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Beyond the Traditional Spring Spruce Up

On Groundhog Day, all signs pointed to an early spring in the south. Warm afternoons will soon invite us to open windows and doors and banish old man winter from our homes. As we emerge from hibernation, the urge to clean and organize overwhelms us like the fragrance of early blooming wisteria. All that energy stored up over the cold season demands that we expend it on purposeful, productive home care.

Maybe you’ve jumped in already. You’ve shaken out area rugs, tossed the clutter, scrubbed the cabinets and refreshed the throw pillows. I’ve been there and done that old song and dance just last year. Borrrrrrrrringggggg.

This year, think beyond finding the floor in the hall closet. Approach the annual spring spruce up in a whole new way. I asked some experts for their ideas.

Add Umph To Curb Appeal

Your house should be a place you want to come home to. Enhancing curb appeal adds value, both monetary and sentimental. Anne Marie McManus, vice president, Meybohm Realtors, says to make that first impression clean and green.

• Paint and pine straw pay. For the price of paint and pine straw you cannot get a better value to create curb appeal.  
• Pay close attention to your front door. A worn out door detracts. Quality hardware or hardware clean up will make a huge difference. Check the threshold. A black or Charleston green coat of paint will keep a threshold from showing scuffs.
• A pressure washer is your best friend for improving the look of a winter-worn property. Clean off the walks, drive, brickwork or siding. Clear out gutters and wash stains left from a rough winter.
• Wash the windows inside and out.
• Clear out old shrubs and growth, but be careful not to eliminate privacy. Boxwoods are evergreen classic plantings that can give an upscale look for less. Plant some large pots with an evergreen and pansies or with easy care annuals and place on either side of the front door.  
• Remember, simplicity is beauty. Beauty is simplicity. Clean and clear first, then add back just the right accessories.

Attend to Clothes Closets

Barbara Reich is a professional organizer in New York City and the author of Secrets of an Organized Mom. She urges families not to just clean out their closets, but to shape up their wardrobes:

• Group like things together.
• A wardrobe should reflect a person’s current life. Throw out or donate clothing not worn in a year or that doesn’t fit.
• Make a list of items to replace so that shopping is focused.
• Move winter clothes to storage or to the back of the closet and put spring and summer clothes in prime real estate so that they are easily accessible.
• Get everything off the floor. Use shoe organizers. Hang purses and belts.
• Use the same color and kind of hanger. This will eliminate visual clutter and allow you to see the clothes instead of the hangers.
• In children’s closets, make sure kids can reach the hooks. Label where items go. If your child can’t read yet, use pictures.
• Go through hand-me-downs. Get rid of what you can’t use.

Improve Leadership Skills

Daphne Mallory, attorney and family business expert at www.daphnemallory.blogspot.com, says spring is the perfect time to explore those entrepreneurial urges. Even if a family business is not on the agenda, personal and family growth can sprout from the leadership ideas embodied in being one’s own boss:

• Enroll in an online course or in a learning management system that offers classes in management, leadership and entrepreneurship.
• Find project management apps or books and use their strategies.
• Invest in software to track projects and goals.
• Find a local service club that offers opportunity to develop skills, such as Toastmasters (for speaking) and Rotary Club (for community service projects).

Shape Up the Yard

Attend to landscape care in the early growing season then reap the benefit of those fabled lazy days of summer. Campbell Vaughn of Campbell Vaughn Design creates pleasing residential landscape designs across the CSRA. Maintain the wow factor of lawns, beds, trees and shrubs by implementing his recommendations:

• Rake old mulch or pine straw out of beds and replace it with a fresh layer.
• When grass begins to green, apply fertilizer.
• Broadcast a pre-emergent in beds to keep weeds down in the coming weeks and months.
• Cut back leggy parts of shrubs and trees. Be gentle, though. A hard prune in spring will sacrifice buds.
• Stay away from the crepe myrtles except to cut suckers. A crepe myrtle is a tree, not a shrub. Vaughn is adamant on this point. If harsh pruning has caused large knobs, cut off limbs below the knobs to allow the tree to grow normally.
• Divide plants like hostas and daylilies.   
• Thatch and aerate the lawn.
• Pick up a garden calendar from the Richmond County Cooperative Extension office. It provides a month-by-month guide to lawn and garden care.

Plan Now for Next Spring Break

Too often families wait until February or even March to try to schedule a spring break vacation. Mike Kerbelis, owner of Southern Travel Agency, warns that last-minute travel agendas are met with low inventory and high prices. The time to plan for spring break 2016 is now:

• Verify the school system’s spring break dates for 2016.
• Look at finances and specify the budget for the trip.
• Determine what makes a robust vacation for your family (cruise, resort, immersion in a locale, adventure, relaxation, etc.). Weigh expectations against the budget and make adjustments.
• Start the process of making reservations.
• Purchase trip cancellation insurance.
• Using a travel agency can take the headache of research and the guesswork about quality out of the equation. For busy families, this can be key to making the happy vacation happen.

For Traditionalists

Some folks can’t let closet cleaning die. Try a new method in place of the old way of working. Cannon Christian, president of Renovation Realty in California, suggests a seven- day strategy to spring cleaning:

• Sunday: Develop a plan of action for the next six days. Make a list of tasks for each room and designate jobs for each family member. Prepare to implement the Four Box Solution: Label each of three boxes “Put Away,” “Give Away/Sell” and “Storage.” Throughout the seven-day cleaning session, classify extra items in these categories or throw them away if not a match.

• Monday: Tackle the bathroom. Clear vanity countertops, dispose of empty or old shampoo and soap bottles and combine multiple boxes of toiletries into one container. Organize medicine cabinets and bathroom caddies by type of product like first aid, beauty products and hair products.
  

• Tuesday: Bedroom blow-out! Create a storage solution for items like jewelry, belts, ties and purses, such as hanging multiple hooks in the closet for each article or using plastic storage containers to store seasonal accessories under the bed. Check under furniture for any trash and knick-knacks that have strayed.

• Wednesday: Kitchen cleansing. Combine packages of the same products. Categorize and alphabetize pantry staples for easy access. Secure adhesive hooks on the inside of kitchen cabinet doors to hang the lids of pots and pans.

• Thursday: Zen your living room. Remove knickknacks that are smaller than a melon. Interior decorators use this as a rule of thumb for making rooms appear less busy. Hide electronics’ cords in end tables by using a spade bit to drill a hole in the part of the table’s drawer facing the wall. Place a power strip in the drawer to charge phones, tablets and electronics out of sight. Recycle old magazines and store blankets.

• Friday: Organize the home office or family desk. Go through all loose-leaf documents and mail, recycling papers no longer needed. If sharing a desk with children, designate a drawer or bucket near the desk for craft and homework supplies. Throw away dried up pens and other broken objects and clean off surfaces, using drawers for storage.

• Saturday: Garage and closets. The Four Box Method will come in handy today, since both are common places to throw unneeded or old stuff. If you have multiple storage closets, designate each one for a specific type of item like holiday decorations, cleaning supplies or cold-weather coats.

Lucy Adams is a freelance writer and the author of Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run. She lives in Thomson, Ga., with her husband and their four children. Contact Lucy at lucybgoosey@aol.com.

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