Spring Forward And Change The Smoke Alarm Battery

Believe it or not, spring is coming.  At least according to the calendar.  We’ve had a pretty snowy and cold few weeks here in Michigan.  It certainly doesn’t feel like spring is on the way.  But, it is!  One way you can tell is that the ‘spring forward’ clock change is just around the corner.  With that means something else for many people: It’s time to change the smoke alarm battery!

Spring Forward

In Michigan, I love setting the clocks ahead for the spring forward change.  We get an extra hour of daylight in the evening.  Yes, we lose an hour in the morning, but within a few weeks, the sun will rise early again as we keep adding daylight until June.

Spring is when we change out the batteries in the smoke alarms and other alarms around the house.

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10 Ways We Plan To Get Rid Of Clutter Fast

Sometimes looking around our house stresses me out.  And it’s not just the house, either!  Clutter can take over very quickly.  Even after you reduce your clutter, it comes back.  Clutter is something you have to stay on top of.  As I’ve looked around my house, and my life, I’ve found a few ways that I can get rid of clutter fast.

toy clutter

The Problem With Clutter

Some people don’t mind clutter.  If you’re one of those people, good for you, I suppose.  But even if it doesn’t bother you, clutter still has many negative effects.

  • Takes Up Space.  Clutter takes up space that you could use for other things.  Or, in some cases, like if you have to rent a storage locker or have to buy a bigger home, it can increase the space you need.  Space costs money!
  • Wastes Time.  If you aren’t sure where something is, it’s going to take you a lot longer to find it if you have a cluttered life.  Every minute you spend searching for something is a waste of time.  This is time you could be doing something more productive or enjoyable.

Clutter won’t ever stop, but it can be addressed.  Here are some ways that I plan to get rid of clutter.

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Our Old Carpet, Old Furnace, And Other Worn Out Stuff

Our house is 20 years old this year.  That’s getting to the point where many things original to the house are wearing out.  We already replaced our roof a few years back.  That was no fun!  But, now we’ve got a list of things that are getting old.  These things are probably soon ready for replacement.  All of the items are original to the house OR original when we bought it in 2007.


old washing machine
Our old washing machine is one of many items wearing down.

Our Old Furnace And Other Items That Are Getting Old

I came up with seven items around our house that will need replacement at some point.  Obviously, other things could break down, but based on their age or current status, these are things I expect will need attention.

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Our Major To Do Items For 2013

Earlier in the week, I wrote a summary of our 2012 to-do items in terms of large projects around the house.  Here is a quick list of things we want to get done during 2013:

  1. A new roof –  I hinted that, like in 2012 with our tree removal, the biggest items would center around the outside of our home.  As it turns out, our biggest (hopefully!) purchase for the year will be to get our roof replaced.  The roof is original to the house, and was likely installed in 1998, making it just around 15 years old.  The shingles are definitely curling pretty much everywhere, and the top layer of asphalt is coming off in a valley and along one side of the house.  Luckily, those areas are over the garage, so if there happened to be any leaks, they wouldn’t be catastrophic, but it’s definitely time to get the roof redone.  I’m looking to get some of the more common upgrades done, including better looking shingles and ridge vents (to replace the ‘box vents’ that we have today).
  2. A mantle around our fireplace – We’ve long talked about getting a new mantlepiece around our fireplace, and we saw one last year that sparked our interest.  Of all places, we saw it in a neighbor’s house while trick or treating!  We asked them about it, and it was there before they moved in, but we’re going to look around to see what we can find.  Our wood trim is all white, so that should make it a little easier to find something to match.  It’s also drywall above the fireplace, so installation should hopefully not be too difficult.
  3. Replacing the front hall table – We have a small table in the foyer right inside the front door.  This table was something I purchased 7-8 years ago to ‘class up’ my bachelor pad, and it’s definitely worn out it’s welcome.  I’m pretty sure I got it at WalMart, so I surely was not thinking anything high class.  While we’re not going to get anything extravagant, something that gives a little better sense of style is definitely in order as it’s placed as probably the first thing guests see when entering our house.
  4. Re-painting the deck – When we moved in the deck was in pretty sad shape, as most of the paint was flaking off.  Somehow we lived with it the first two years, but in 2009 I power washed it and repainted the entire thing.  I gave it a quick overcoat in 2011, which helped, but the paint is peeling off at a pretty alarming rate now, so it’ll be time to do a re-paint.  The spindles aren’t bad, so they will probably just need one coat, but the surface will need a wash and paint.  I was hoping that it would last longer, but we have so many trees in our backyard that come down in the fall, that (even though I try to sweep them off the deck regularly) having them sit on the deck likely speeds along the decay process for the paint.

I think that’s it, though other stuff will surely come along that will require attention, but those are the plans for the year.

What are your big to-do items for the house in 2013?

Reviewing Our Major To Do Items From 2012

Last year I wrote about the major things we wanted to get done around the house, and just recently stumbled across it, so I thought it would be a good idea to check in on how things fell for last year’s list, and spell out a few of the things I want to get done this year.

This is our 2012 In Review

  • Tree Removal in the backyardDONE – I had this taken care of in March last year, right after a spell of warm weather that made it easy enough to do.  The tree had to come down in pieces, as it was hanging over the deck and there was no clear path anywhere else that wouldn’t have put houses, play structures, or other trees (that belonged to the neighbors) at risk.  I also had three other trees on the smaller side taken out, as I wanted a big open area where the kids could play.  We also had the stumps ground, and I took it upon myself to level off the areas, backfill them, and seed them.  It turned out great.  It also had the side benefit of giving the yard a lot more sun, so the grass back there thrived, so much that it used to get to the point where I could skip most of the backyard every other cut, but this past year the backyard produced the most clippings of anywhere on our property.  And, we still have over 30 trees back there, so we still have plenty of trees (and leaves to rake in the fall).
  • MulchingDONE –  I didn’t have this on the list but I realized it needed to be done. The benefit was that the tree trimmer used his chipper to turn our cut-down trees into mulch.  Usually the mulch I need costs a couple of hundred dollars, so although the tree trimming was pretty expensive, having the cost of mulch offset was a nice benefit.
  • Replace the dishwasherNOT DONE – Our dishwasher developed a small leak that I was alerted to by a beeping water sensor I’d place underneath for that purpose.  I figured that meant the end of the dishwasher, but I instead found that the leak is very small (probably less than a quarter cup during each cycle) and has not gotten any worse since discovering it over a year ago.  I slid the lid of an unused storage bin on the floor.  This catches the water, and the fact that it’s such a small amount plus the heat generated from a normal load, combines to evaporate the leak very quickly.  It’s a patch, for sure, but to look at it from the front, you’d never know there was anything wrong.
  • Re-landscape the area between the front of the garage and the front walkway DONE – We have a side entrance garage so there were overgrown bushes between the front of the house and the walkway to the front porch.  They made the pathway smaller and smaller, even with regular trimmings, and in the winter they got caked in snow, which would later fall right onto the sidewalk.  I hated the bushes and wanted them gone.  I actually had the guy that trimmed the trees rip them out of the ground for an extra few bucks.  The area stayed bare most of the year, but in my mind that even looked better than the ugly bushes.  Finally, at the end of fall, I had someone come and do some tasteful decorations.  A small batch of ornamental grass is on one end.  There are two juniper bushes which flank a few little rose bushes n the middle.  We haven’t seen it yet for a full season, but it should hopefully look good and last a long time.
  • Re-paint the deckDID NOT DO – We put it off another year.
  • Replace the kitchen sinkDID NOT DO – We’re still using the same, cruddy, chipped white porcelain sink.

The only other bigger cost item that we incurred last year was having to get the roof re-done on our camper.  It is a 2004 model with a rubber roof, and when I took it in for a check-up, they indicated that it had never been done and that we had been lucky that it lasted that long.  They did find some patching that had been done by the previous owner that probably wouldn’t last long, and they also found that some small leaking had been taking place because of a manufacturers defect with the way the roof mounted air conditioner was installed.  They re-did all the seals, re-coated the roof, fixed the air conditioner problem, and took apart the entire ceiling to make sure that the small leak that had happened hadn’t caused any mold or any other issues (it was fine).  It was quite expensive to get done, but I’d like to keep the camper for a few more years, and water damage is always my biggest fear, so hopefully this will keep it in good shape for a while.

All in all, 2012 was a pretty good year.  We didn’t get everything done that we had wanted, but that’s cool with me.  Obviously most of the major stuff we had centered on things on the outside of our house (or in the case of the camper, not part of the house at all) but that’s fine.  I’ll be posting our 2013 goals next and I think the trend of the outside of the house is likely to continue for at least another year!

How did your 2012 turn out for getting projects and such around the house?

10 Small Things To Do Around Your House Today

If you are fully or partially responsible for the place that you live, whether that be a house you own, house you rent, apartment, townhouse, whatever, you know that there is always something to be done.  Much of the time we are focused on big projects, things that can pay off big, cost big, and can take big chunks of time.

Today, let’s focus on some small things that everybody should take a look at (well, some might not apply, but I think there are enough things here that everybody can get some benefit).

Consider one or two of these things to get done today, and look at all of them as things you can do that will only cost you a few minutes of time, and in many cases, won’t even cost you a single penny.

  1. Change your furnace filter – You’re supposed to change these things every month, unless you have a special one that either lasts longer or can even last forever (though they do require regular cleaning).  If you haven’t changed your filter in a while, it’s probably time.  The more clogged that filter gets, the harder the furnace has to work to push air through it, making your bills go up and diminishing the life of the very expensive appliance.
  2. Do a quick check under your sinks – Go to each sink, flip the water on, and take a peek under the sink.  Hopefully the answer under all of your sinks is ‘nothing’, which means everything is in good shape.  But, you might find a few drips of water, either from the water lines or the drain lines.  In either case, it’s usually just a bit of tightening up to get rid of the leak, but those little drips can add up to ruined cabinets, mold, and a bigger leak down the road if you don’t catch it before it gets out of hand.
  3. Polish your wood furniture – If you have a dining room table made of wood, think of the last time you put furniture polish on it.  Doing so will protect it from drying out and will extend the life of your furniture.  It will also give your wood table a nice shine, something you may have forgotten can actually be present!
  4. Clean and treat your leather furniture – When we bought our leather couches a few years ago, we bought a ‘Leather Protection’ plan, meaning that if anything goes wrong with the leather, they’ll repair it.  On top of that, we get to go to the store and get free refills of leather cleaner and leather protector.  Every few months I’ll clean the couches and then put the protector on them.  This keeps the couches clean and will help prolong the life, and protect them from drying out, which is when you then start seeing cracking of the leather.
  5. Test your smoke alarms (and maybe even replace the batteries) – All smoke alarms are equipped with a button to test them. Go around and press this button on all of your alarms and make sure it beeps.  If you have a system where all of the smoke alarms are wired together, it should set off all the other alarms to, so test this.  If you can’t remember the last time you changed the batteries, it’s probably time to do that as well.  If you have smoke alarms that aren’t connected together (and thus aren’t connected to the house’s electrical system), you should replace the batteries every six months.  If you have alarms which are wired to your house’s power, once a year is generally fine.
  6. Clean your dryer line – You know how you’re supposed to clean the lint filter every time you run the dryer?  That’s great advice, but the dirty little secret is that lint continues through the system.  If you have a hose connecting the back of your dryer to the hole in the wall that sends the exhaust outdoors, you should disconnect that hose and make sure it isn’t clogged with lint.  Letting this go untouched for too long can make your dryer run poorly, and can put you at risk of carbon monoxide posioning and at risk of fire.  Just make sure that you securely fit the hose back on tightly, and ensure it’s on properly after the first few times you run the dryer.
  7. Check the caulking around your windows – Ideally you should do this on the inside and the outside, but since these are ‘quick’ fixes, just focus on the inside of your windows.  Take a look around at the caulking between the window and the wall.  If you don’t have any, you have a big problem!  If it’s there and it doesn’t have any cracks, that’s great!  But, if it’s there and starting to crack, you should start thinking about re-caulking.  This means it’s drying out, creating gaps, and losing effectiveness.  Caulk is one of those things that you can generally apply and forget about, but just for a few years.  Not forever.
  8. Go take a look at your water meter – Go find your water meter and take a look at the reading.  Write down all of the numbers.  Go do something else for 15 minutes or so, making sure that you aren’t running water anywhere (no flushing, no showers, no washing your hands), and then go take another reading.  If the numbers are all the same, you’re in good shape.  But, if the numbers don’t match, it could mean you have a small leak somewhere.  Many leaks go completely undetected but can take big chunks of your water bill.
  9. Tighten something that’s loose – There is always something that’s come loose somewhere.  It drives you crazy when it jiggles, then you forget about it, so it never gets fixed.  Whether it’s a knob on a closet door or a kitchen cabinet, the handle on the refrigerator, or somewhere else, chances are a screw just needs to be tightened
  10. Go clean something – Find an area where you haven’t cleaned in over six months.  A junk drawer.  The shelf in one of your closets.  Whatever.  Take a few minutes and clean it.  Chances are if it’s been that long, you’ll find some stuff you can get rid of, eliminating clutter and getting something clean in the process.  You may even come across something you haven’t been able to find in quite some time!

Those are just a few ideas.  What types of little things do you do that you’d like to share?