8 Tips to Protecting Your Lawn in the Fall and Winter

raking leaves

Fall and winter are the make-it or break-it seasons for grass. Gardeners and homeowners should be thinking about next spring as they prep their lawns for the upcoming cold months. Yard work is no walk in the park; it’s actually quite a chore. Here are a few winter lawn care tips that can help your grass make it through the colder months so that it is lush in the springtime.

1. Aerate at Least Once Per Year

It is important to make sure your lawn gets a breather in autumn and winter. Aeration tools are used to break up compacted turf, and pull up plugs of soil and grass. A hand-aerating tool is shaped like a pitchfork with hollow tines. It is labor-intensive, but by unplugging small portions, this allows oxygen, nutrients and water to reach the roots. There are also gas-powered machines available. They are roughly the size of a mower and are great for large yards.

This process can provide room for the seeds to sprout, and new grass to grow and spread, without competing with pesky weeds. If you have kids that like to play in your yard or have an otherwise high-traffic lawn, it is recommended to aerate twice per year: once in the autumn and once in the spring. If your yard is just for presentation, it is best to aerate once per year for the best results.

2. Seed Your Lawn

Autumn is typically when the soil temperature reaches around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Since turf roots grow extensively in the fall and winter, this is the prime time for seeding. While it may be tempting to go for the inexpensive seed, it can hurt you in the long run. Cheap seed often contains weed seed, annual rye grass seed and hollow husks, which will typically drop dead after the first frost. If you want a lush law, it is best to splurge on the more expensive seed, which are much better at resisting insects, disease and drought. After you plant the seed, water it every day until it germinates. This typically takes 10 to 20 days.

3. Fertilize Before the First Frost

Fertilizing in the late fall before the first frost occurs can provide your grass with nutrients that it can absorb and store. This can help it survive the harsh winter months and encourage it to grow lush and green in the spring. This should also be your last fertilizing of the year. Lawns that are fertilized late-season are typically the first to grow in the spring. Choose a fertilizer product that is high in phosphorous (10 to 15 percent is best). This is critical for root growth. If you live in an area where phosphorous-rich fertilizer has been banned, seek nitrogen-rich fertilizers as a replacement. These can promote root and shoot growth.

4. Grind Leaves Into Mulch

pile of leaves

Throughout the winter, any leaves, organic debris and dead grass plants can freeze and thaw, causing them to release soluble forms of nitrates and phosphate. When the ground thaws in the spring, these chemicals can then run off and end up in surface water. Make sure you rake up all the leaves before the first frost. Raking can also reduce brown patches and keep parts of your yard from becoming sun-deprived. Instead of raking them up to burn or throw away, run over them with the mower a few times until they are grinded into mulch. These shredded leaves can protect your lawn from desiccation and wind. A mulching blade can also be purchased to add to your mower. This tool can grind the leaves even finer. As an added bonus, when shredded leaves decompose, they create an organic matter to feed roots.

5. Don’t Stop Mowing

One of many helpful winter lawn care tips is to continue mowing, even when it does get colder. Continue to mow your yard until you see the growth slow. It is essential to keep your grass at 2 to 2 1/2 inches tall throughout the autumn months. If it gets longer than 3 inches, it can mat. This can lead to lawn disease problems, such as snow mold. If it is shorter than 2 inches, its ability to store food for growth will be limited.

6. Sustain Growth by Watering

Although the temperatures are cooler, it is important to continue watering. Since grasses continue to grow in the autumn months, it is important to sustain its growth by watering consistently. Water as needed until the ground begins to freeze. If you have an automatic irrigation system, avoid damage by blowing it out with compressed air before the water is able to freeze in the sprinkler heads and pipes.

7. Weed Control

garden weed

Autumn is a good time of year to control perennial broadleaf weeds, including clover, plantain, dandelions and creeping charlie. Some weeds can be removed by hand, but many are scattered and few or confined to tiny areas. One of the most efficient ways to remove these weeds is by spot-treating them with herbicide. This is easier with ready-to-use spray containers. It is best to complete this treatment when the temperature is above 50 degrees, as the herbicide will need sufficient time to kill the weeds before the winter cold sets in. This is also a good time to remove any sticks and other debris from the flowerbeds, under bushes or in the yard.

8. Prepare Plants and Spigots for the Frost

If you live in a region with cold winters, be sure to put away watering systems and hoses. It is also important to turn off water to the outdoor spigots, and protect the spigots with insulated foam covers. Be sure to bring any outdoor plants or flowers into your home before the cold sets in to protect them from freezing. If you live in a milder weather region, be sure to find an insulated cover to place over the plants to protect them from any frost. This is also a good time to remove any plants from your flowerbeds that are no longer in season.

Prepare for Cold Seasons for Better Springtime Growth

With temperatures dropping and leaves changing colors, it’s typical to forget about the lawn and think more about football and the holidays. This go-to guide can provide helpful winter lawn care tips to prepare for the colder seasons so that your yard can grow lush and green in the spring.

10 Reasons to Have Under-Cabinet Lighting in Your Kitchen

Undercabinet lighting in kitchen

If you are in the middle of updating your kitchen, you have probably considered installing under-cabinet lighting. Installing under-cabinet lighting in your kitchen can be beneficial in many ways to you and your home’s value. Before you can really decide if you need under-cabinet lighting, you have to know what it is, what kinds are available and the benefits of installing them.

What is Under-Cabinet Lighting?

Under-cabinet lighting is just what it sounds like: lighting that runs underneath your cabinets. This means that if you have this type of lighting you won’t have to worry about blocking the lights when you’re using perimeter countertops. Under-cabinet lighting not only adds efficiency to your kitchen tasks, but also adds depth to your kitchen. Under-cabinet lighting is a useful addition to any kitchen, and luckily there are many options to choose from.

Under-Cabinet Lighting Varieties

As you consider installing under-cabinet lights, you should look at the varieties that are out there. There is a wide variety of electrical choices, formats and types of light on the market, which makes customization easy and fun.

  • Electrical Choices:
  • There are a couple of different options for you to choose from when deciding on your under-cabinet lighting. You can choose to install hard-wired, plug-in or battery-operated under-cabinet lighting. Hard-wired lighting means you can turn the lights on by a pre-existing switch, but they are also the most expensive option. Plug-in lighting means you will have a switch on the light bar or pucks themselves, which ends up being a modest cost. Battery-operated will have to be turned on individually, and you will need to replace the batteries occasionally.

  • Formats:
  • The next thing that you need to decide before committing to this project is which format of lighting would benefit you the most. The two most common formats to choose from are bar or puck. Light bars are rectangular and shed light over larger areas. Pucks are small, round and concentrate light into a smaller area.

  • Types of Light:
  • You also have to choose between what type of light you want to use. The choices include LED, incandescent light and halogen bulbs. All three different bulbs have their own benefits, so it is up to you to decide what will work best for your kitchen.

Because there are a few different options, you get to choose the style of under-cabinet light that is right for your room and budget. The style of under-cabinet lighting you choose will have its own benefits, but there are some benefits that surpass the style of light.

Under-Cabinet Lighting Benefits

under cabinet lights

If you are still on the fence about whether to invest the time and money into this project, here are a few reasons why you should get under-cabinet lighting:

  • Lower Your Energy Bill:
  • Under-cabinet lighting actually will save you money on your energy bill, especially if you install LED lights. It saves money because you don’t have to light up the whole room to see what you are doing while cooking.

  • Easy to Install:
  • Another undeniable benefit of under-cabinet lighting is that is is quite easy to configure and install. Even if you’re not in the middle of a kitchen renovation, you can install under-cabinet lighting. Some varieties simply require you to screw or nail a strip of light underneath your cabinets and plug them in.

  • Less Shadows:
  • Because you are not standing between the light and the counter, there are less shadows you have to deal with. Shadows can impede your ability to cook, so having adequate lighting can be very helpful.

  • Add Unique Style:
  • Under-cabinet lighting is also able to add a unique style to your kitchen due to the layered aspect of the lights. Having a unique and modern style in your kitchen can add value to your home.

  • Easy on the Budget:
  • Under-cabinet lighting can also be easy on your budget because you can install them yourself, and there are so many different varieties to choose from. The cheapest option are the battery-powered under-cabinet lights.

  • Enhance Interior Value:
  • Under-cabinet lighting can enhance the way a room looks. This means, if they are installed correctly, this type of lighting can make a room shine.

If you’re looking for a cheap, simple way to add safety and efficiency to your kitchen, consider installing under-cabinet lights.

Talk to a Professional

If you are still not convinced that under-cabinet lighting benefits are worthwhile, you can talk to a professional. Whether you simply go to a home improvement store or actually talk to a contractor that works on kitchens, that is up to you. When you’re making this decision, you have to look at all of the facts. First, why are you considering under-cabinet lighting? Do you want to add another lighting element that will eliminate shadows and make your kitchen more efficient? If this is the case, under-cabinet lighting may be right for you.

Maybe you are looking to make your kitchen safer by installing this extra lighting. Under-cabinet lighting can give you a clear view of the countertops. This makes you less likely to accidentally nick your finger instead of properly cutting your vegetables. They can also light up the floor, which can help you stay on your feet at night. A professional can also help you pick out the best bulb for your needs. If you are concerned that a certain type of bulb will hurt your sensitive eyes, a professional can make sure that safety is kept in mind and help you pick out a bulb that is best for you.

Are you considering installing under-cabinet lighting for the style of it? This is a perfectly good reason to install this kind of lighting, as it can add some value to your home. Under-cabinet lighting can add a unique lighting dimension to your kitchen. It can make the kitchen look larger because it is brighter. Under-cabinet lighting can help to add character to your kitchen.

No matter your reason for wanting to install under-cabinet lighting, they may be just the solution you are looking for. Remember, under-cabinet lighting is a fairly cheap installation that you can do on your own. You don’t have to talk to a professional if you don’t want to, but if you have questions there is someone out there who can help you through the entire process.

Don’t wait around until your energy bill is too high or you have to go to the emergency room because of a kitchen related accident. Start considering the benefits of under-cabinet lighting today, and then start looking at all of your options. There is an under-cabinet lighting choice out there that is right for your style, your budget and your needs.

8 Ways to Clean Your Home With Citrus

citrus cleaners

Many people are aware that citrus can be used as a cleaning agent, particularly because it has been included in many of the detergents and soaps on sale over the last few decades. What many people don’t realize, though, is that you can use citrus as a stand-alone cleaner in a variety of situations. Citrus products can also be combined with other natural cleaners–such as vinegar or baking soda–to produce homemade cleaners for a variety of surfaces. Check out these ways you can use citrus to make your housework easier and your home fresher, and enjoy a deep clean that is both economically and environmentally friendly.

1. Make Your Own Citrus Surface Cleaner

Using vinegar to clean countertops and other surfaces is no new trick, but the trade-off is that you always get stuck with the smell of vinegar around the house. Adding citrus to the mix not only helps cut down on that smell, but it adds another powerful and natural cleaner to your all-purpose spray. To make your own cleaner, fill a mason jar about three-quarters of the way with citrus peels, then add enough vinegar to totally submerge them. You can use any kind of citrus peels for this process. The most popular choices are orange, lime, grapefruit, or lemon peels.

This cleaner will not be ready straight away–it needs time to brew before it will be an effective deodorizer as well as a cleaner. This process will take about two to three weeks for the mixture to completely brew, so put it in a secure place–but not so out of the way that you’ll forget about it. It needs to be shaken about once per day to help the newly forming solution mix evenly. Once your time is up, you can drain off the liquid and use it to fill a spray bottle.

2. Deep Clean the Carpet

Citrus carpet freshener is a great way to loosen up dirt while giving the house a cleaner, lighter scent. To make this carpet freshener, you will need three to four tablespoons of freshly grated zest. Again, it does not matter what kind of citrus you use.

You’ll be combining this with one cup of borax and two cups of baking soda in a bowl. Use a whisk or another light utensil to mix the three ingredients thoroughly. Then, you just treat it like any other carpet freshener: sprinkle as needed, let it set a few minutes, and then vacuum away.

3. Steam Clean Your Microwave


Keeping a microwave clean is one of the toughest parts of taking care of a kitchen. The interior can be awkward to access at some angles, and the tough, nuked-on grime that can accumulate from just a dish or two does not always dissolve easily. One great way to take the effort out of this cleaning is to put some fresh lemon slices in a shallow and microwavable-safe bowl of water. Set the bowl in the microwave, and cook it on high for three minutes. After the timer goes off, let it stand for ten more minutes. For the last step, you should be able to wipe the microwave clean. The steam and citric acid should help to dissolve cooked-on deposits, and they can even help lighten some old stains.

4. Lightly Salted Lime Stovetops

Much like your microwave, grease and grime can build up on your stovetop. However, the cleaning process on your stove will be different than it is for your microwave. To clean your stovetop, sprinkle some salt over the area that needs a deep clean. Then, squeeze fresh lime slices over the salt until you wet it down thoroughly. The combination of the two will get you a light, gritty cleaner that cuts through tough spots that overwhelm your general cleaner.

5. Dissolve Hard Water Stains

This tip is great in the bathroom, but if you have hard water issues, it can be applied to any sink or drain around the house. Using half of a fresh lemon to scrub, you can cut through limescale and other deposits without having to rely on harsh cleaners that require gloves and other special tools to handle. This works on both porcelain and steel faucet fixtures, but you need to make sure to rinse the area thoroughly and dry it off afterward. Citric acid that is left to sit on steel for long periods of time can tarnish its surface.

6. Deep Clean the Garbage Disposal

If your garbage disposal is giving you that heady, well-used smell and a regular rinse is just not doing the job, try a few peels and some ice cubes. Make sure that you put a fair load down the drain, but also make sure not to overfill the disposal. Then, just run it until the ice and peels are completely gone, and your degreasing will be complete! Do this process every couple of weeks to keep the disposal fresh, and remember to rinse thoroughly as you use the disposal regularly to get the best results.

7. Citrus Power Stain Lifter


This one will remind you a little of the carpet freshener recipe, but it has couple of extra twists to make it work better for concentrated stain fighting jobs. Take about a quarter cup of grated peels–the fresher the better–and combine them with two teaspoons of cream of tartar. Add in an eighth of a cup of borax and a cup of baking soda, then thoroughly shake it all together in a jar. Whenever you need to lift a stain quickly and without too much fuss, apply this mix to the area, and watch as it lifts the stain before your eyes. Just remember, blot, don’t rub, and rinse thoroughly as you clean the remnants, just like you would with any other stain fighter.

8. Whiter, Brighter Sneakers

Citrus is not limited to being a house cleaner. It turns out that you can use citrus fruits to freshen up some of your apparel as well. Lemon juice is a great natural bleaching agent that takes long enough to work that you generally don’t have to worry about light spills like you do with actual bleach. This makes it easy to use it for a variety of detailed cleaning and whitening jobs, like freshening up an old pair of sneakers. All you need to do for this process is rinse off any dirt or residue, then spritz them thoroughly with lemon juice and let them dry in the sun, and you are all set.

Keeping the house clean without using a lot of irritating chemicals is a lot easier once you understand just how effective fresh citrus fruits can be. Remember, these ideas are a starting point. You can try out zest and juice in some of your existing home remedies to see what else citrus can do for your household regimen. The best part of utilizing citrus as a cleaning agent around your house it that this cheap option leaves your house smelling clean and fresh without any chemical odors.

5 Ways to Clean Your Oven Racks

Cleaning Ovens

There is not a lot of things that are more irritating to clean than a dirty oven, except possibly stained oven racks. Even if you use your oven sparingly, chances are that sticky grime, baked-on grease and burned pieces of food will accumulate. Some people have self-cleaning ovens, but many repair companies are cautioning against utilizing this feature. Temperatures can reach 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, causing damage to internal elements and the racks. The extreme heat level in the cleaning cycle destroys the shiny chrome finish. To prolong their life and avoid the racks looking dull, you should clean your oven racks the old-fashioned way.

Putting off cleaning your oven racks will only delay the inevitable and increase the amount of work needed to remove layers of baked-on food debris and grease. Rest assured that cleaning them is easy with the right technique. If you have a standard oven or a self-cleaning model in your home, you are going to need to learn how to clean your oven racks. Fortunately, by following any of these methods, you can get the job done quickly and with a minimum of hassle.

1. Dryer Sheets and Dishwashing Liquid

An effortless way to clean your oven racks is to line your bathtub with dryer sheets. Lay the oven racks on top of the sheets, fill the tub with just enough warm water to cover the racks and add a half-cup of dish soap. Allow everything to sit overnight. Drain the tub in the morning and use the soaked dryer sheets to wipe the racks clean. The power of the antistatic in the dryer sheets helps to separate the food from the racks by diluting the bond, while the fabric softening agents soften the baked-on food. Because this method happens in the bathtub, cleanup after you take care of the oven racks is easy.

2. Baking Soda and Vinegar Bath

For this method you will also be using your bathtub. Set the racks in the tub without any water. Once they are in place, sprinkle baking soda–which acts an a cleanser and deodorizer–over the racks and then douse them with vinegar. After the foaming stops, run the hot water in the tub until it fully covers the racks and allow them to sit overnight. Scrub the racks with an old dishtowel in the morning to remove the grease and grime. Use an old toothbrush to remove the baked-on gunk. For especially stubborn spots, add kosher salt to create a more abrasive scrubbing system. Afterward, rinse the racks completely before you place them back in the oven.

Wall Oven

3. Ammonia Trash Bags

This is a fairly standard and straightforward no-mess method. You will need a large plastic trash bag, ammonia, a trash bin, a place outside where you can leave the racks overnight and a hose connected to a water source. To remove the grime from your oven racks with this technique, you simply place your oven racks in the large, unused trash bag. Add a half-quart of ammonia. Tightly tie off the bag and put it in a garbage can. Then let them sit overnight. The racks do not have to be coated in the ammonia, because the fumes will circulate and do the job. That being said, some people have found better success after they set the racks flat while they are in the plastic bags so that the ammonia can reach every spot.

If you try this, be very careful to seal the bags tightly so that the ammonia cannot leak out. Also make sure to place the garbage can outside so you don’t allow these dangerous fumes to circulate inside of your home. The next day, open the trash bag in a well-ventilated area. Be cautious of the ammonia and the fumes! Use gloves and safety goggles and wear something that you do not mind ruining. Spray the racks down thoroughly with a hose and watch the previously cooked-on grease dissolve right off. Once the racks are rinsed and dried, replace them in the oven.

4. Commercial Cleaners

Most commercial cleaners produce toxic fumes, so if you plan on using one, be sure to clean the racks outside. Cover a work surface with a plastic shower curtain or old newspaper. Lay the oven racks down in separate layers. After you put on rubber gloves to protect your hands, spray an oven cleaner product liberally onto both sides of the racks. Leave them sitting for at least 10 minutes, or whatever the recommended amount of time is for that product. Scrub the racks with an old rag or toothbrush and rinse thoroughly with a garden hose before replacing.

5. Dishwasher Soap Bath

For this strategy, all that you need is a bathtub, dishwasher granules, old towels and a few old sponges. This simple method has you place old towels down in your bathtub. Alternately, you can lay a few old sponges in the corners for the oven racks to rest on so that they will not scratch or damage your tub. Place the oven racks in your bathtub carefully, on top of the towel or sponges. Next fill your tub with just enough hot water to cover the racks. Then add a cup of dishwasher powder. Let the racks soak overnight. In the morning, rinse the racks. The stains will usually wipe right off with a firm rub of a sponge or clean cloth.

If you follow this tip but the marks still persist, try something more abrasive, like a dish scourer. If you are cleaning an oven rack with an enamel finish, make sure you do not apply too much pressure. Also, do not leave the product in contact with the racks for an extended period. An old toothbrush might be helpful for scrubbing into the corners and completely removing old scorch marks. Rinse thoroughly, dry and replace them in your oven.

Cleaning oven racks is time-consuming, and the chemicals present in most conventional oven cleaners are toxic. In addition, stains from burnt on foods can be enough to put anyone off from cleaning their oven racks. Nonetheless, with these simple and practical techniques, your oven racks will be glistening like new sooner than you realize. There are many other ways to clean oven racks, but these are the methods that do not require much work from you. Cleaning oven racks is a neglected and dirty job, but by following these techniques you can return them to their original sparkle with very little effort.

10 Tips to Make the Moving Process Easy

moving boxes

A move to a new home and a new neighborhood can be an exciting and fun adventure. But moving can also be stressful, exhausting, and frustrating. You can keep your sanity in check and make the move to your new home all in one piece by planning ahead and packing intelligently. Whether you are moving into your dream mansion or simply downsizing to a tiny house, make sure that your next move is as efficient and painless as possible by following these 10 tips.

1. Reduce, Sell or Recycle

Reduce what you have to pack by selling, donating, and tossing items you don’t need. You may want to have a garage sale a few weeks before the move, which will of course take time and energy, but it will also help you gain some extra money, which can be extremely helpful when you’re in the middle of relocating. Donating unwanted items can also be a great idea, plus some bigger items may be tax-deductible. If items are broken beyond repair or are no longer usable, such as electronic devices or toys, recycle what you can and then toss the rest. Consider this tip especially if you are a recent empty-nester, as there are likely many things your children left behind that are no longer needed.

2. Start Planning And Packing As Soon As Possible

As soon as you know you’ll be moving, you can start decluttering and packing in order to make the experience as easy as possible. If you’re transferring in the summer, pack up any winter gear first since you won’t need them anytime soon, or do the same with your summer clothes if moving in the winter. Spread out your workload, and pack up a few boxes each day so that the process is manageable and not overwhelming.

You’ll also need to remember to forward your mail and change your address with your bill companies and the DMV. This is such a simple step that it often gets overlooked. Changing your address can be done online and for free, and you can usually select the forwarding date so that your mail moves when you do.

3. Break It Down

Disassemble everything you can in order to make packing and relocating items easier. Once items are dismantled, put the hardware in a labeled, sealable bag and tape the hardware bag to the furniture pieces so that everything stays together. Purchasing a large roll of plastic wrap (typically sold in hardware stores) can come in handy, as you can use it to wrap up large and awkwardly shaped items, such as bunk bed supports or lightweight furniture pieces, while also keeping pieces together.

4. Save On Supplies

Moving into a new home can be an expensive process, so it is always good to look for any available areas for you to cut costs. You can get boxes and other packing supplies for free by checking online and by checking local grocery and liquor stores. Liquor store boxes are especially useful for glassware or other fragile items. You can usually ask employees to hold any boxes for you that are still in good shape, as long as you leave your name and number and let them know when you’ll come pick up the boxes in order to prove that you have a serious interest.

Another idea is to save up any boxes from deliveries you receive in the months leading up to your moving date. Instead of recycling the larger boxes right away, pack them away in your garage or storage closet until it is time to start boxing your items up. It might seem like clutter while you are collecting them over the months, but you’ll be thankful later when you are spared from purchasing a lot of new boxes.

5. A Place For Everything

Use what you already have to your advantage. In addition to saving boxes for heavier items, make sure you pack empty suitcases full of clothes, as well as utilize baskets and even laundry hampers with lightweight items. You can use your pillow cases to hold sheets and blankets, and your kitchen spices can be stored in your crock pot. Use every bit of space you can to hold other items, and you won’t have to purchase or pack as many boxes.

6. Make Necessary Items Easily Accessible

It is always smart to have an “Unpack First” box. This box should come with you in the car or be the last box in the truck, and it should contain everything you’ll need as soon as you get to your new home, such as scissors to cut open boxes, trash bags, eating utensils, toilet paper, paper towels, and other items you’ll want to help get you moved in and start unpacking right away.

You might also want to pack an overnight bag with phone chargers, toothbrushes and toothpaste, towels, and a change of clothes. This way you won’t need to start unpacking the second you get in the door or spend hours searching through boxes for your toothbrush.

stacked boxes

7. Protect Your Valuables and Heirlooms

You probably don’t want to trust just anyone with your expensive items, such as your fancy new computer or TV, or with any precious family heirlooms, such as your grandmother’s wedding dress. If at all possible, move things that are valuable or have sentimental value yourself, and put them in your car or somewhere that you can easily monitor. The last thing you would want is for them to get broken, damaged, or misplaced once you arrive at your new place.

8. Enlist Some Help

Ask friends and neighbors as nicely as you can to help you load up the truck or follow you to your new place and help unpack, if it’s not too far. It might be a good idea to offer incentives for your helpers, such as first dibs on your unwanted items or maybe a nice bottle of wine.

If you have kids or pets, ask family members or close friends to babysit. This way you can focus on the move and overseeing the loading and unpacking without worrying that your kids or pets will get lost in the shuffle.

9. Stack Wisely

Packing intelligently goes beyond what is inside of the boxes. When it comes time to start loading the van, pack heavier items, such as dressers, couches, or appliances first and in the back. Couches and sofas take up less space if you pack them on their side, and if you have matching couches, pack them so they face each other and form a rectangle. Add in heavier boxes next, and end with lighter items such as chairs or breakables.

Try to stack boxes that belong in the same room together, so that they get unloaded together and end up in the right place all at once. Remember to pack items tightly in the van, and be sure to fill up empty space with packing blankets or tie items to the side of the truck so that things don’t slide all over while you are driving. Add your mattress last so it can act as a buffer against the back of the truck, and it can help items stay in place.

10. Expect The Unexpected

It will take longer than you think to load and unload your items, and boxes may get lost, items may get damaged, and it’s likely the weather will not cooperate as well as you’d like. As long as you take everything in stride, take a deep breath, and expect the unexpected, you will be able to handle whatever the move throws your way. Moving can be a life-changing event that can lead to many wonderful opportunities, and it is easier that you think to make the move as seamless as possible. By planning thoroughly and starting early, you can be confident in your move and you’ll be sitting pretty in your new home before you know it.

9 Things to Help You Have a Successful Garage Sale

garage sale clothes

Having a garage sale can help put a little extra cash in your pocket as well as help you get rid of things that you no longer want. Getting those unwanted possessions out of your home can create much needed extra space, and if you’re moving, a garage sale can be a great idea to help cut down on your possessions and earn some extra cash that you can use to furnish your new space. Use the following tips to help you have a successful garage sale and help you clean out your home.

1. Choose Carefully

Sorting out items to sell can be tough at first, but it is just the beginning that is the hardest part. A few weeks before your scheduled sale, go through your house room by room and pick out items that you rarely use or items that are hiding in closets or under the beds. Think carefully about each item before choosing to sell it. Is it something you use regularly, or not at all? Will you miss it if you sell it? Will those clothes ever fit, be in style, or be something you’ll want to wear again?

If the answer is no to any of those questions, put it in the “Sell” pile. Put items that are slated to sell in the garage or the basement, as long as they are somewhere where they’ll be out of sight for a while. This way you won’t be tempted to let them back in the house before the sale, and you’ll know what you can or cannot live without. If you’re moving, this step can help you get items out of the house before packing begins.

2. Presentation and Organization

yard sale

It is easy to stick your things outside and just wait for interested buyers, but you can attract more customers and get better prices for your items if you make sure to focus on your presentation. Clean items up so they look nice, fix missing pieces or properly label broken items, and put objects back in the original packaging if you still have it. You should also organize similar items in sections, in order to help buyers have an easier shopping experience. This encourages shoppers to leave with more than one item, and you gain a better chance of selling your stuff by putting a little more effort into how things look.

3. Do Pricing Research

If you have expensive items for sale, such as televisions, video game systems, or large pieces of furniture, try to compare prices for similar items online and price accordingly. By doing your research beforehand, you’ll have a better understanding of what your items are worth and you can make sure to get a reasonable price for them.

4. Pricing and the Art of Negotiation

Once you’ve done your research, make sure to properly label each item with a reasonable price. You’ll likely be overwhelmed with keeping things going during the day and the last thing you’ll want to do is try to think of a price on the spot. However, keep in mind that you are trying to get rid of stuff, so if someone offers a fair price for an item, even if it is below the labeled price, you may want to negotiate in order to get rid of your unwanted belongings.

It is important to keep in mind that many of your items will probably sell for a lot less than you originally planned. Take care not to overprice your items, because this will detract visitors from buying anything from your stock. People tend to overprice items that they have some sort of sentimental attachment to, but keep in mind that any potential buyer will not have the same sort of attachment towards the item. It is important to remain realistic about your price tags if you want to sell as much of your stock as possible.

5. Location, Location, Location

Perhaps your yard is a little small, or your home is currently on the market and you need to show it at a moment’s notice. Maybe your house is out of the way or hard to get to. You might want to consider a better location for your garage sale in order to get more customers and thus get more cash. It might be a good idea to ask to use a friend or neighbor’s yard, or maybe have your garage sale at a local church or community center. Location is everything, and the more customers you are able to attract, the better your chances of making good money.

If you are unable to relocate to a better location, consider spending the time to create eye-catching signs to draw in more customers. If you belong to a neighborhood community, you might want to ask your HOA if there is a community-wide garage sale scheduled in the near future. These are great events for drawing in a large audience, which can be challenging when you’re on your own.

6. Enlist Some Help

Before the sale, kids can help pick out toys that they no longer want or need, and older siblings can help organize, clean, and price items. On the big day, make sure everyone is around to help. Having all the family and even some friends on hand can help ensure that the sale goes smoothly. Remember to offer some incentives for helping hands, such as first dibs on items or half off anything left at the end of the sale.

yard sale sign

7. Get The Word Out

Tell your neighbors, put up signs around the neighborhood or on community boards, and advertise in the classifieds online or the local paper the dates and times of your moving sale. You can also mention what sort of items shoppers can expect, such as baby clothes or exercise equipment, in order to get people who are actually interested in your items to come out. Again, if your community supports a neighborhood-wide garage sale, find out when it is and take the necessary steps to be a part of this event. You are more likely to attract a bigger audience if you are part of a well-publicized event.

8. Dollars and Cents

Make sure to have smaller bills and coins on hand the day of the sale so that you’ll be able to make change for customers who pay with larger bills. If you will not accept checks, make sure to have a large sign that states “No Checks”. As for where to keep your cash, it is recommended that you do not use a cash box unless you have someone standing next to it at all times, as they are easy to steal. It is a better idea to use a fanny pack or a similar getup to keep your cash on hand and away from thieves.

9. Be Friendly and Fair

Chat with your customers to get an idea of what they want or need. Who knows, you just might have their desired item hiding in a box or waiting to be put out on the table. Don’t price your items too high, and be prepared to negotiate if you want to. Remember to be polite if you decline an offer, or give a reason for a labeled price, such as rare or popular items that sell for a similar price online. By being friendly and fair, buyers will leave happy, and they may spread the word or come back for more if you have another sale in the future.

Putting in the extra time and effort beforehand can help guarantee a successful garage sale when the day comes. Whether you are an empty-nester or just in need of some extra cash, you are sure to benefit from a thorough garage sale. Once everyone is gone and your unwanted items have found new homes, you can relax with your wad of cash and give yourself a much-deserved pat on the back!

9 Tips for Preventing Drowning


Each year in America there are thousands of deaths due to drowning. These deaths occur in swimming pools, rivers, lakes and oceans. The victims are young and old, healthy and impaired, and many of them are generally strong swimmers. Drowning can occur in an instant, and even when it does not cause death it can cause irreparable damage to vulnerable brain cells. Learn to stay safe and protect yourself and others from the tragedy of drowning.

1. Take Swimming Lessons

Both children and adults benefit from strong swimming skills. Many classes train even babies to stay afloat, a skill that can be a lifesaver if a young child falls into water. Classes for older children and adults may require them to learn water safety skills such as how to stay afloat while fully clothed, how to turn clothing into a flotation device and how to assist a person who is drowning without putting yourself into danger. Adults should learn to swim so they can protect themselves as well as the children they are with.

2. Learn CPR

In the event of an accident, CPR can be lifesaving when administered immediately. Brain cells are damaged within minutes without proper oxygen, so if a tragedy occurs there will not be time to wait for emergency response. Many hospitals, community recreation centers and doctors’ offices offer free or low cost CPR certification. Teens can become certified as well, which is especially beneficial if they will be boating or swimming with friends or babysitting other children. If it’s been a while since you became certified, it is a good idea to take a refresher course to update your skills and learn new guidelines.

3. Use Safety Gear

life vest

Both children and adults should wear coastguard approved life vests when boating, waterskiing or riding jet skis. This is necessary regardless of the safety of the vehicle, the proficiency of the driver, the distance being traveled or the swimming ability of the rider. In 90 percent of boat related deaths the victim was not wearing a life jacket. Boaters should keep life vests on even when the boat is stationary, as nearly a third of boating deaths each year occurred on boats that were anchored, drifting, docked or moored. Pool noodles, floaties, kick boards and plastic tubes are not acceptable flotation devices and should not be counted on to prevent drowning.

4. Don’t Drink and Dive

Not surprisingly, alcohol is involved in an alarming number of aquatic accidents and deaths. Both boat drivers and passengers should stay sober when on the water. Alcohol impairs coordination, balance and judgment, and is particularly dangerous when paired with sun exposure.

If you are ashore and hosting a pool party where there will be alcohol, be sure to enforce a one or two drink maximum for each guest. If there are kids present, it is a good idea to not allow alcohol for anyone so everyone can stay sharp and keep an eye on each other.

5. Know the Terrain

When you are enjoying recreational water sports outdoors, it’s important to be familiar with the area and its hazards. Pay attention to tides and currents at the beach, and stay away from rocky shores and strong waves. Rivers can have rock ledges, sudden drop-offs, fallen trees, tangles of roots and branches near the shore, submerged shelves and other hazards. A lazy current can quickly gain strength, posing a danger to even the strongest swimmer. Even if you are familiar with the terrain and have checked weather reports for possible complications, always be on your guard for unexpected dangers.

6. Install Safety Gates

If you have a pool in your backyard, install a childproof fence with an alarm to ensure a neighborhood child doesn’t gain access without your permission. In many states this is a legal requirement before installing a swimming pool. Be sure you also have the appropriate equipment on hand in case there is an emergency, including a flotation device. You might also want to consider fencing off your yard with a tall fence than young children can’t see over or through in order to discourage them from entering your yard and pool without your consent.

7. Designate a Lifeguard

While some swimming deaths occur because a child has wandered off by themselves and fallen in the water, a surprising number occur in crowded swimming pools and at family gatherings. Many people often assume that because so many adults are present there must be many eyes on the situation, but when we assume that everyone is watching, the sad truth is that it’s likely no one really is. Make sure someone is officially on duty at all times and implement a strict no cell phone policy for your watcher. Assign at least two people to check the pool area and lock all gates before moving on to a new activity. Never leave children unattended by any bodies of water.

8. Learn About Delayed Drowning

Delayed drowning is a serious occurrence that can happen hours after exposure to water, usually after a close call where a child fell in and swallowed some water but afterward appeared to be unharmed. Delayed drowning occurs because a small amount of water has infiltrated the lungs and prohibits them from properly oxygenating blood. As the blood becomes less oxygenated, breathing becomes increasingly difficult. Within hours the victim could die.

Delayed drowning is sometimes called dry drowning, though there is a difference between the two. With dry drowning, aspirated water causes the vocal chords to spasm. This shuts off airways and neither water nor air can reach the lungs, causing the victim to asphyxiate. Dry drowning and delayed drowning look the same; the symptoms include difficulty breathing, coughing, chest pain and vomiting. It may also present as extreme tiredness or odd behavior. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should receive emergency medical care immediately.

9. Remember That Drowning is Silent

We often picture drowning like it is shown in the movies, where the victim is splashing loudly and shouting for help, but this is a dangerous misrepresentation. A child who can call for help is still coming above water and still taking in some air. They are certainly in danger, but they are not yet drowning. The truth of the matter is that drowning is silent and devastating. The victim is trapped in the water and unable to break the surface, which can appear completely calm. A person can drown even among a group of swimmers because it can be difficult to see them beneath the water and there is no sound to hear.

Boating, swimming and playing at the beach are the highlight of the season for many families. Keep your activities from taking a tragic turn by learning CPR and water safety skills, investing in and using appropriate safety equipment and insisting on safe, sober behavior whenever you are near the water.

11 Tips to Keep Your Lawnmower Running Correctly

lawnmower tips

When it comes to lawn care, you might dream of the day that you first brought your brand new lawnmower home. It used to start on the first pull and cut your entire yard evenly. After some wear and tear, your mower might not be as youthful as it once was, but that doesn’t mean it won’t do its job well. With some regular maintenance, you can get the most out of your mower for years to come. Follow these lawnmower maintenance tips to keep your mower and your grass in tip-top shape.

1. Use Fresh Gas

When a mower doesn’t start, old gas is one of the usual suspects. Gasoline is only fresh for about 30 days. Old fuel will cause moisture build up, loss of octane and gum deposits. After a mowing session, drain your gas tank, especially if you don’t plan to use the mower again for more than a month. When you refill the mower with fuel again, be sure to use only fresh gas instead of what is already in your garage.

2. Replace the Engine Oil

Like a car, you need to check the oil regularly. Monitor your mower’s oil level and check for debris. If the oil is dirty or a dark black color, drain it using the drain plug underneath your mower. If you can’t find a drain plug, carefully tilt the machine on its side to drain. You should get approximately 50 hours of operation from each oil change. Be sure to use clean SAE 30 engine oil.

3. Keep an Eye on the Spark Plug

Dirty or old spark plugs can cause a multitude of problems with your machine. In particular, your mower might lose power during use, which can be a dangerous situation. Spark plugs are easy to replace and inexpensive to purchase. Replace yours either once a year or after 100 hours of mower use. When installing the new plug, do not over tighten it as this can prevent the mower from starting.

4. Change the Air Filter Regularly

For most mowers, there will be a paper or foam air filter that will be easily accessible. These are fairly inexpensive and should be replaced annually. Clogged or dirty filters cause the gas to burn less efficiently and put more operating stress on the machine. It might make the motor lose power in the middle of use or not start in the first place. Either change the filter at the beginning of every operating season or after 25 hours of operation–whichever is first.

5. Clean the Mower Deck

The mower deck and its undercarriage often get clogged with grass and other debris. To a certain extent, this is normal and expected, but too much build up might cause uneven cuts or engine problems. For cleaning, disconnect the spark plug and use soap and water to remove grease, dirt and grass. If you have heavy build up on the undercarriage, use a tool to scrape it away.

6. Clean the Engine


The engine’s air screen and cylinder fins need to be free of dirt and debris to operate at full capacity. This might sound a little bit more difficult if you do not have mechanical experience, but consult your owner’s manual to familiarize yourself with your engine’s anatomy. Be careful to wear gloves if you do not want to get gasoline residue on your hands and make sure the machine is cool to the touch before you begin.

7. Keep the Mower Blade Sharp

A dull mower blade might be the reason you’ve noticed an uneven cut in your lawn. You can sharpen blades with a grinder wheel or file. Do not complete this task while the blade is still on the mower. Take special care to keep the blade’s balance. An unbalanced blade will cut unevenly and eventually damage the mower or engine. Once you believe you are finished sharpening your blade, you can test the balance by placing the blade’s center hold on a stationary nail. If the blade remains balanced on the nail, you are ready to go.

8. Use the Right Gasoline

Do not use weed-whacker fuel. It can be either too lean or too rich depending on the type of mower you have. If you have a four-cycle or two-cycle engine, take care to use the recommended type of fuel. Even if you use the wrong gas, your mower will probably run for a while, but eventually the engine won’t restart. If you make this mistake, just drain the fuel tank and see if the spark plug needs a change. Then, refill your mower with the right gas.

9. Look for Worn or Damaged Belts

If you have a power propelled mower, you will have to keep an eye on the machine’s belts. Once you notice any major wear and tear, replace the worn or damaged belts with new ones. To maintain the driver system, check the gear case and surrounding area. Make sure this region stays clean of dirt and grass build up. During your cutting season, clean the drive cover at least twice.

10. Read the Owner’s Manual

Just like with a car or any fancy new electronic, you should consult with the owner’s manual before you use it. This is true for lawnmowers as well. Each mower is different, so maintenance requirements might vary slightly between machines. Some machines might need more frequent filter changes or have an unusual tank placement. The best way to keep your machine in good shape is to know all about it. Thus, take some time to understand your mower and pay close attention to the location of the air filter, fuel tank and spark plug.

11. Get a Professional Tune Up

You don’t need to take your mower into the shop often, but an annual check up can be helpful, especially if you don’t often work with mechanical equipment. A professional will check your filters, plugs and engine as well as perform diagnostic tests. Plus, they’ll even clean the mower for you.

As long as you stay in tune with how your machine is running, you will be able to catch issues early before they become large problems. If you follow these lawnmower maintenance tips, you will get the most out of your machine for many seasons to come.

9 Ways to Remove Tablecloth Stains

stained tablecloth

Whether you use vintage tablecloths or brand-new ones, keeping your tablecloths clean for each special occasion can be a challenge. Many of the most commonly served foods and drinks also create the most persistent and obvious stains. Fortunately, with the following measures, it should be easy to clean even the most stubborn tablecloth stains. Keep reading for nine ways to rid your table linens of unsightly messes.

1. Scrape Away Stains

As a general rule, you should always scrape away food or other residue before you attempt to pretreat or wash out a stain. This ensures that you don’t just rub more food or grease into your tablecloth while you try to clean it. Make sure to use a dull knife or something similar to gently scrape off food without causing any damage to the cloth.

Two stains that scraping works especially well for are salad dressing and candle wax stains. When you’re working on salad dressing stains, try applying an artificial sweetener after scraping; this will help absorb liquid back out of the tablecloth. If you’re removing candle wax stains, don’t try to scrub them out. Instead, scrape away as much wax as possible, place paper towels over the remaining wax and then apply a heated iron. The wax will melt into the paper towels, leaving your tablecloth free of residue and ready for any other necessary cleaning.

2. Pretreat Tough Spots

Spilled coffee

With proper preparation, it should be easy to remove many of the most common and conspicuous stains. In many cases, you can completely eliminate these stains by rubbing them with bar soap, laundry detergent or specialized stain removal products before washing the tablecloth. Try the following tactics for these common stains:

  • Butter: For best results, apply stain remover or liquid detergent, then wash the tablecloth with hot water.
  • Olive oil: Pretreat the stain with laundry soap or stain remover, and use the hottest setting to wash it. You may need to run a few washes to get the stain fully out; make sure that you don’t let the tablecloth dry in between washes, as this can cause the stain to set.
  • Coffee and tea: All three methods of pretreatment should work on these stains.
  • Red wine: After soaking the cloth with cold water, use stain remover or laundry detergent as a pretreatment.
  • Tomato sauce: You can use the same approach as you would for red wine. For added effectiveness, you may want to use bleach when you wash the tablecloth.

Remember that the sooner you attempt to remove these stains, the more effective your efforts will be.

3. Tap Into the Power of Enzymes

Many modern laundry detergents employ enzymes, which are proteins that speed up chemical reactions. Different enzymes will react with different substances and break them down, which makes stain removal easier. For example, some enzymes act on fat-based stains, while others are effective at breaking down protein-based stains or carbohydrate-based stains. Stains with a high fat content, such as gravy and grease stains, can be removed more effectively if you pretreat them with a detergent that contains enzymes.

4. Shampoo Out Oil Stains

Tablecloth stains that contain a high level of oil or grease, such as gravy and olive oil stains, can also sometimes be removed with shampoo for oily hair. This type of shampoo is designed to break down grease and oil, and it is less harsh than most degreasing products, which makes it a good choice for more delicate tablecloths. To use shampoo as a pretreatment, just wet the stain, apply the shampoo and start scrubbing. Rinse the shampoo off and repeat as necessary.

5. Bleach Out Discoloration

bleach bottle

Older tablecloths may also develop stains that stem from aging, rather than spilled foods or drinks. If your cloths are turning yellow or gray, you can use a mild bleach treatment to restore a more natural color. Chlorine bleach can actually cause certain fabrics and colors to turn yellow, so make sure to choose bleach that uses a different primary ingredient.

6. Brush Stains Off

Some tablecloth stains can be removed more effectively if you simply brush off the surface stain before taking any other steps. For example, to remove mildew, you should brush away as much of the substance as possible; then, you can apply strong soap and wash the tablecloth with the hottest water cycle. If you’re treating scorch marks or burn marks, make sure to brush off the cinders before applying detergent.

7. Remove Rust

If you own vintage tablecloths or other tablecloths that you use infrequently, they may develop rust while they are in storage. Fortunately, there are a few easy solutions. For a quick home remedy, you can apply lemon juice and salt to the stain. Make sure to keep the tablecloth damp, and keep applying this mixture repeatedly as needed. A commercial product that is designed to remove rust should also be effective.

8. Keep White Tablecloths Clean

If you use pure white tablecloths, it’s important to treat stains as early as possible. In some cases, though, you may need to use bleach to eliminate stains. If you use linen or cotton tablecloths, make sure to avoid using chlorine bleach for spot treatments or washing. Again, this bleach can cause yellowing and break down the cloth fibers. Instead, look for a non-chlorine product. You may need to run more washes to remove stains with these products, but you won’t have to worry about losing the true color of your tablecloth.

9. Protect Colorful Tablecloths

If you’re trying to remove stains from a colorful, patterned tablecloth, make sure to check that the colors won’t run. You should spot test a small section of the cloth before you apply pretreatments or throw the cloth in the wash. If running appears to be an issue, you can wash the cloth in warm water with table salt added in to help fix the color. If you’re only dealing with minor stains, you can also wash the cloth in cool water, which will help set the color of the fabric.

When you’re dealing with any type of tablecloth stain, it’s important to treat it as quickly as possible and be patient; in some cases, multiple pretreatments or washes may be necessary. However, if you stick to these guidelines, keeping anything from brand-new tablecloths to vintage linens clean should be easy.

9 Tips for Having a Backyard Barbecue

BBQ party

There is no better time for a fun get-together than during the summer, when people come together outside and enjoy the weather. But the idea of hosting a party of your own can seem a little daunting with all the planning, cleaning and prepping necessary. However, with an organized approach it can be easy to get everything done efficiently so you can spend your time relaxing with your guests. Follow these 9 tips in order to plan and execute the perfect backyard barbecue.

1. Plan Ahead

As with just about everything, planning is key when it comes to pulling off a successful party. Creating lists of supplies, guests, food items and other necessities will help keep you organized and on track. You may even want to schedule different types of preparations by the day so you won’t be rushing the day of the event.

Start with a guest list and get your invitations out. Word of mouth or electronic invitations are fine for a casual barbecue. Next, plan out the non-food items you will need and get those several days before the party if possible. Once you’ve planned the menu you can make a two shopping lists: one for a couple days in advance and one for the morning of the backyard party. Some foods need to be bought fresh, and that’s OK as long as you plan accordingly.

You should also ensure that your grill is in good working order. Make sure you have plenty of the proper fuel for your appliance. If you are looking to purchase your first grill for the sole purpose of throwing this party, be sure you do plenty of research so you know you are picking the right one for you.

2. Create a Simple Menu

If you will providing all the food items, make sure to keep your menu simple. Most people like to eat lighter and healthier in the summertime anyway. Stick with the classics: grilled meats, a vegetarian option, corn on the cob, fruit salads, green salads and lots of beverages. Take extra care to not forget to include an option for your vegetarian guests, and certainly plan for a delicious dessert. Your final sweets should be light as well–gooey chocolate is less appealing during the hot months.

Another option is to make the party a potluck, which can help you save money. You might want to assign guests a specific category of items to bring. Otherwise you could end up with six fruit salads and no desserts.

3. Cooking Ahead of Time

You’ll want to make as many menu items as you can before the party. It can be very frustrating trying to prepare dishes while guests are in the kitchen and watching you expectantly. Of course, there will be things you cannot make until the day of the backyard party, but you’ll want to plan your menu accordingly to minimize those things.

Also, schedule yourself time to decorate your yard or set up the buffet. You want your guests to be able to make themselves comfortable as soon as they arrive.

4. Offer an Assortment of Beverages

EdgeStar Ultra Low Temperature Full Size Stainless Steel Kegerator

A warm summer day will mean thirsty party goers, so you’ll want to be prepared with several different drink items. Lemonade and iced tea are classic barbecue offerings. If you plan on serving water or soda, you might want to use a tub full of ice to keep the bottles cool. If you are catering your party more for adults, be sure to include several beer, wine and cocktail options for your guests to choose from.

When it comes to parties, it is super helpful to have an extra beverage fridge to keep drinks cool until it’s time to put them out for guests. A kegerator with a beer tap is a particularly useful appliance to keep the brew flowing for your visitors, and no one will have to pump a keg all night! Kegerators can also be equipped with root beer if you are opting to keep your cookout dry.

5. Have Extras of Everything

Make sure to buy or make extras of everything. Not just the food and drinks–also remember to have extra plates, cups and seating. It’s easier to send people home with leftovers than it is to run to the store if you run out of something. Even things you don’t think you’ll need extra of, such as propane, should be bought early and held in reserve.

6. Be Prepared for Your Guests

Plan to have appetizers ready for your guests as soon as they arrive. They likely will be hungry, and it’s nice to have something to munch on while waiting for the main course. Chips and dip are just fine, but maybe offer some fruit skewers, finger foods or mini cups of barbecued beans to keep your guests satisfied.

When you are placing food out early for party goers, remember that things with mayonnaise or dairy products cannot sit out for a very long time without a bed of ice or other cooling device. You don’t want the potato salad hanging out in the sun for four hours: it may be unsafe to eat and certainly won’t look appetizing.

7. Crank Up the Stereo

Be sure to have music going in the background at your party. You don’t need to have a full backyard stereo system, but you can turn one of your interior speakers toward the window to help magnify the sound. Even a small boom box will do, though this will limit the selections you can play.

If you have music stations by theme or time period available through your cable TV provider or internet radio, this can be a good, commercial-free option. If you are super organized and ambitious, you can even create your own playlist for the night and save it on your computer or mobile music device to play throughout the party.

8. Prepare Some Games

If you will be inviting children to the barbecue, plan to have some games or other outdoor activities available to keep them occupied. Of course, the adults might want to get in on the fun as well. If you expect the party to last more than three hours, it can very helpful in keeping everyone occupied to have lawn games, water toys or decks of cards set out for the guests.

One fun game idea is to use non-toxic spray paint to paint a Twister board–just big dots in four colors–onto your grass. The rain or lawnmower will remove the paint eventually, and in the meantime, the board creates a wind-proof, outdoor-friendly format to enjoy this classic group activity. Other games to consider are hopscotch, volleyball, soccer, or even basketball, if you have a hoop.

9. The Cleanup Process

Depending how late the night goes, you might want to leave cleanup for the morning. Just make sure to put the food away at night before any outdoor critters find their way into your yard. Paper plates and cups are helpful for the cleanup process, but you might consider the reusable type of disposable serveware to cut down on waste. If you have the room, consider hanging garbage bags in convenient areas of your yard to discourage your guests from littering.

Hosting a backyard barbecue is a great way to connect with friends and enjoy the summer weather. With a little work in advance, you can pull a cookout off without worry.