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How to winterize

I can trace my fondness for winterizing — the chores of wiping down and storing outdoor furniture and generally battening down the hatches for cold and rainy weather — to age 10 when I read” Little House in the Big Woods,” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

Laura’s pa skinned buffalo to make heavy robes for sleigh rides and tapped maple trees for desserts of syrup on bowls of snow, among other (less romantic) chores. Ma simmered stews and kept the girls clothed in wool and flannel with the occasional trimmings of swan’s down. The family seemed to spend a snug and lovely winter reading stories to each other.

Most Americans were brought up with the notion that being prepared is a wonderful thing, and it is definitely wonderful to be confident that, when those first raindrops fall, the roof is leak free or the outdoor cushions are stacked in the garage, not soaked in the patio. 

Lucky for us, we don’t have a lot of the chores that people who live in colder climates endure, such as wrapping pipes and draining garden hoses. In Napa Valley, transitioning between the seasons is more of an art form than an urgent, essential practice, though those of you in the flood zone have some extra work to do.  It seems that every year I get a little more proficient as I pick up tips from Californians who have winterized before me. Here are a few.

• Don’t clean the outdoor grill before you store it for winter but do cover it. One of my favorite bloggers on organization, Erin Rooney Doland, gave this counter-intuitive tip. I was looking forward to scrubbing every inch of our filthy gas grill before putting the cover on it for the winter. But apparently, all that greasy grime acts as a rust repellent. Makes sense, but it feels like putting a mud-covered child to bed without a bath. I will have to wait until late spring to scrub. 

• Don’t put away damp patio umbrellas. If you have left your patio umbrellas out in the fog or rain, open them and let them dry completely before closing and storing. If you’ve missed your window of sun, leave them open in the garage for a few days before storing. If you don’t, they will tend to shrink and mold, and may split or rip when you open them next summer.

• Make sure your outdoor cushions are fully dry before you store them in plastic bags. Better yet, just stack your dry cushions on a shelf in the garage or storage shed. It is unlikely they will collect much dust and you can just shake them out or brush them off next summer. If there is any moisture, plastic will trap it and cause discoloration or mildew growth. If your pillow and cushion covers are removable, wash them before storing.

• Purchase extra candles and batteries and have your flashlights handy for power outages. There’s nothing like being the heroine who has the working flashlight during a storm. There should be a working flashlight in every room during the winter.

If you use a ceiling fan, switch the rotation. In winter, you want the fan to rotate slowly and move the warm air (which rises) up so that it will circulate back down into the room. In summer, the opposite direction will blow cool air down into the room — and you want the fan to rotate more quickly. We like simple science, right?

• Don’t forget the obvious chores of furnace and fireplace cleaning and check-ups, gutter clearing and mouse infestation prevention. I like to delegate the chores involving a ladder, propane or chicken wire to a professional. Get it done before the bad weather hits, light some candles and tuck yourself in for the rainy season.

Angela Hoxsey is a professional organizer based in the Napa Valley. For information about her services, go to houseinorder.com or call 738-4346. Follow House in Order on Facebook for more organizing tricks and tips.