By Elly Leavitt

Published on October 8, 2018

We all have small switches we make that indicate the transition to fall from summer. We swap out t-shirts for sweaters, smoothie bowls for bowls of soup, and bright paint colors for deeper, rich hues. But what about the less-than-glamorous stuff? There’s so much more to prepping your home for the changing season than adding a few seasonally-appropriate throw pillows. From making an appointment with your dermatologist (hey, the summer sun can really take a toll on your skin) to making sure your heater works, there’s a maintenance checklist you need to walk through as well.

For all things home care, we turned to Michael Dimopolous, expert house cleaner at Thumbtack and founder of Lazy Susans Cleaning, to get the rundown on all the practical things you need to do to ensure your house is ready for cooler weather. Plus, we’ve included a few other self-care and organizational to-dos you probably put off all summer long. Check this list off and you’ll feel totally productive come winter.

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photo by RyojiIwata

Wipe down your windows

This means cleaning both inside and out—and don’t forget between the sills. Just be careful of the type of cleaner you use, as some new windows have UV filters that aren’t supposed to come into contact with glass cleaners.

“Instead, use a mixture of 2 parts vinegar to 3 parts water with a good quality paper towel. I recommend taking a microfiber cloth—you can get them at the dollar store—and dampening with warm water,” instructs Dimopolous. “Wipe the window, then use a dry microfiber cloth to dry it. Clean again with the vinegar and water solution, and watch your windows sparkle like crazy.”

Organize the garage

Contrary to popular belief, the garage isn’t just a bonus spot to store your unwanted gear. Often a haven for dusty clutter, gaudy gardening supplies, and rejected household appliances, it’s not unusual to find an obscene mess in the area reserved for the car. 

While the weather is still tolerable, do a deep clean of your garage. Sure, your neighbors might think you’re having a last-minute yard sale, but start by taking everything out of your space—Pogo Sticks and all—so you can see exactly what you have and what you should probably throw away. If you’re not committed to investing in an elaborate wall storage system or a built-in workstation, plastic bins and a label maker will get you far—make different categories for camping gear, garland, cords, etc. Then, hang smaller essentials from a mounted pegboard.  

For ultimate storage inspiration, check out 27 stellar garage ideas here!

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Safely uninstall your air conditioning unit

This is a must for all city-dwellers—unfortunately, fall means you can probably kiss the warm weather goodbye, along with the need for air conditioning. However, in order to do this safely (please do not drop your AC unit on passing pedestrians and end up with a lawsuit) there are a few steps you need to follow:

  1. First, cover all your bases, and either send someone out to give passers-by a heads up if you’re removing the unit on your own, or make sure the contractor you hired has general liability insurance to avoid mishaps down the line.
  2. Get another person to help you shoulder the load. “There’s no shame in not being able to manage a precariously perched, 40-pound behemoth of an appliance on your own, ” says Dimopolous. Just turn off the power and unplug the unit first.
  3. Lay down a fresh towel to sop up any water that has accumulated, making sure you’re wearing a long-sleeved shirt, closed-toed shoes, and maybe even some protective gloves.
  4. If necessary, unscrew the unit and hold it from behind while your helper lifts up the window. Scoot the air conditioner out of the window, and place on the towel to let excess water drain out.
  5. Prep it for the next season. “Don’t forget that it’s crucial to change the filter at least twice a year, or you could risk incurring water damage and mold,” says Dimopolous. Clean the filters before storing the unit away for the winter.
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photo by BanksPhotos via iStock

Don’t neglect your gutters

“Fall is a great time to install gutter protectors that keep debris—like falling leaves—out of the gutters,” says Dimopolous. Do this as early as possible to prep for the inevitable rain storms and stopped-up gutters full of leaves.

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Clean up your computer desktop

The one thing all career-savvy #GirlBosses have in common? A clutter-free desk and, more importantly, a spotless desktop. Because your digital life is just as deserving of a little TLC as your real life, wipe your computer clear of any random sticky notes, downloads, and miscellaneous files that slowly accumulated on your laptop over the summer. Delete anything that you know you’ll never want to see or need to access again. Likewise, take the time to backup anything of actual importance. 

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Make a photo album from your summer travels

Instagramming your summer vacation is great, but it shouldn’t be the only resource you rely on to document your travels. Now that your jet-setting days have taken a temporary back seat, sort through all the photos you took and compile your favorite pics in an album. While digital albums make it easy to share with friends and family, we’re still partial to hard copies.  

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photo by Cody Guilfoyle

Do a deep clean

Dimopolous suggests taking the time to do a thorough house cleaning before spending the entirety of the autumn and winter months indoors. “Any deep-cleaning you didn’t get to this spring should probably be done this fall,” he says. Start with the kitchen because “Fall means the holidays will be here before we know it, and holidays often bring guests. Deep clean all of your appliances and organize your cabinets to make sure you can easily find what you need.”

Then, work your way to the closets—“Pull items that you no longer wear or don’t fit into anymore, make a pile of clothing to donate, and swap out the summer styles for the winter coats”—and deep clean your home from top to bottom. That means vacuuming the drapes to get rid of the dust that accumulated over the summer, getting your rugs cleaned from all the outdoor debris brought in, and turning over your mattress.

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Make sure you have heat

“Before the chilly weather of fall begins, make sure your furnace is turned up for the winter, and change the filter,” says Dimopolous. “Homeowners with a fireplace should check the flue and have the fireplace cleaned if it is wood burning. Fall is also a good time to have your air ducts cleaned.”

And while you’re at it, examine your chimney for any damage—you’ll be happy to have a working one once it gets so cold, all you want to do is stay inside by the fireplace.

Beware of bugs

Unfortunately, seeking shelter from the cold is not a phenomenon unique to humans—bugs and mice are looking for warm spots to stay in, too. “I find more cobwebs in homes in the fall, because the spiders are coming in to get out of the cold. It’s probably a good time to look for rotted or damaged wood around the house—the perfect entrance for critters into your home,” advises Dimopolous.

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photo by Orlando Marty

Dump the sand out of all your beach bags

Seriously, this takes five seconds! Set yourself up for success next summer by going through all your go-to beach gear and discarding any excess sand that may still be lingering at the bottom of your bag. If you really want to help the 2019 you out, run your towels and canvas bags through the washing machine and store your swimsuits and cover ups together somewhere you’ll remember and can easily access come June.

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Stock up on holiday wrapping essentials

Raise your hand if you’ve ever made an impromptu gift wrap run to Target at 8:00 pm on December 23 only to realize that the holiday aisle has been unapologetically trashed. If you are naturally a last-minute holiday shopper, by the time you think about wrapping your presents, chances are wherever you go to buy your wrapping paper is already sold out. Instead of resorting to a newspaper subsitute, get ahead of your gift-giving game this year by stocking up on all your essentials—including wrap, ribbon, tissue paper, tape, labels, and cards—before November 1.

Want to really wow your friends this season? Here are the best gift wraps (plus, where to find them).

Save energy

Get your home sealed and re-caulked. Dimopolous suggests caulking around windows and doors to keep out air and unwanted buggy guests—even though caulking is generally not required by newer homes. There are plenty of other ways to save energy during the cold months as well, such as insulating and wrapping pipes, or having an energy audit done that’ll tell you where heat is escaping your home—and therefore costing you money.

Another tip? Install ceiling fans. “[It] might sound like a strange autumn task,” says Dimopolous. “However, with the fan blades tipped to push warm air down, homeowners can help save on heating bills and make themselves more comfortable.”

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photo by Aaron Bengochea

Do a backyard sweep

Rain, snow, and other cold-weather conditions will take a toll on your favorite outdoor furniture if they aren’t properly covered or stored away. Before you completely forsake late-night cookouts for cozy evenings by the fireplace, do a general sweep of your backyard or balcony space. Pack up the grill, stash cushions in the garage or basement, cover any pieces that might be prone to rust or rot, and bring in any potted plants that need to come inside.

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Book your 2019 trips

There are definitely pros to spontaneous travel. That said, we’re all for thoroughly planning trips in advance.

Once Thanksgiving rolls around, booking flights and finding hotels for the next year’s vacations will be the last thing on your mind. Use this downtime to nail down your time off and get your airfare in order for 2019. Scheduling and booking your trips for the spring now not only save you money, but it will ultimately save you stress.

Not sure where to go next? Apparently, these low-key destinations will be 2019’s most popular vacation hubs.

See more ways to transition your home for fall: