Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 24: Fresh Air

by Michael on April 14, 2010 · 0 comments

Try to tell me this isn't relaxing. (Photo by eenar_6)

Ultimate Spring Cleaning is a 30-day project to clean and declutter not only your house, but your life. Each day you’ll get a housecleaning assignment, an assignment that involves the world around you, and a project to clear your mind. You can start anytime at the Ultimate Spring Cleaning main page.

Great news: if you’ve been faithfully following the Ultimate Spring Cleaning plan, you’re done with the house! If you’re an apartment or condo dweller, today will be fairly easy, but for those of us who own or rent a house, it’s time to start thinking about the yard.

Your Home: Clean Outside

With all of the indoor areas taken care of, look outside. From your lawn to your deck to your siding and windows, there’s probably something you can do to make your home more inviting, make your neighborhood or building a better place, and improve the property values around you. You’ll also get some fresh air and exercise the old-fashioned way.

Even if you’re in an apartment or condo, you might have a balcony or deck, and windows that could use a good cleaning.

While you’re outside, start a list of projects to work on in the spring and summer. Items to check or clean include:

  • Windows. With your glass cleaner and newspaper, give the outside of your windows a good clean. With upper floor windows, I use a long-handled squeegee and reach around, then remove the sliding portion of the window and clean it inside. In a higher-floor apartment or condo, do this only if you can do it safely.
  • Doors. Use your all-surface cleaner and don’t forget the door handle.
  • Siding. The best way to clean siding is old-fashioned soapy water and a brush. You can get devices that attach to a garden hose and let you spray on the soap, and long-handled brushes. Sometimes just a spray with plain water will remove most of the grime.
  • Deck/Patio. Wash the deck and railings, clean any patio furniture, and clean your grill. Make note of anything that needs to be fixed, replaced or painted.
  • Lawn. Mow it. Edge it. Assess whether you need to weed, feed or aerate the lawn and put it on your list.
  • Flower/Plant Beds. Remove dead plants and cut back anything that needs it. Make note of new plants you need or soil work to do.
  • Walks and Steps. A good pressure washing works well on stone and concrete, but soapy water and a brush will work too. Note cracked or broken areas so you can fix or replace them later. Make note if your steps need painting.
  • Sheds or Gazebos. You know the drill. If you’re using it for storage, throw out everything that’s junk and set aside everything you don’t use so that you can get rid of it.

This is just a cleaning pass—the meat of your work here will take place over the warmer months, as you fix, replace, paint and stain your outdoor areas, or pay someone to do it. In three days, we’ll start wrapping up and getting rid of all that clutter.

Your World: Prepare (for) Your Taxes

In the United States, tax time is the closest the country gets to descending into chaos (no wisecracks now). The days leading up to April 15 are fraught with stress and panic, and many folks leave things to the last minute, despite having all the necessary forms since January. Some in other nations may sympathize. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way.

Today you’re going to prepare yourself financially so there are few surprises next year, and also minimize your tax burden instead of complaining about it. If you do happen to be finishing up this year’s taxes, use this time for that, and do this exercise in a week or so.

  • Estimate your taxes. Using your past tax information and your estimated expenses and gains for the next tax year, calculate the taxes you expect to pay.
  • Find deductions. Have you wanted to start an IRA but haven’t had the chance? Can you turn up your 401(k) contribution? Almost ready to buy a home? Can you sell some losing stocks you’ve been hanging on to, or hang on to winning stocks you might otherwise sell? Think of the things you can do that will not only make your life better in the future, but will also reduce your tax burden.
  • Start a FSA or HSA. A Flexible Spending Account or Health Savings Account lets you set aside money for health-related spending that isn’t covered by your insurance. Estimate the amount of medical and dental expenses you’ll have, and then set up regular deductions or contributions.
  • Adjust withholding. If you’re getting a refund, you could be losing money (depending on how well you handle money). Instead, decrease your withholding and put the extra cash in an interest-bearing account or certificate of deposit—or better yet, into your retirement savings, where compound interest will grow it well beyond what it’s worth now.

If your taxes are complex or tedious, get an accountant. Ask for references from friends or co-workers. Work with the accountant now to prepare for next year—he may have many more tips for your specific circumstances.

Yourself: Do Something About Your Face

That sounded a bit harsh, huh? What I mean by that is that you should think about a regimen to make your face look its best, and start working on what you can do to improve your looks.

  • Start with your daily morning regimen. After shaving, do you properly moisturize? If not, start. Also, gentle exfoliation with a facial scrub will help prevent ingrown hairs and remove dead skin. Make sure you’re using quality products. In the evening, give your face a good wash before bed and apply some more moisturizer.
  • At least once a week, trim your nose hair, pluck renegade eyebrow hairs and make sure you have the proper number of eyebrows (that would be two). Check your ears as well—you don’t want any surprises out there.
  • If acne is a problem for you, make sure you’re using products with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. If the problem is chronic or severe, make an appointment with a dermatologist.
  • If you’re really feeling saucy, you might want to check out a salon and have a professional give you a makeover. From shaping your eyebrows to giving you a deep-cleansing skin treatment, it might be a good way to spend a little cash.
  • Finally, if you wear glasses, think about whether Lasik might be right for you. At the very least, find frames that flatter your face.

Individually, these tips won’t make a huge change in your looks, but if you consistently look for ways to improve the place women will look most, you might be surprised at the difference.

Now that you’ve got that healthy glow, go meditate and be ready for tomorrow. It’s time to think even further outside the box.

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