The December House List

The December House List

Virginia doesn’t have the most pronounced seasons on the East Coast, but they’re more pronounced than I had growing up in California wine country, and, well, when you compare it to what we experienced in Hawaii, it’s night and day.

Living in an environment where the seasons mean more than seasonal decorating, but mean taking actions to prepare and protect your home. And since we’ve been learning a lot about what it takes to maintain and run a home – a fairly large home, at that – through the seasons, we’ve been compiling those notes and sharing them with you all in these monthly updates! Eventually, we’ll have a collection of all twelve months that we’ll just keep updating as we learn more. So please, if we miss anything, share your tips with us!

Here’s what we suggest you take care of this month…

The December House List

Maintaining Inside

  • Protect your water pipes from freezing. This is a big one if you’re leaving for the holidays – it’s not just the outside pipes that can freeze. Even though you’re not going to be home, make sure the heat is kept on to at least some degree {at least 50 degrees}. Otherwise, indoor pipes can freeze and burst. Interior cold can also damage your furniture.
  • Check all your door and window seals for good repair. As we mentioned last month, don’t make your HVAC system try to heat the outdoors as well. Replace bad weather seals, caulk edges, and start budgeting to upgrade your windows if they don’t insulate well.
  • Check your humidity levels. In the dry winter months, we shut up our houses and run our humidifiers, making your house warm and damp and, you guessed it, a perfect breeding ground for mold. We have a hydrometer downstairs that we check periodically, and if the humidity gets over 60%, it’s time to open the windows, run fans, or run a de-humidifier.
  • Check your house for drafty spots and check insulation. As the temperatures continue dropping, take a walk through your house and see if there are any spots where you feel a change in temperature. Shore up the insulation in there and save your comfort – and your energy bill.
  • Sort and purge your Christmas decorations. Those strings of lights with bad bulbs that you keep saying you’re going to throw out but are somehow still in your boxes? Get rid of them now before the holiday distraction hits!
  • Feed and water your greenery. Fresh cut evergreen boughs and trees need care to both keep them looking fresh and prevent them from dropping needles everywhere. A cut tree needs a quart or more of water daily. Soak branch ends in a solution of 1 cup brown sugar to 1 gallon water for 24 hours before arranging them.
  • Make sure your attic is properly vented and the door insulated. Attics can be breeding grounds for mold this time of year, with all your heat rising up to warm them up. Make sure they’re properly vented for your type of house, and make sure the attic door is properly insulated. It’s a decent time to check or install a safety ladder there as well.
  • Make sure your fridge and freezer defrost properly. Again, if you’re traveling for the holidays, don’t just let your home freeze while you’re away, or else you can get ice buildup everywhere – including in your fridge and freezer. Give them a periodic check to make sure they aren’t building up ice. If they are, either get them serviced or manually defrost.
  • Check your garage door tracks and lifts for good repair. This is a rotten time of year for your garage door to break. Make sure the roller brackets and bolts are tight, and inspect the rollers for undue wear {they should be replaced every seven years}. Use a spray lubricant on the springs. And take a look at the cables for wear, but don’t touch them yourself – they can seriously injure you if they snap. If you see broken strands near the roller bracket, call a pro.

Maintaining Outside

  • Inspect your rooftop. Want to know an easy trick to tell whether or not your attic is properly insulated? Look at your roof after a frost. If there are patches where the frost has melted and patches where it’s still frosty, you may have insulation problems and heat escaping which can lead to ice dams. Insulate that attic!
  • Give your house a security walk-around. The most wonderful time of the year is also the most burglarized time of year, since so many people travel. Walk around the exterior of your house and make sure lines of approach are well lit and can be easily observed either by you, by your security camera, or by your nosy neighbor {honestly, say your blessings for these people}. There are so many great WiFi based security cameras that you can watch from your mobile device or hook up to your security system, you should treat yourself to some peace of mind.
  • Check your windows and exterior walls for water damage. If there are signs of water damage on your windowsills and trim or if you see a piece of siding starting to bow, you may have a problem. That’s a good sign you need to consult with a professional.
  • Make sure your snow equipment is ready to go! Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! But make sure you’re stocked and ready to handle whatever your environment can dish out. Ever try to make a run to the hardware store for a shovel and salt when the news has just predicted a big storm warning and find them all sold out? Go and get your gear now and save the hassle. And make sure, if you have a snowblower or other machinery, that it’s serviced, oiled, gassed up, and ready for the next big storm.
  • Create winter planters and window boxes. There are lots of winter loving plants out there that can add a burst of color to the wintry landscape outside – flowering quince, snapdragons, pansies, boxwood, snowdrops, ornamental cabbages, kale, dusty miller, and many more. Put an assortment of things in window boxes or in porch and deck planters to brighten your yard.
  • Winterize your cars and add fuel stabilizer to engines you won’t be running. Our motorcycle hibernates for the winter, which means it gets thoroughly cleaned, fuel stabilizer in the gas tank, a change of oil and filter, and battery removed and placed on a tender weekly. All these things prevent corrosion and damage to the bike and make for an easier start-up in spring.
  • Feed the birds. Having a bird feeder is a big responsibility, as birds can become dependent on your generosity. However, it’s a great way to both see and take care of your backyard wildlife. Read up on who’s local to your area and what kind of feeder and seed they generally prefer, and watch your dreary winter landscape brighten with life.

Maintaining Money

  • Give your retirement savings a year-end checkup. You can contribute your max to retirement accounts this month and may be able to reduce your total earned income substantially for some much needed tax savings. The more you throw in now, the better chance you have of reaching your financial goals.
  • ‘Tis the season for charity – consider giving. Along with the financial end of year evaluation, you might find you’re not keeping up with previous years’ charitable giving, or just want to give more. There are a lot of great organizations helping people in need this time of year, so consider helping them out – and helping your itemizing out in the process.
  • Check your progress toward your saving goals. How much were you able to sock away this year? How much did you spend? The end of the year is a great time to evaluate progress toward all those resolutions, but it’s a great time to manage your financial progress.
  • Avoid the mad shopping rush. This is as much for your mental health as your financial health. The pressure to shop goes into overdrive around this time of year, and because of the frenzy, it’s easy to not realize that some of those “savings” aren’t really saving you anything. It’s a great time to shop small businesses, take advantage of Amazon, or perhaps consider giving loved ones the gift of experiences and time together rather than just more stuff.
  • On that note, budget your shopping. The season of giving can get out of control if you don’t plan out limits for how much you’re willing to spend on each person on your list. It helps to remember that the most treasured things you give people are not always the most expensive.
  • Watch out for hidden party expenses. We love throwing and attending holiday parties, but you can only do so many white elephant gift exchanges, ugly ornament parties, cookie exchanges, and favorite things parties {my least favorite} before you’ve got a nice big hole in your wallet. Parties are fun, but be cognizant of your friends’ and your own finances.

To make things easy, here’s a printable checklist {sized for 5×8 card}:

If you missed November’s list, you can find it right over here.

What did we miss? What else would you add to the December list?

  • This is a nice reminder that I need to buy salt for my sidewalk NOW rather than waiting until the night before a big storm. I’m the WORST at being prepared for snow and inevitably, I’m one of the lunatics at Lowe’s defensively grabbing a bag of salt as the snow starts to fall.

    • We’ve been there, looking for a shovel with snow just starting to stick outside and finding that they’re all gone, even the crappy cheap ones. :p