Spring has sprung, and the time has come to trade in hot cocoa for pink lemonade and kick off your boots in favor of a pair of flip-flops. Most of us tend to hibernate for the winter, dressing in layers and restricting activity to movies on the couch under a cozy blanket.
With spring's extra dose of sun comes a new boost of energy, and it's time to shake off the winter blues and get active again -- starting with the outside of your house, which is probably looking as weather-beaten and gray as you've been feeling.
Your gloomy winter outlook may have been the fault of what you were looking out of -- dirty windows. Winter storms can leave a nasty residue all over that glass, much like the slushy, sludgy roads can make your tires look gross.
You'll want to tackle your screens first, in preparation for those perfect, sunny, breezy spring days that just call out for open windows. Take the screens off and take them outside for a gentle bath with a hose. If they're especially icky, you might want to rub them with some soapy water and a brush -- that old, dead fly is exactly the kind of depressing winter sight we're trying to get rid of.
Another tip: Start with the outside windows before taking the show inside, or you won't be able to tell whether they're actually clean or not.
Get Your Mind (and Those Leaves) Out of the Gutter
Post-wintertime, there are a lot of things you know you're supposed to do but don't actually feel like doing. Cleaning your gutters is probably one of them, but trust us -- you don't want water damage to your house. And at least when you clean gutters in the spring, you have blue skies and fluffy, white clouds as a background. (Always a silver lining, eh?)
Once you're on that ladder, you're going to need to get rid of all the leaves, twigs and other gunk that's made a home in your gutter. If you're doing it by hand instead of with some sort of scoop, we recommend wearing gloves, lest you cut yourself on exposed jagged metal.
Sort It Out
For a lot of people, the garage is like a big, cluttered closet -- you throw in all the unwanted stuff you can't find a home for, shut the door and hope it will magically disappear.
With your new, sun-induced lease on life, it's time to face the task and get it over with so that when you need that sprinkler in June, you won't be tripping on rakes and fumbling through bug-infested boxes.
Before you start organizing, you'll need to assign and arrange areas: Perhaps there's a hobby area in one corner and workshop equipment in another. Decide where these will go, then move on to figure out how to store everything.
After all, the biggest necessity for many families is storage space. Installing cabinets, shelves, racks and hooks may help immensely. Use boxes, baskets and old plastic storage containers from the kitchen to organize - adhesives in one box, paints on the shelves, etc.
And when you find that weird key that doesn't fit any of your locks, old electrical wires or things you think you want to keep ("just in case"), find a junk box for those too. And, of course, don't hesitate to toss anything you can.
Identify Your Weak Spots
During the winter, you're mostly worried about the inside of your home (read: why the heck is it always so darn cold in that one room?). But now that you, the kids and the pets are all spending more time outside, it's time to take a look at your fences.
Rot is the biggest thing to look for in a wooden fence, along with loose rails and any kind of wobbly parts. If it's been a few years since the wood has been treated, it's a good idea to check to see if bugs have gnawed their way around, too.
With a metal fence, you'll want to make sure there aren't any holes or places where it's pulling away from the ground. This could make for unwanted two-way traffic: puppies getting out; vermin getting in!
De-leaf and De-clutter the Lawn
Your yard has spent the winter feeling cold and abandoned-- and possibly suffocating under a layer of snow. Get ready for a lush lawn and a flourishing garden by getting rid of the soggy, old leaves choking your flowerbeds and grass.
Want to avoid spending the day after your leaf-raking extravaganza with a sore back? Switch sides while you're raking (we can all be somewhat ambidextrous for a day) and don't twist your torso. If you're tossing leaves over your shoulder theatrically, you need to quit that, too -- your body doesn't use a lot of these motions on a daily basis, so avoid the ibuprofen tomorrow by moving a little smarter today.
Have a few extra dollars in the kitty? Splurge for a landscaper to come out for the day. You might be able to get your raking, tilling and grass seed replenished for a decent price.
Roll It On
For many of us, spring calls for new clothes. For your house, that might mean a fresh coat of paint.
Weather can really take a toll on a paint job. If your formerly pristine shutters are looking a few shades grayer or more bleached-out than before, it might be time for a touch-up. Same goes for the garage door and your front door -- what's more welcoming than a well-taken-care-of facade when you pull in the driveway from work?
If the taupe that came with the house just isn't cutting it color-wise, you might want to finally try out the red door you've dreamed of -- or a new mailbox (although you'll want to check first with your homeowners' association, if you have one).
Wash Those Winter Blues Away
After a hard winter, your home sweet home may be in need of more of a bath than rain can provide. Spring might be a good time to look into borrowing a pressure washer to wipe away all the grime.
Certain kinds of siding can't take the pressure (same goes for peeling paint), so make sure you've got the right type and you'll be good to go. A pressure washer can also come in handy for greasy driveways and wooden decks -- just check to see that you've got the right amount of pressure for each job.
Tip: Don't have a friend with a pressure washer? Check your local hardware store to see if you can rent one. Not only will you get the benefit of a good wash, but (with hope) good advice to go with it.
Separate the Weeds From the Blooms
After you've spent a whole day sorting screws in your garage, you might want to tear your hair out. Get violent in a more productive way instead.
Start with yanking up weeds. There's something very satisfying about ripping up a troublesome weed before it has the chance to terrorize your lawn and garden.
Haven't had your fill of the yard carnage? Pull out a sharp blade and prune your overgrown shrubs. Snipping off the dead bits makes way for new growth. Some people wait until after the flowering shrubs have bloomed to do the pruning, but that may not be healthiest for the shrub (even if the flowers are easy on the eyes). Consult your local gardening center if you need more pruning advice.
Get Down to the Nitty-Gritty
It's not really summer until someone invites the neighbors over for a barbecue. That's why spring is the perfect time to get your poor, neglected patio or deck in shape.
Banish the dirt and cobwebs with a broom first. If you have plastic furniture, break out the hose. No one's going to want to sit down on dirty cushions, so do some deep cleaning and then invest in vinyl protectant to keep them looking fresh.
The final step? Let your grill re-enter your life. You're going to need a degreaser, a wire brush and a healthy lack of respect for greasy, charcoal-y buildup.
Rinse and Restain
Everybody likes fungus on the deck! Oh wait, no one likes fungus on the deck -- or mildew stains, dirt or weather-beaten patches.
It's tempting to just bleach the whole thing will-nilly, but don't give in. Pressure wash the deck and -- this is easy enough -- use an actual deck-cleaner solution.
When you're done with all the washing, it's time to restain. There are finishes and colors a-plenty, so you should be able to find whatever it is your heart desires. Look for something with a protective finish to repel water (and UV rays).