We can walk you through the big jobs and the often-overlooked details to ensure your home stays in great shape until next year.
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Summer Homekeeping Made Easy
After the last burger is grilled and the bathing suits have been hung up to dry, there's plenty to do to clean up your vacation home at the end of the season.
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Fill a bucket with basics: rubber gloves, all-purpose and glass-cleaning sprays, a sponge, a toothbrush, a squeegee, a scrub brush, hopsacking, and terry-cloth towels in washcloth and hand-towel sizes. This will make it easier to go from room to room as you clean.
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Once you are armed with your cleaning bucket, give the house a top-to-bottom scrub-down. Sweeping and mopping floors, vacuuming, and dusting all surfaces are the obvious tasks -- don't forget the less obvious ones such washing and storing dishes and cleaning and unplugging appliances. Use our checklist to make sure you've covered everything.
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Tackle the Beds and Windows
Clean any dusty or stained window treatments throughout the house, and launder all bed linens.
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Hit the Lights
Be sure to dust all light fixtures, lightbulbs, and light-switch plates before shutting them all off for the season.
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Draw the Blinds
Draw blinds in rooms where windows get direct sun to protect furniture, carpeting, and artwork.
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If you're leaving clothing and shoes behind until next summer, protect them with homemade sachets. Aromatic herbs like rosemary, cinnamon, lavender, and balsam can keep clothing and shoes smelling fresh; cedar can help prevent damage from moths.
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Map It Out
Make a rough sketch of your summer-home floor plans and indicate the shutoff valve, fuse, or power source for everything in your home that uses water, gas, or electricity. Apply color-coded stickers for each utility. Keep this map handy and be sure to leave a copy for any house sitter.
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Fix Scratches and Nicks on Wood
Porch and picnic tables take a beating during the summer. Scratches and nicks in wood can't be repaired, but they can be camouflaged.
Shoe polish, more opaque than tinted paste wax, offers easy coverage for an overused tabletop or frequently kicked table legs. It's also reversible: If you don't like the way it looks, you can remove it with mineral spirits. Place a small amount of polish in a color that matches the surface you're treating on a soft cloth and rub it into the scratch until it disappears. Permanent color from a lacquer stick is adequate for furniture that won't have another generation of owners, but do not use it on a valuable or an antique.
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Clean the Grill
Clear clogged burner holes with a sewing needle. Remove grime by spraying grates with a solution of equal parts distilled vinegar and water. Close lid, leave for an hour, then scrape gently with a putty knife. Give the whole grill a wipe-down.
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Organize the Shed
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After a few seasons on the porch, your furnishings may start to show their age with rust marks, mildew, or stains. These tips will ensure that your chairs, tables, and cushions stay in good shape for seasons to come.
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Shut Off the Water
Turn off all outdoor faucets; coil and tie all garden hoses, and store them in a frost-free place.
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Clean Up the Garden
Make garden cleanup quicker by sorting debris as you go. Throw biodegradable waste into a wheelbarrow, ready to dump on the compost heap when you're finished. Keep other yard trash -- labels, broken pots, and rocks, for example -- separate in a bucket hung over the barrow's edge with a large S hook.