells, and turmeric is a well-known anti-inflammatory.
Combine the yogurt and the turmeric, blending well. Apply to damp skin, and leave for 10 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water, then moisturize.
RELATED: Mighty Mommy's 10 Cures for Rainy Day Boredom
Do you have acne scars or other dark spots on your face? You can use the enzymes in certain foods to help lighten them! Here’s a soothing mask to try.
Stir together the lemon juice, honey, and yogurt in a small bowl. Apply to your face, and leave on for about 10 minutes. Rinse with warm water.
For clean, soft skin—and a clever way to use up that can of pumpkin that’s been gathering dust in your pantry since last Thanksgiving—try this facial mask.
Mix together the canned pumpkin with the yogurt, honey, ground almonds, and a drizzle of olive oil. Apply to skin, and take a hot bath to let the steam and enzymes in the mask do their work. After 10 minutes, rinse and apply your normal moisturizer. Refrigerate any leftovers and use within a week.
If you have oily skin, try this sweetly scented scrub. The clay will help remove impurities and excess oil, while the oats and almonds will exfoliate and soothe skin. As a bonus, lavender is great for stress relief!
Pulse together the oats, almonds, and dried lavender in a blender. Mix in the honey and white kaolin clay. (You can find the clay online or at stores that carry natural beauty products.) Remove a tablespoon of the scrub and mix with water to make a thick paste. Massage over the face and neck, and leave on for 10 to 15 minutes. Store the leftovers in the refrigerator in a closed container.
Have a teeny bit of Champagne or white wine left after a party? Make a face scrub with it! Wine contains tartaric acid, a terrific exfoliant. Mix a few teaspoons sugar with enough wine to make a paste, then massage into clean skin.
Once a month, cover your hands in petroleum jelly or thick hand cream, then slip them into some soft cotton gloves for the night. In the morning, your skin will have absorbed all the cream, leaving you with the smoothest, softest hands you’ve ever had. You can also soften your feet the same way (use socks rather than gloves, of course).
Apricot kernel oil, available at vitamin and health-food stores, is rich in vitamins A and E and is an excellent moisturizer. Combine two tablespoons of it with a half cup of brown sugar and two tablespoons of lemon juice for an exfoliating—and hydrating—hand scrub. Massage well into hands, then rinse.
For rough patches on the hands and feet, try this rub scented with rosewater, which has been used for centuries to soothe irritated skin and is thought to help regenerate skin tissue. Whisk together two tablespoons of it, along with one tablespoon of honey, one tablespoon of apricot kernel oil, and one tablespoon of lemon juice, in a small bowl. To use, rub onto rough patches on the hands and feet, then rinse.
We love this olive oil scrub for its simplicity and effectiveness! In a small bowl, add a quarter cup of olive oil and enough sugar to make a damp, runny mixture. Rub it into your hands or feet, then rinse for smooth, moisturized skin.
In a small bowl, stir together a quarter cup of flaxseed or almond meal and a quarter to a half teaspoon of olive oil. The mixture will be just barely damp. Rub well into dry, rough patches on your feet, then rinse.
You can pay a lot of money for a fancy sea salt scrub, or you can make your very own version in just a few minutes. Sea salt contains natural minerals not present in regular table salt. It also helps remove dead skin cells and other toxins present in the skin. In a small bowl, add one cup of sea salt and just enough olive oil to make a slightly runny mixture—you don’t want it to be too loose. Rub into dry hands and feet for several minutes before rinsing off.
Try this quick hand scrub that combines the exfoliating power of sugar and the lactic acid in sour cream. Mix one tablespoon of sugar and one tablespoon of sour cream together, and rub into hands for a minute or two. Rinse to reveal soft, smooth skin.
Try this overnight hand mask to gently remove dead skin cells. Whisk together a half cup of buttermilk and one tablespoon of almond oil in a small bowl. Submerge your hands completely, remove, and allow to dry. Then cover your hands with cotton gloves and leave on overnight. In the morning, rinse your hands well to reveal brighter skin.
For more all natural remedies from all around the internet, check out our Health and Beauty Tips board on Pinterest. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram!
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Obviously, coffee is the best part of every morning. But if your coffee needs a pick-me-up, we've got you covered.
If you’re sensitive to acidity in coffee but love the pick-me-up in the morning, here’s a way to reduce the acid level: Just add a pinch of baking soda to the drink! You can also use this tip to decrease the acidity in other high-acid drinks and foods.
If your cream or half-and-half has begun to develop an “off” odor, but you desperately need it for your coffee, try mixing in 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, which will neutralize the lactic acid that is causing the cream to sour.
Before you use the cream, however, taste it to make sure the flavor is still acceptable.
SEE ALSO: Grammar Girl's Why Do We Call Coffee a 'Cup of Joe'?
Make stale coffee taste like it’s just been brewed by adding a pinch of salt and a dollop of fresh water to your cup. Heat it up in the microwave, and you’re ready to power through the rest of your workday. Works for me every time!
These stubborn stains aren't going to get themselves out!
Coffee stains can be frustrating, but you can get them out of your carpet by pouring beer on them. That’s right—one great beverage deserves another! Just dribble a couple of sips onto the stain, and it should vanish. Dab up the extra beer with a paper towel, and if the coffee stain doesn’t go away completely, repeat the task a few more times. This trick works on tea stains, too.
If you can’t get a coffee or tea stain out of a white tablecloth, try one last solution. Soak the tablecloth in a bucket of strong coffee or tea (depending on the type of stain) for 2 hours. You won’t get the stain out, but you will dye your linen a lovely earth tone!
RELATED: Who Knew's How to Remove Almost Every Stain
Who knew that you could use coffee for reasons other than getting out of bed in the morning?
Here’s an ingenious idea for an elegant-looking decoration that also smells wonderful! Place coffee beans in votive holders or small bowls, then add tea light candles. They’ll cast a pretty glow and make your home smell like coffee.
Try vanilla-scented tea lights if you love the smell of French vanilla coffee.
To freshen your breath, try sucking on a coffee bean. It’s much cheaper than a breath mint, and tastes great to us coffee addicts!
We always prefer to clean our windows with something reusable, like an old rag. But if you like to go the disposable route, try coffee filters instead of paper towels. They won’t leave behind any lint or paper pieces. Coffee filters work great for electronic screens as well—they grab dust without scratching or leaving streaks.
SEE ALSO: Domestic CEO's No Mess Camping Coffee
If you need to repair a hole in a piece of wood, add a small amount of instant coffee to the spackle, or to a thick paste made from laundry starch and warm water. The coffee tints the paste to camouflage the patched-up spot.
Add a shallow bowl of freshly ground coffee, uncovered, to your freezer. Leave for a few days and any funky freezer odors will disappear.
Would you ever imagine coffee stains could be a good thing? For your damaged wood furniture or floors, they are. Just brew a very strong pot, and then use a cotton ball or rag to apply the coffee over the scratch. It works as a stain, and will blend in the scratch in no time!
If squirrels are getting into your garden, keep them away with a homemade pepper spray. Take a cup of your favorite hot sauce, add a spoonful of cayenne pepper and a capful of Murphy’s Oil Soap, and mix together. Spray the mixture in whatever areas you want the squirrels to steer clear of, like the borders of your garden. Squirrels don’t like the texture or the smell, and will stay away.
Wondering how to keep a squirrel off a birdfeeder? If it’s held up by a pole or metal arm, grease it up with petroleum jelly. Squirrels can’t hold on with the slippery substance and won’t be able to reach the birdseed.
Related: How to Keep Birds Away From Your Patio, Pool, and Garden
Make sure squirrels and other rodents don’t chew through the rubber pipeline that connects your propane tank with your grill—reinforce the entire thing with duct tape by applying duct tape in rings around it. This is a good idea for anything else in your yard made out of rubber, as this is a favorite chew toy of rodents!
Squirrels can be one of the trickiest garden pests to deal with. They chomp on flower bulbs and other leaves, dig up your favorite plants, and otherwise love to wreck your garden. Protect it by grating some Irish Spring soap around your plants. Squirrels can’t stand the smell of it and will stay away.
See also: How to Keep Snakes Out of Your Yard
Squirrels hate the aroma of mint, so plant mint (which grows easily) around gardens and trees that squirrels like to frequent. It smells great (at least, to you) and you can even pick it and use it in drinks like iced tea and mojitos.
If you’ve ever bitten into a shred of foil that had gotten stuck to a piece of candy, you know how unpleasant the sensation is. Rodents hate the feeling of foil between their teeth, too, so placing strips of foil in your garden mulch will help deter squirrels and some bugs. If squirrels are eating the bark of your tree, you can also wrap the trunk in foil.
For more ways to get rid of pests from all around the internet, check out our Bug and Pest Natural Remedies board on Pinterest. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook for our Tip of the Day!
With cold weather approaching, it’s time to take a couple days and get your home ready for the winter weather. To help you get started, here is a checklist with some of the most important tasks to get your house ready for the snow and cold.
In the winter, you want to make sure your home is a fortress. You don’t want any of your precious heat escaping, and you don’t want any of the winter weather getting in. To help you figure out your home’s leaky spots, you can hire a professional to do an energy audit on your home. This is a great option if you don’t have the time, or the desire to climb on your roof.
Windows: Swap out your screen windows for storm windows. During that process, check around your windows to make sure they are well sealed. To help identify small gaps, carefully hold a lit match or lighter a couple inches from the frame of the window. Move the flame around, always making sure it’s a safe distance from surfaces and fabrics, and watch for the flame to “dance.” If the flame moves, there is air movement in that spot. Use caulk to seal around the frame, or use a plastic window insulation kit to cover an entire window.
Heavy curtains will help keep more heat from escaping through your windows.
Doors: Replace your screen doors with storm doors. Again, check the seals during that process. If you can see any light around your doors, you have a significant gap for warm air to escape. Even if you can’t see any light, you still want to check the rubbery weather stripping around the door. If it’s brittle or cracking, it’s not doing its job. Installing a new weather stripping kit from a hardware store is a quick fix to make sure your doors are sealed.
Ducts: As time goes by, seals on duct work can come loose. Check your duct work to make sure your ducts aren’t letting any heat out into your attic, which can cause snow to melt and refreeze as ice dams on your roof.
Roof: Before winter arrives is a great time to check your roof for the season. Climb up (or at least get on a high ladder) and examine the shingles. Replace any that are missing or broken.
SEE ALSO: Who Knew's How to Prepare Your House for Winter
Furnace: Before it gets too cold, have your heating system checked out by a professional. The first really chilly day of winter is not the time to figure out your heater isn’t working. Have a heating and air company come out, check the systems, and change the filters, and you’ll be ready for Old Man Winter when he arrives.
Water Heater: The end of fall is a great time to drain your water heater. This should get done once a year, so if you haven’t done it recently, make sure you do before you find you only have really cold water in your house.
Chimney: If you have a chimney, make sure you sweep it (or have it professionally swept) before lighting any fires for the season. Removing the excess soot, as well as the birds and animals that made their homes in chimneys throughout the year, will help prevent fires and smoke damage. Also, examine the damper to make sure it’s still looking good. If it’s bent or warped, warm air will be able to escape through the chimney.
Reverse Ceiling Fans: If you have ceiling fans, now is the time to reverse them. Putting them in reverse will help blow down warm air that would otherwise be stuck near the ceiling, which will likely mean you can turn your heat down a degree or two.
If your fan runs on a remote, there is likely a button on the remote to switch the direction. If your fan runs on a switch, look for a small toggle or switch on the fan motor to make the change.
Gutters: Make sure your gutters are ready to handle the winter precipitation. Empty the fallen leaves and anything else that has gathered in the gutters. Make sure they are secure to the roof, and repair them as needed. Also, make sure the drain pipe from your gutters is long enough and directing winter rains and melting snow away from your home’s foundation.
Water Lines: Prevent burst pipes by turning off all exterior water lines or insulating the pipes. If you have a sprinkler or irrigation system, drain the lines to make sure no water is left to damage the underground lines.
RELATED: Domestic CEO's Fall and Winter Home Maintenance Checklist
Tools: Be ready to get yourself out of the house by making sure all your winter tools are in good working condition. Turn on the snow blower, visually check the shovels, and stock up on salt or deicers. Having everything in its place and ready to go will give you a good start on digging out from a big blizzard.
Pantry: During the winter, it’s always a good idea to keep extra food supplies in your pantry in case a big storm prevents you from getting to the store. Boxed and canned foods are the best because they take no electricity to store (in case that goes out), and have a long shelf life. Stock your pantry with a week’s worth of pastas, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, rice, beans, and bottled water, and you’ll be ready if the big one hits your town.
Boxed and canned foods are the best food to keep in stock because they take no electricity to store (in case that goes out), and have a long shelf life.
Lights: If a winter storm takes out your electricity, make sure you are ready with flashlights and candles to light your home. Keep flashlights in every room, and teach your kids where they are in case they need to find them in the dark.
Heat: If you have a wood burning fireplace, keep a solid stash of wood ready in case your power goes out. If you are in an area prone to losing power, you may also want to invest in a generator to run your furnace a couple hours a day during power outages. A good stash of blankets and comforters will help you get through chilly days and cold nights.
Detectors: Winter means an increase of home fires and carbon monoxide leaks. Make sure you and your family are protected by replacing the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and testing them before winter hits.
All the tasks on this list are important to get done before the snow starts falling. If you don’t have the time to do them all, hire a trusted professional to help you knock a few off tasks off your list. You’ll be thankful that you have everything done and ready as soon as the first big storm hits.
I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.
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In the spring, birds are busy building nests, so attract them to your yard with some of these nesting materials for them to collect.
Almost everyone has some old terra-cotta pots tucked away in the garage or the basement. Why not reuse them to make a cute backyard birdbath to attract birds? You’ll need three largish pots of increasing sizes, a large terra-cotta saucer, silicone caulk, and spray paint (optional). First, make sure the pots are clean and free of all dirt and debris. If desired, spray paint them whatever color(s) you’d like. Then stack the pots upside down from large to small, creating a tower. Caulk each in place as you go along. Center the saucer on top of the tower, and then caulk it as well. Fill with water, and you’ve got a great new place for birds to hang out!
Your birdbath used to be a hot spot for the feathered folk, but ever since it became slimy with algae, they’ve stayed away! Make your birdbath as fresh as new by emptying the water, then covering it with vinegar-soaked paper towels or newspaper. (Lavender oil also works.) After letting the paper sit for 5–10 minutes, remove it and rinse the bath thoroughly. Then fill it with fresh water and watch the birds enjoy.
Want to make your birdbath a hotspot for your feathered friends? Simply add some colorful marbles or pebbles to attract neighborhood birds. The brighter the color, the better!
The bottom side of a paper egg carton makes a handy little bird feeder. Paint it if you’d like, then punch holes in the corners and use string to attach it to a tree branch. Each section can hold a little birdseed.
Like we said, birds love color! Attract more birds to your backyard with these orange-half feeders. Cut an orange in half, and scoop out all of the pulp. With an awl, make four evenly spaced holes along the edge of each empty half. Then hang it from a tree by running yarn through the holes and tying to a tree branch. Fill with birdseed, and enjoy watching your new avian friends. This is also a great activity to do with kids!
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