The leaves are falling, the farmers markets are bustling, and the cozy comforts of home beckon — it must be October. Make the most of this month’s bountiful harvest, get some exercise raking leaves in the brisk air, and button down your house in preparation for winter. Then sit back, relax and warm your hands around a mug of hot apple cider. Fall is here.
Things to Check Off Your List in an Hour or Less
1. Neaten up the mudroom. The back-to-school (and work) flurry can leave the mudroom looking a little worse for the wear. Take some time to regain sanity — sort through papers and put away stray summer items. Clean the floors and invest in a new doormat if needed. Keep a recycling basket near the entrance to make sorting mail and school papers easier, and dedicate a tote or bin for items that need to be returned (like library books).
2. Keep seasonal decorating low-key with natural finds. Pumpkins, gourds, fresh heirloom apples, quinces, pomegranates, figs and fall foliage make wonderfully simple decor. Bring in cut branches from your yard, stop by a pick-your-own farm, or scoop up fall’s bounty at a farm stand.
3. Vacuum radiators, baseboard heaters and heating grates. Prepare for heating season by vacuuming up dust from radiators, baseboard heaters and heating grates. If you have radiators with covers, remove the covers and vacuum beneath them before replacing.
4. Check safety devices. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the house, replacing batteries as needed. Check the expiration date on the kitchen fire extinguisher and replace it if needed.
5. Start a gift list. It may seem as though the holidays are a long way off, but that’s why it pays to start getting organized now. Start a list of everyone you plan to give gifts to this year, and as ideas strike, jot them down on your list. You can also use your list to keep track of a holiday gifting budget. And if you want to make any gifts by hand, October is a great time to get started — handmade gifts always seem to take longer to make than expected.
6. Rake leaves. To make quicker work of collecting leaves from a large lawn, rake the fallen foliage onto a large plastic tarp. Then bag it or add it to your compost pile.
7. Decorate for Halloween. If you’re planning to participate in Halloween festivities — whether you’re working on an elaborate haunted house or simple door decor — it helps to get an early start on shopping (or crafting).
8. Cover or store outdoor furniture and grills. If you plan to leave your patio furniture or grill outside through the fall and winter, cover them well and stow them beneath an overhang that will protect them from rain and snow. Even if you live in a mild climate, covering your grill between uses is a good idea to preserve the finish.
9. Shut off exterior faucets and store hoses for winter. Disconnect, drain and roll hoses before storing them for the winter. Shut off the water supply to exterior faucets to prevent frozen pipes.
Maintenance and Extras to Budget for This Month
10. Trim dead tree limbs. Dead limbs are more likely to fall during winter storms, making them a potential safety hazard. Have an arborist inspect and trim large trees.
11. Clean gutters and downspouts. Wait until most of the leaves have fallen to schedule a rain gutter cleaning. Inspect gutters and downspouts for cracks and loose parts, and make repairs as needed.
12. Maintain your wood stove or fireplace. If you have a fireplace or wood stove, it’s essential for safety that you have it serviced before lighting the first fire of the season. If you haven’t done so already, schedule an appointment to have your chimney inspected and, if necessary, cleaned.
13. Clean carpeting and area rugs. Have area rugs and carpeting professionally cleaned if needed, or spot-clean on your own. Rotate area rugs before putting them back in place — this will help prevent one side from becoming more worn or faded than the other.