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It may have escaped your notice during one of the last snowstorms, but the first day of spring was March 21. Still, whatever the date, the flowers are starting to peek out from the muddy ground and the days are getting longer so it must be spring. And if you’re still not convinced, there’s the one true unmistakable sign of spring – baseball’s spring training. In the all-American spirit of baseball, let’s go through the three ways to strike out winter and bring spring into your home.

1. Clean. Okay, no one hates cleaning more than I do but somehow when spring comes around, it doesn’t seem so bad. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your cleaning:

    When you dust, start by dusting high things and work down. That way, when the dust falls on the lower things, you just have to dust them once.
  • Baking soda is an awesome cleaner and deodorizer. To freshen your rugs, sprinkle them with baking soda and let it sit overnight, then vacuum in the morning. Use baking soda as a cleanser in the bathroom and it works wonders on stainless steel kitchen sinks, too.
  • White vinegar is fantastic for getting built up floor wax off of hardwood floors. The smell is pretty potent so you have to mix about a cup with a gallon of water, but your floors will be so shiny, it will almost make cleaning fun. Almost. By the way, mix about ? cup white vinegar, ? cup ammonia, and ? cup baking soda into a bucket of water for the world’s greatest all-purpose cleaner.
  • Never, never, never mix ammonia and bleach. The fumes are toxic. So, all together now, never mix ammonia and bleach. Never.

2. Refresh. Forget about the exact date, we all agree that spring is outside now. Now it’s time to bring it inside. Here’s how:

    Open the windows. Sounds idiotic, I know, but it’s harder than it seems. Some of your windows may be stuck shut, painted shut or nailed shut. If they’re nailed shut, take out the nails, that’s the easy one. If your windows are painted shut, run a utility knife or even a pizza cutter between the window sash (the frame around the glass) and the window frame. Still won’t open? Wedge a paint scraper between the sash and the frame in the sticky part and hit the scraper handle with a mallet. Don’t hit the window with the mallet. That will open the window in an entirely unpleasant way. Once the window’s open, clean the workings with a rag dipped in paint thinner or denatured alcohol.
  • Buy a bunch of flowers. Even a crankypants like me loves looking at a bunch of flowers. But I get pretty bummed out when they start to wilt. So to keep them fresher longer, recut the stems when you get them home. Fill a tub, or your sink, with tepid water and put the ends of the flowers in it. Then, use a sharp, non-serrated knife to cut the stems at an angle, underwater. Put them directly into a vase of lukewarm water and make sure to pull off any leaves that will be below the water level in the vase. Should you put in a packet of that stuff from the florist? Yes. Or you can use an aspirin and a penny, some Sprite and a teaspoon of bleach, or even add a little Listerine to the water. Most importantly, change the water every couple of days. That’s the biggest key to making your flowers last.

3. Redecorate. I know you’re exhausted from all that cleaning and I’m not going to make you knock down any walls, but there are a few easy ways to lighten up the look of your home quickly and easily – and cheaply. I’m not forgetting cheaply. After all, we’re saving up for summer vacation, aren’t we?

    Paint is still the quickest, cheapest and easiest way to change the look of the room. And a fresh coat of paint in a cheery color is not only going to brighten your room, it’ll brighten your mood. Remember, if you’re painting over a darker color, you’ll need to prime and use several coats of paint. Check out my Hammer Glamour columns on painting for all the info.
  • If your furniture is dark in color, slipcover it with canvas, chintz or stripes for a brighter look. Even just changing your throw pillows can make a big difference. If you have heavy wooden furniture, throw a bright cloth over it to lighten the look.
  • Take down your heavy drapes and curtains and replace them with light airy sheers. If you need more privacy, install some inexpensive roll-up shades. They’ll cut them to width for you at the home center and it’ll take just minutes to install them.
  • Rearrange your furniture to take in the outdoors. Instead of orienting all your furniture toward a fireplace that you’re not going to use for at least six months, put a chair by the window to catch the breeze.
  • Less is so much more. Roll up your area rugs, put away your throws and blanket, and pack up your candles and other accessories. Your room will feel lighter and so will you.

Strike three! Winter, you’re out! And even though it involves cleaning, I’m glad spring is here. What I’m really nervous about is… bathing suit season. Aaahh! / Issue 106 - September 2018
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