Every year, I cling to the fantasy that it’s still autumn until December 20, no matter how cold it gets. But now it’s almost January, and Mother Nature (who doesn’t go by our calendar anyway) has dumped 16 inches of snow to confirm that winter has very definitely arrived. OK then: time to hunker down and focus on wintry projects — and maybe catch up on things that should have been done in fall. Here’s the to-do list at our house that may act as reminders for you, too.
- Sweep the chimneys. Even though we’re quite diligent about doing this, we once had a bad chimney fire. It’s no fun shivering on the front lawn watching sparks fly off the roof as men in big boots stomp through your house with extinguishers, take it from me. If you haven’t done it for a while, don’t take risks. And if you’re using a wood stove as a source of heat, a twice-yearly cleaning is safest. Make sure you get a sweep who checks the chimney for corrosion or damage. Our guy goes onto the roof to see if all’s well at that end, too.
- Prune the trees properly. We just had some tree limbs that were damaged last winter finally — and expensively — seen to, which might have been avoided if we’d sprung for good tree care in the first place. Most arborists and tree care companies don’t work in the worst weather, but you can get someone out to assess what needs to be done and get on the roster for March before the trees come out of dormancy.
- Declutter. No really, I mean it this time. I’m going to work on one drawer or closet or shelf a week — and ditch or donate everything I don’t really want or need. Or at least put it in a box and have a jumbo yard sale come May. All that stuff lying around blocks your energy, the feng shui experts tell us.
- Recover the sofa pillows and get a new throw. It’s an instant living room refresher and doesn’t cost much.
- Order seeds early for spring. (Fellow gardeners know this one’s a breeze, but I believe there should always be one fun thing on a to-do list.)
- OK, two fun things: Plant narcissus or amaryllis. Lots of people grow bulbs for Christmas, but it’s a treat to have flowers in January and February to brighten the gloom. You can probably find leftover bulbs at places like Adams Fairacre Farms. Doesn’t matter if they’ve sprouted a little bit; they’ll still flower.
- Put new batteries in the smoke detector. All sensible people have done this already, but I’ve only just admitted that it’s winter, and if you have too, we should do it now.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector. Even if your house is old and drafty like ours, the gas can still build up and it kills you. What more do you need to know?
- Get rid of household poisons, which means most cleaning agents. White vinegar is just as good as Windex (if not better) and works better than Jet-Dry in the dishwasher. There’s even a double-strength vinegar for tough cleaning jobs. While I’m at it, I’ll chuck out all my outdated, leftover meds.
- Finally, be thankful for a comfortable home. A regular donation, even a small one, to Habitat for Humanity (which has done wonderful work right here in the Hudson Valley), Youth Build in Kingston, or any similar organization, helps keep that thought uppermost.
Happy New Year!