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
• 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,
• 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
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.