Spring Cleaning

I can still remember a lot about my Great Grandmother. Born in 1895, in a very rural community, she was a firm believer in ‘spring cleaning’. This usually occurred on the first warm day in March or April, and it involved opening the windows for fresh air, getting out the ammonia for cleaning, and taking out the rugs for a firm beating on the clothesline.  I was pretty young, but I can remember being amazed at the amount of ‘stuff’ that was in a rug that had been vacuumed all winter. I would love to see the look on my neighbors faces if I did this feat at home this spring. Heck, I’d love to see their faces if I put up a clothesline!

I no longer perform spring cleanings like that. But I do have the following list of things I try to do on the first warm days of the year.

  • Like my grandmother, I like to open the windows and let in the fresh air. This is also a chance to check the screens for damage and get them repaired before the bugs arrive.
  • Take a walk around your homes exterior to look for clogged or damaged gutters and downspouts. Cleaning gutters is not fun. But it’s less fun in the rain.
  • While you’re out there, also look for damaged or loose siding, facia, and soffits.
  • Take a few steps back and take another walk around your home. This time, take a look at the roof for damaged shingles. If anything looks suspect, call a roofer. They’re usually happy to take a look around up there and see if there’s minor damage or something that can qualify for an insurance claim.
  • Winter freezing and thawing can also cause landscaping to shift. It’s best to get that fixed before the spring rains cause further damage.
  • Now’s the time to wash away the winter collection of gunk on your windows. If you’re not a fan of window cleaning, contact your local firehouse. Those folks are great at cleaning windows.
  • Check for bird nests on your home while you’re out there too. Having birds nesting on your light fixtures causes a mess. But let’s face it, you’re not going to take it down once there’s eggs in it.
  • When it gets above 65 degrees, I like to check the air-conditioning system before the hotter weather arrives. Running the A/C when it any cooler, or when there’s a chance that ice could still be on the unit, can damage the system. So it’s best to wait.

These are just a few chores I do when the weather gets warmer. What are some of the steps you take on those first nice days?

Thanks for reading. Please like and share!
And remember to take the next step.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

In the spring of 1993, my life was chaotic to say the least. In the last 5 months, I had lost my wife, moved to another state, and started a new job. I was working hard to try to figure out what life would now be like for my three children and me. Most days it felt like trying to run with a full glass of water; you know somethings going spill.

One afternoon, I was going through some of the moving boxes that still resided in my garage, and what did I find? A stack of mail. Mail from this week, and maybe that week, and so on. I didn’t remember putting it there. But I didn’t remember a lot about what was going on at the time either. So, there was a mystery.

There was no mystery, however, that some of the mail contained overdue notices. I had no idea there were overdue bills because I relied on the mail to prompt me that something was due. Trying desperately to maintain some resemblance of control on any one part of my life, I decided this was something I could easily do better. Grabbing a pencil and paper, I went through the mail, my checkbook (remember those), and anything else I could find which would help me list out my financial obligations, and their due dates. Having this one simple sheet of paper greatly reduced the amount of anxiety I had about bill payments. I still use a ‘more modern’ version of it. No more mystery about what is due when!

The other mystery, about how the mail was misplaced, was soon solved too. As it turned out, my sweet 4-year-old daughter was “…just trying to help me.” And I guess, in a round-a-bout way, she did!

I’ve made a free, downloadable, bill payment spreadsheet is available at https://www.stepsfortoday.com/shop/. While you’re there, take a look around for other items and ideas to help organize your home and life. What tricks or tools do you use to help keep life on track?

Thanks for reading. Please like and share!
And remember to take the next step.

Managing Holiday Finances

Holidays are meant to be enjoyed. Using a budget to navigate the expenses will add a feeling of accomplishment, and take away that dreadful post-holiday sticker shock.

Halloween has become genuinely scary. It is now the 2nd largest consumer spending holiday – BOO! Well, that’s just a little bit frightening. But it now kicks of the holiday season with sizeable spending. Starting early with a plan to make it through the holiday rush can take away some of the dread.

Here are a few Steps you can take Today to make the holidays more joyous:

  1. Create a holiday budget list. You may want to start with the items below and add your own items as you go.
  • Halloween costumes – There are a few ways to trim the costs for dressing-up this year. Most people know that resale shops are great places to look for inexpensive costume clothing. But why not cut out the middle man? Have your kids ask their grandparents if they’ve got something they could use. This will create memories for all. If you’re really trying to cut time and expense, ask your friends and family if they have any old costumes you might borrow.
  • Halloween decorations – I remember making Halloween decorations in elementary school. Crafted with construction paper, markers and crayons, we’d bring these home and decorate our porches and windows. If you’re buying decorations, try to buy some that can be reused next year (and remember where you store them).
  • Seasonal decorations for your home – Seasonal decorations can often be found at a farmers market for a reasonable price. Like with all decorations, try to buy those that can be reused and add some to your collection each year.
  • Thanksgiving dinner – Although not as expensive as Halloween, Thanksgiving cost for food, decorations, tableware, etc., can take a chunk out of your budget. Possibly ask guest to break a dish for dinner to help defer the work and costs. Planning ahead will not only help with costs, it’ll help make sure you have enough forks…I’m just saying.
  • Holiday decorations – Some folks REALLY get into this. That’s fine. But budget for it. And stick to the budget.
  • Greeting cards – Not so much an expense as it used to be. But isn’t getting a card in the mail still just a little bit fun?
  • Holiday travel – Whether it’s for visiting or vacation, don’t forget to plan early. Avoid the holiday flight costs by locking-in early and flying off-peak dates when possible.
  • Holiday clothing – Consider shopping for the ‘perfect’ holiday sweater (and other items) at a resale shop. This is often a choice between a tight budget and tight clothes.
  • Holiday gifts – Gift giving can have excessive costs. But do we really remember the gift (unless really useful and practical) as much as the time we spend with our loved-ones.
  • Gift wrapping expenses – Save those gift bags and stuffing paper. They’ll save you in cash and time. Here’s where be crafty can save you lots. If you have kids, wrap the presents in brown or white sheet paper, found in office supplies, and give them a box of crayons or brightly colored gel markers. You may even find this fun yourself.
  1. Track expenses – Recording expenses will help keep you on budget this year and plan better next year.
  1. Limit credit card expenses. Starting early, with a budget, allows the costs to be spread out over the season. Avoid building up a credit card bill that will only add post-holiday blues, anxiety and stress to the start of next year.
  1. Don’t forget to be charitable. Add charitable giving to your budget. Having it on the budget gives you more time to explore the options.
  1. Create a file folder for holiday expenses so you can find this list next year!
  1. Put a reminder on next year’s calendar to budget for fall holiday expenses.
  1. Use the free Holiday Budgeting worksheet available at www.StepsForToday.com/shop to help plan for the costs and track expenses.

These simple steps will help manage the holiday costs this year, and in future years. What are some of your tips and tricks for managing holiday expenses?

And remember to take the next step…


Fall Auto Checkup

Fall has officially arrived. And Winter is just around the corner. In colder climates, winter is especially hard on our automobiles. The sub-freezing temperatures can cause badly mixed engine antifreeze to freeze and crack an engine, washer fluid to freeze up and leave a messy windshield, and reduce tire life by reducing tire pressure. So it’s best to get a jump on things before those temps arrive.

Here are a few short steps to ensure your auto is prepared for winter.

  1. Ensure your engine’s antifreeze mixture will protect against the lowest possible temperatures it may experience during the winter. Then subtract another 20 degrees just to make sure. There are different types of antifreeze for different engines. Always check your car’s manual, or with a car care professional, to ensure the right antifreeze and mixture are being used.
  2. Make it a point to exhaust your current windshield wiper fluid and refill it with something rated for extreme cold. Having working washers when they’re needed makes this process worth the hassle.
  3. Remember to periodically check your tire pressure as the days get progressively cooler. The dropping temperatures reduce tire inflation pressures; reducing tread life.
  4. If you own a diesel with a block heater, do a ‘pre-needed’ block heater check before it gets really cold to ensure it’s working.
  5. Check your tire treads for excessive wear. The penny test for 2/32 of an inch was to place a penny, head-first, into the tire tread. The tread would come to the top of Lincoln’s head. In my opinion, this isn’t enough tread for winter. It should be at least double this. So it’s best to check now to determine if you’ll need a new set of tires before bad weather arrives.
  6. Of course, it’s a good time to review your auto’s emergency preparations. To see a checklist of supplies which should be kept on hand, see my previous post at https://www.stepsfortoday.com/home-organization/emergency-prep-for-the-car/.

As always, thanks for reading.  If you have a moment, please Like this page and consider sharing this post it with others. It’s greatly appreciated.

And remember to take the next step…



Fall Yard Projects

It’s almost fall! While we’re enjoying those great fall months before winter sets in, there are a few steps for yard care that can make all the difference in the spring. It’s also a good time to plan for winter projects that may slip by while were holed-up during those colder months. But it’s not bad out today. So grab a pen and something sturdy on which to write. The Steps for Today will be out in the yard.

Now is the time to take a good look at the grass. Are there patchy spots. I know my yard has some. Giving them some seed and fertilizer to work over the winter will help produce a beautiful lawn in the spring.

  • Over seeding is best done early in the fall, when the ground is still warm. If over seeding, it’s best to get the seeds into the soil if possible. Raking with a hard tooth rake before and after application will help them make their way to the soil.
  • If the ground is really bare, remove any debris and apply a quarter-inch of soil over the seeds.
  • Dormant seeding can be done late in fall. But as the name indicates, the seeds will lay dormant until spring.
  • Both early and late fall are a great time to apply fertilizer. The heavy fall dew will help break down the fertilizer and feed the seeds.
  • If you have seeded, it’s not a good time to apply weed control. The new seedling will most likely need till spring to get a good start.
  • If you have a mulching lawn mower, mulching your grass and some leaves will apply a nutrient-rich protective blanking over the lawn during the winter.
  • If you’ve got one, it’s time to schedule having your sprinkler system flushed for the winter.
  • Late fall is also a good time to service your mower with a cleaning, sharpening and oil change.

All those wonderful leaves. Sure we don’t like raking leaves, but having a few trees in the yard sure is nice. Although winter is the best time to trim trees, it’s often a busy time for tree trimmers. Best to get on the schedule now.

  • Examine trees for dead or damaged branches.
  • Get on a tree trimmer schedule early. Get several estimates and opinions. Their prices can vary greatly. Be sure to have them look at the smaller trees for signs of stress as well. And be sure to ask for a copy of their insurance. Most will send it with the estimate. And always check the online reviews.
  • Check for limbs getting too close to the house. They can tear up roofs, siding, or gutters quickly in a wind storm.
  • As mentioned in my last post. Inspect gutters to ensure they’re working properly for the winter months.

Landscaping a water issues can become a real problem during the frigid winter months, when they become ice issues. Landscapers often offer discounts at this time of year for winter work, so now is the time to consider getting on their schedule.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few things. Any suggestions?

As always, thanks for reading and please share with others.

And remember to take the next step…


Fall Projects Around the Home

This year has been like no other. The pandemic has had many of us staying close to home this spring and summer. Some have used this time to focus on projects they’ve been wanting to do for a while. Others have started a new hobby, like gardening. In either case, we’ve had a little more time to plan our lives and activities. Now that Fall is on our doorstep, we should give some thought to those activities which are best done at this time of year.

As temperatures turn cooler, it is the perfect opportunity to review our homes ability to shelter us from the upcoming winter months. A quick walk around the house will help uncover areas in need of a little TLC. So grab pen and paper. And let’s take a few Steps For Today.


  • Furnace Checkup – Your furnace is your main line of defense against winter cold. Changing its filter regularly help it from working harder than it should to warm your home. It’s also a good idea to have it inspected yearly. The combustion chamber of an oil or gas furnace expands and contracts every time it ignites. Meaning that after time, it can crack from fatigue. A damaged gas or oil furnace can emit carbon monoxide (CO); an odorless deadly gas.
  • Smoke and CO detectors – it’s a great idea to change smoke and CO detector batteries in the fall, when daylight savings time changes. And if you don’t have CO detectors near your oil or gas furnace, you should definitely add them to your list of things to do.
  • Windows and Doors – Air loss, through gaps in the seals around windows and doors, is a major factor in keeping your heating bills as low as possible. While walking through your home, take note of any windows or doors that just are sealing well. Also note any cracked or lose panes. Whether fixing the old, or replacing it with new, it’s much better to address these when the weather is still warm enough to remove them. If ordering new windows, be aware that there can be a significant lead-time on their delivery and/or install. It’s best to get the process started early as possible.
  • Insulation – While you’re at it. You may as well take a peek in the attic to see if there’s insulation up there. Chances are good that there is. But you never know.
  • Home Exterior – Taking a look outside, be sure to give your homes exterior a thorough inspection. Look for loose or damaged siding, trim, soffit, and facia. It’s certainly easier to address these concerns before real cold sets in. Working on vinyl siding in the cold, when it can crack, is less than ideal.
  • House washing – Summer months can lead to dirt and mold (usually on the north side) on your home’s exterior. A hose and long brush can remove most of this. If using a power washer, be sure to check it’s spray power from a distance before moving to close and possibly blowing parts off your home.
  • Outdoor spigots – Take a look at your outdoor hose spigots. Leaking spigots can freeze and rupture pipes inside the home. Sometimes spigots just need a new set of washers. Sometimes they need a replacement. A good local hardware store may be able to tell you if they sell a washer replacement just by looking at a close-up picture of the spigot handle. If you need a replacement, search the internet for ‘replacing a hose bibb’ video. It may be easier than you think. And, of course, your local plumber can make short work of such things.
  • Deck care – Now that Labor Day has passed, it’s a good time to consider sealing your deck or patio. Having the supplies on hand for when the weather is just right, will help make the process easier.
  • Gutters – Look for signs that gutters are overflowing. This is usually caused by foul-smelling gunk in the gutter or downspout. Stopped up gutters usually lead to water or ice problems in the winter or spring. Cleaning them early and late in the fall will help avoid associated problems.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few things that should on this list. I’ll probably cover yard care in my next post. What are some of the important (or not-so-important) tasks I might add?


As always, thanks for reading.

And remember to take the next step…


Going Back to Normal?

Educational and motivational powerhouse Lou Tice, of the Pacific Institute, often said that he never wanted someone to tell him that he ‘hadn’t changed a bit after all these years’. His point was that he always wanted to be growing and changing in some way. During this season of lockdown and self-quarantine, many of us have had a little extra time to reflect on a great deal of things. I would venture a guess also, that there have been a great many who have made resolutions of how they’re going to change when ‘things get back to normal’. But just like with those New Year’s resolutions’, if this fresh crop of resolutions are not getting a little daily care, they’ll wither a die of neglect.

To give our resolutions the best chance of success, we need to keep them in focus; finding daily motivation, initiation, and appreciation of the intended accomplishment. To keep the focus, here a few Steps For Today:

1. Ask yourself why is this change important? There is usually some epiphany driving a new desire for change. Take a few minutes to dig for the underlying ‘why’ until you are satisfied with your answer.

2. Either journal, or download the ‘Today’s Expectations’ worksheet from the website, to capture this ‘why’, and the thoughts from the steps below.

3. Write down a few words or phrases describing how making this change will affect your life and/or the lives of those you love. It’s important to write these down so that you will recognize the changes as they begin to occur.

4. Create daily reminder to reflect on these steps. Writing something down daily forces us to take just a few minutes to record our thoughts and accomplishments, and refresh our intentions.

5. Ask a reliable person if they can be your accountability partner. Someone who will take the time, at to whom you’ve given the ‘all clear’, to ask you about your progress.

6. Tell others about your intended goal. Knowing that others expect a change will help solidify your resolve.

These simple steps will go a long way towards helping you reach your new normal.

I’d love to hear any tips or tricks which you use to help keep focus on your resolutions!

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

PS: The Today’s Expectation worksheet can be downloaded for free from the website store. It is a one-sheet, pdf file, with an identical front and back. Each face of the sheet contains the following areas:

– A place for 3 good expectations for the day
– A place for 3 areas to focus on
– 15 lines with checkboxes for activities to accomplish
– 3 lines to write down expectations that were met and/or pleasant surprises
– 3 lines to write down expectations for tomorrow

What a Mess

The Holidays are stuffed full of things to do. There are parties to go to, parties to host, visiting friends and relatives, trips to be taken, and extraordinary fun to be had. Of course, this usually leads to an extraordinary mess to clean up. But it’s the beginning of the year. Time for those New Year’s Re-solutions. So why not take a minute to rethink your house cleaning routine.

My mother was a master at multitasking. Whatever else she was doing, it seemed like she was cleaning as well. I swear she always towel in her hand, or close by. In addition to this, she had a schedule for cleaning everything in the home; from light fixtures to floors and everything in between. I know she had a list somewhere of everything to do, and when it should be done. Sometimes I would notice an upcoming activity written on her calendar. Why not do the same and incorporate the list into a calendar based worklist. Using either a paper or electronic calendar will help keep tasks from being forgotten. In 15 minutes you can have a list of house cleaning activities that can be shared with the family.

Below is a starter checklist list of household tasks. Of course, items which experience daily use, such as countertops, stovetops, and dining tables, should be cleaned as used. If listed below, this is the ‘extra’ detailed cleaning. To download a free copy of the Home Cleaning checklist, visit our store at https://www.stepsfortoday.com/product/home-cleaning-checklist/ and store. This list, already placed on an electronic calendar file SFT.Home.Cleaning.ical.zip, is available there as well .  It can be changed to suit individual needs after it’s downloaded and imported into your calendar of choice. Here’s what’s on the list:

– Light fixtures & globes
– Ceiling Fans
– Windows
– Doorknobs, Door and window trim
– Tables & Chairs
– Couches & Chairs
– Nooks, corners, & crannies
– Baseboards & furnace vents
Curtain cleaning
– Vacuum Floors

– Sink & fixtures
– Mirrors
– Toilet
– Shower & tub
– Walls

– Cabinet exteriors
– Cabinet interiors
– Table and chairs
– Appliance exteriors
– Refrigerator interior
– Tile & countertops
– Stove top
– Oven interior
– Microwave oven interior
– Sink & fixtures
– Trash cans
– Walls
– Floors

But this is just a starter list. I’m sure I’ve missed a thing or two. What are some of the task you would add? Some final suggested steps; add dates, assign responsibility, and periodically discuss expectations. Depending on which electronic calendar is used, you may even be able to send automated reminders of assigned tasks. This will not only help keep schedule, it will probably give everyone involved a sense of self-empowerment to complete assignments and contribute to the household.

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…