Regardless of whether you visit your cottage seasonally or year-round, doing “fall cleaning” can be both useful and cathartic.  

By Karen Phillips

I know that most people love “spring cleaning,” but for some of us, the fall is when we like to sort through things. I like to know what I need to bring back up to the cottage in the spring. I also find that this is a great way to take stock of what worked well for me and what I’d like to improve upon in the future. It gives me a chance to purge and plan for what I anticipate next year.   

We close our cottage down for the winter months. But regardless of whether you’re officially closing up the cottage for the season or have an-all season property, doing an autumn cleanup can be both useful and cathartic. Here’s how to get started, category-by-category: 

Dry Goods: Place all dry goods in glass jars and label them. This way, they are protected from rodents over the winter and are kept fresh for spring. Take a photo of your stock so that you can refer back to it in the spring. I’m also a big fan of lists, so will usually make a list of what I’d like to bring back in the spring to restock (i.e. nuts, seeds, rice). 

Cleaning Supplies: Use up the ends of items and make a list of what you will want to take home and bring back fresh in the spring. I also look at the content of my supplies and discard those that are full of chemicals in favour of more environment and health-friendly options. 

Linens: Go through your linens, bath and beach towels. Discard the ones that are over-used, or cut them up and repurpose them for cleaning or use in the garage/shed. Also, take a look at your pillows. These can be cleaned and put away – setting them in the sun to dry helps to bleach out stains. I like to store my linens in sealable bins, and pillows in clear garbage bags to prevent mice from making nests in them over the winter. I do this with our cottage clothes too, rather than leaving them in drawers.   

Games & Toys: Take a look at these items and make sure that all of the pieces are there, put sets back together and discard items that are random. If your kids or grandkids have outgrown a game or toy, perhaps consider taking it to your local transfer station and leave it at “the mall” – an area at our local transfer station for items that others may wish to repurpose.  Your items may be perfect for a cottage family who has just purchased or the new grandparents in the community who are beginning their games and toys collection.  

BBQ & Kitchen Utensils: How are these looking? It may be time to recycle and bring one or two new items for the next cottage season. Perhaps replacing your metal barbecue brushes would be a prudent decision. There are great alternatives available now – we like the wooden, all-natural cleaning tools. Next season, I’m bringing a new vegetable peeler and cheese grater.  

Emergency items: Check your flashlights and replace batteries if needed. Smoke detector batteries should be changed seasonally; I like to do so each fall. Don’t forget about your fire extinguishers: when was the last time you have them checked and serviced?  

First Aid Kits: These often take a real hit during the summer. Take some time to make note of what needs to be replenished and while you are at it, think about the supplies you would like to add to your kit. In the past couple of years, we have added an AED defibrillator (be sure to take it home if your cottage freezes), and a liquid antihistamine (such as Benadryl),particularly for snake bites. Tip: Include a syringe, which is ideal for administering the liquid antihistamine to dogs that have been bitten!  

Rugs: Has it been a while since you last cleaned your rugs. Perhaps this fall would be a good time for a good steam cleaning?  

Garage & Shed: This is a great time to sort through tools, placing like items together, discarding broken tools and making note of any items that would be a good addition. We also like to replace line on fishing rods and weed whackers, clean-off dirt and grime from equipment, sharpen blades and fix any items. This way, we’re all set for our return in the spring!  

Life Jackets: Take a look at what you have and make note if any of your children or grandchildren will need a larger size in the spring. Take the time to clean and dry them well to prevent mould from forming when stored away.  Think about how you can hang them up or store them together so that they remain dry and you know where they all are come spring.  

Water Toys: Environmentally friendly soap and a hose go a long way in keeping your water toys functional from year to year. Give them a good cleaning and once-over: patch areas if need be and make sure to put them away dry. You’ll love how they feel when you pull them out next year and they are all nice and clean.  

Boats & PWCs: Taking boats out of the water for the winter is a great time to have them properly serviced (ourselves or at the local marina), disconnect batteries, change oil, fix broken items and thoroughly clean them. When the spring arrives, our equipment is all ready to go! 

Even if you don’t have the time or resources to complete everything on your fall to-do list, accomplishing some of the items can really help you get a head start on next year’s cottage season. Why not give it a try? 

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