Six tips for a clean house this spring

Now that it’s spring, it’s time to clear out all the excess junk and material you accumulated over the winter in an annual spring cleaning.

There are many benefits to keeping a clean home: properly stored items are easier to access when you want to use them, saving you time in the long run; a clean home is healthier to live in, and there could be insurance implications for pack rats who keep too much stuff, says Ottawa west Allstate Insurance agency assistant manager John Kealey.

Mould, which can grow in damp, dark storage places, “is not something that is covered in a typical insurance policy,” Kealey says.

He also warns of the risk of having things piled up around furnaces, which poses a fire hazard. (A fire, though, would still be covered under your policy.)

“With it being around tax time, if people are getting rid of valuable personal documents, we recommend they shred them and dispose of them properly,” Kealey adds.

And for those who can’t part with their extra stuff and must therefore rent out storage space, after 30 days a typical insurance policy only covers theft, leaving risks like fire or water damage uncovered.

In the spirit of spring, here are some tips on how to clean and maintain a tidy house this season:

1. Set a goal. Know what you would like to accomplish by the end of the day, whether it be cleaning out a drawer, closet or room.

2. Get rid of unused items. If you haven’t used something in over a year, there is a good chance you wouldn’t miss it if it was gone. Take the time to go through items such as clothing, shoes, electronics, movies and books and purge items you no longer need or use.

3. Recycle. Take the opportunity to donate usable items to local charities. Some charities may even come to your house to pick up your donation. Consider holding a garage sale with the unwanted items and donate the money earned to a charity of your choice.

4. Go through items on a regular basis. To keep your newly organized space clean, donate items regularly. When you acquire something new, get rid of an item that you no longer use.

5. Protect your items and your home. Batteries in your smoke detectors should be changed twice a year. It is good practice to pick two memorable dates six months apart that you will remember, such as daylight time. If you haven’t already changed the batteries, take the time to change them now.

6. Communicate with family. Make sure everyone in the family is aware of the cleaning efforts. Using those around you will help you to not be overwhelmed by cleaning chores. Also, tell family members of new organizing methods or storage spaces, for example, where shoes now go, or where art supplies are placed. This will help you maintain a clean home everyone can take credit for.

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Landscaping on a Budget!

Landscaping on a budget can be a daunting prospect, as you may recall from the bill to fill your small flowerbed last spring. But fear not, creative one. With a good plan and a little ingenuity, you can create a stunningly landscaped yard that will make the pros drool. Here are some tips for keeping within your budget.

Design First

The first step to creating a great landscape design is a well thought-out plan. If you’re stymied for ideas, the best inspiration is to take a walk in your neighborhood and admire other yards that you like. Keep your camera handy to grab a snapshot, and be sure to take good notes. Then it’s time to take a look around your yard. Take into account shade areas, sun areas, slopes and any other characteristics of your property that will affect what you can build and plant. Is your front yard mostly shade? Then landscaping with items other than grass may be in your future. Having a completed design on paper will help you come up with your wish list, so you can get a good idea of your budget before you even get started.

More Bang for Your Buck

There are lots of ways to make your landscaping dollars stretch when it comes to design elements. You can buy young plants, which are fairly inexpensive, but may take a few seasons to grow to their full potential. Perennials are a good investment because they come back every year and get a little bigger to boot. Many perennials duplicate themselves or can be divided as they grow, which will help you cover more ground. If your neighbors have mature plants in varieties that you covet, ask for a few starts to plant in your yard. With luck, you’ll be able to pay it forward in a few years. If you have extras of a certain variety, offer to trade with family and friends to vary the landscaping a bit. And keep an eye out for plant sales, especially toward the end of a season. You may not enjoy flowers immediately, but you’ll get a nice surprise next year. Be sure to get plants that thrive in your zone, and choose drought-tolerant varieties if you get lazy about watering in the dog days of summer. You can also save money on hardscaping with a little creativity and some occasional scavenging. As they say, one person’s junk is another’s treasure, and salvaged objects can make some good-looking yard art. Construction sites are great places to pick up brick and pieces of concrete that make great pathways. And if you need a lot of mulch, it will ultimately be cheaper to get it delivered by the truckload rather than hauling home individual bags.

Buy in Phases

Unless you have a team of people working with you, it makes sense to buy plants and supplies in phases. This method will also help you make the best use of your budget. You can usually get a better deal on lumber in the winter, and you can find plants for a lot cheaper later in the season. And if you’re buying small plants to save some hard-earned dineros, you may want to give them a couple seasons to fill in rather than trying to fill the empty space immediately.