"Does she or doesn't she?" (She does.) I'm not giving away any trade secrets here, but let's just admit that women of a certain age (uh, that would be me) require a little more maintenance than when when we were younger. Gone are the days when I could casually over indulge, then hit the gym and quickly work off whatever regrettable sins in which I'd participated . . . like ice cream. (Really, who can say no to gelato?) In truth, no matter what age, or what phase of life, a little care and upkeep are hard to argue.
Not surprisingly, that's true of our homes as well. While often, it's the threat of an impending sale that finally gets homeowners into action, there's no law that says we have to wait. In fact, we shouldn't. Given that our homes are usually, our single most valuable asset, whether or not you'll be selling your property in the near future, or hanging onto it for years to come, it's time to take stock of your surroundings and start prepping for whatever lies ahead.
That may entail a large-scale project, such as a remodeled bathroom, updated kitchen, or new landscape, OR it may just involve fresh paint and a thorough cleaning of the cobwebs, but either way, ongoing maintenance is a MUST for all homeowners. If you're not willing to keep up your house and grounds, may I politely encourage you to rent instead? (Despite the incentives, home ownership ISN'T for everyone.)
Unfortunately, it takes just a few short months for a property to begin to look neglected and fall into disrepair. DON'T let that happen to yours. So here are a few items to put on your Fall "To Do" list before the winter rains hit and the weather cools considerably. (You're welcome, you can thank me later.)
1. Furnaces should have an annual replacement of their filters. Any good plumbing/HVAC company will do this task for a reasonable fee, OR save the dollars and head down to your friendly ACE Hardware or local Home Depot (albeit, less friendly) and replace the filters yourself. (Remember to take the old one with you as there are many sizes from which to choose.)
2. The leaves are definitely dropping, which means a good deal of debris is probably accumulating on your roof. If so, it's time to get out the ladder and clear those gutters. My own sweet house sits under several magnificent Redwoods, so my boys get to do this job several times each year. (Nothing says "happy homecoming" like "son, I need a favor . . ." as I hand him the blower at Thanksgiving.)
3. Daylight savings is right around the corner so it's going to get dark earlier and earlier (boo hoo). Take a peak outside and see what light bulbs need replacing and then REPLACE THEM (Okay, maybe I meant that one for Cliff.) Ditto for smoke and CO2 detector batteries. BTW - not every house currently has a CO2 detector, but they are now a "point-of-sale" ordinance when one goes to sell, so it's not a bad idea to get on board now. Moreover your family will be much better protected. (Note, the law requires one per floor.)
4. Fall is a great time to mulch and to trim dormant trees (wait on cutting back the shrubs until late February). It's also a terrific time to add new plants and bulbs to the garden, allowing winter rains to establish nice deep roots. You'll be thrilled come the Spring.
5. Put away or cover all garden furniture, turn off the sprinklers once the rains begin, and for those of you with pools, shut down the pool heater until next spring (let's get through the heat waves first).
6. Do you use your fireplace a great deal in the winter? If the answer is yes, hire a chimney sweep to give it a thorough cleaning and inspection to make sure the mortar is tight and the spark arrestor is in place. (This isn't a do it yourself chore; aside from it being rather messy, it takes a trained eye.) AND don't stack the wood against the house; this only invites termites into your home. (Not good.)
7. Finally, if your kids have just stocked up on new clothes for school, now is a great time to pass along those things they have outgrown or never wear (especially winter coats). Take them down to the center of town (the drop-off is behind the pool) and donate them to "Dress Best for Less," which not only benefits our schools, but helps purge your closets in the process. It's a win-win for everyone!
Okay, that's my Fall list for getting into action (now if I could just hit the gym).
What's yours? Send me your suggestions and I'll share them in the coming weeks. (Doesn't it feel good to check these items off your list? Yes, it does!)
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.