Rid Your Home Of Clutter Before The Cold Sets In

Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
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With kids, jobs, and hectic lives in general, it's easy for our homes to become cluttered. Speaking from personal experience, life with two children means there's lots of toys, papers, backpacks, and more littered around our home. We do our best to keep the place organized with bins, drawers, and storage, but somehow, I still manage to find myself tripping over old art projects and Lego pieces.
As we approached the start of the school year, my patience was wearing thin. Not only was it clogging up my home, but it was a reminder that we are blessed at a time when so many people are not. The solution was to clean up the house and sell our stuff in a garage sale with profits going to the Red Cross.
I learned a few lessons along the way, which I'm more than happy to share.
1. Start planning early.
It's a good idea to begin gathering stuff to sell a few weeks in advance of the sale. That way, no one is scrambling the night before to clean out closets. It's also key in avoiding tantrums when the kiddos see their favorite Elmo doll in the pile.
2. Get your kids involved.
This is a great time to teach some lessons about generosity, sharing, and appreciating what we have. My daughter was very hesitant to get rid of her wares, but when I explained that there were kids who had no toys, she was more willing to let go.
3. Bribery works, too.
If the moral argument doesn't work on your tots, tell them that the more they get rid of, the more space they'll have for new stuff.
4. It's all about charity.
We saw firsthand the damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy, so for us, it made sense to raise money for the victims of the storm. A garage sale where all proceeds go to a charity is easy to get behind for both sellers and buyers.
5. Do some marketing.
Post a few fliers, write on the sidewalk with chalk, and post on a few message boards. Communities want to offer support, and your neighbors will be happy to come out, catch up on local gossip, and support a good cause.
6. Consider the timing.
Plan your sale at a time when the weather forecast is good, and if possible, do it during a block party or another event where foot traffic is likely to be heavy.
We also offered incentives...in the form of brownies. (Whatever you have to do, right?) More than anything, the interaction we had with our neighbors made the sale well worth it. Spending the entire day out on our stoop watching passersby, chatting with neighbors, and catching up on the local news was something we plan to do again soon.
Click through for more tips on how to get your home ready for fall!
1Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Check your heating system.
Now is the perfect time to test out your heating system because you'll have time to get it fixed before the bitter cold sets in. Hiring a certified HVAC professional is recommended, but you can also check it for yourself using these instructions from New Jersey's Public Service Electric and Gas Co. To keep it running smoothly, make sure to change your furnace filters every month.
Reverse the ceiling fans.
Everyone knows fans are great for cooling homes down during the summer, but did you know they can be just as effective during the winter? Many fans now come with the option to run in reverse, sending warm air back down into the room.
Winterize your windows.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 10-15% percent of a home's energy is lost through its windows. Save heat and money on your gas bill by making your windows airtight. Caulk around the window's interior and exterior casing, and add weatherstripping to the sash to prevent air from escaping.
Stock up on supplies.
There's nothing worse than being stuck in a snow drift with no way to shovel yourself out. Beat the last-minute rush before the storm and stock up on shovels, canned food, flashlights,road salt, and a basic emergency kit.
Get your chimney inspected.
If you're lucky enough to have a wood-burning fireplace, make sure to keep it clean. It only takes a small amount of cresote accumulation to start a fire, so call a sweep once a year to remove any soot or blockages in your chimney.
2Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Don't forget about your car!
Just like with your home, there are few quick things you can do to prepare your car for colder weather. Make sure to check your battery, hazard lights, all fluids, and tire treads before severe weather sets in. Keep your tank above half-full at all times, and always keep an ice scraper in your car, just in case. It might also be a good idea to invest in a lock de-icer, for frosty mornings. Consider preparing a winter care kit of extra gloves, socks, walking shoes, a blanket, bottled water, non-perishable snacks, kitty litter for tire traction and a brightly colored flag in case of emergency.
Protect your pipes.
Minimize the risk of pipes freezing by surrounding them with insulation. Completely wrap each pipe with foil or foam insulation to ensure they don't burst when temps go below 32 degrees.
Add insulation.
During the cold winter months, a layer of insulation will help your home retain heat. Experts recommend a solid 12 inches is optimal, so check your attic's levels, and add more if necessary.
Check the smoke alarms.
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms need to be checked twice a year to ensure they are still working effectively. The changing of the seasons is a great reminder, especially because home fires are more prevalent in the winter than any other season.
Winterize your AC.
An easy way to reduce energy loss during the winter is to winterize your air conditioner. Drain the pipes and hoses, and make sure there isn't water pooling in the machine. If the AC has a water valve, feel free to shut it off until next summer.

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