The Groundhog’s Guide to Surviving Winter

Hang on to your warm, furry hats: Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most celebrated groundhog, gazed at the ground and beheld his shadow Friday morning. This means six more weeks of frigid winter, if you trust the weather forecasting skills of this oversize rodent. —The Washington Post, Feb. 2, 2018

Right about now, it seems like winter might never end. So far, the season has brought snow to more parts of the country than usual, and long stretches of subzero temperatures to places used to the precipitation. And whether you believe in Punxsutawney Phil or real meteorologists, you can take a cue from the rodent charged with predicting winter’s length to survive it.

Groundhogs (or woodchucks) quite literally “hole up” for most of the winter. The average burrow is about 3 feet deep and 14 feet long, and includes 11 dens and galleries, including sleeping quarters, a nursery and a “bathroom.” Groundhogs keep these areas organized and neat — even waking from hibernation periodically throughout the winter for short bursts of housekeeping.

You can do the same! Nobody is going to judge if you want to spend some quality indoor time with the family, TV and couch when the wind blows and the temperatures drop. But at some point, you’ll have to harness the energy necessary to clean that nest.

Pick up detritus from meals and snacks as soon as you finish them. Make sure that all dishes go back to their designated areas for cleaning (and clean them on a daily basis). Gather up strewn-about clothing and blankets and get them into the washer. On a dry day, take dirty throw rugs, bedding and other mucked-up washables and put them through a cycle, too. Dust, sweep and mop to get winter dirt up and out of your home.

In completing these tasks quickly and continuously, you’ll make your space even more comfortable. You might also feel such a sense of accomplishment in getting those routine housekeeping chores done that you’ll be able to relax and “hibernate” more completely. You could even celebrate with a small reward such as a pizza or cup of hot chocolate.

In the spring — like the groundhog — you’ll be able to emerge from your burrow, enjoy the sunshine and indulge in healthy vegetarian options. But until the icy weather ends in six weeks, the challenge is to keep the space where you spend most of your time clean.

There’s No Dirt Like Winter Dirt

Many parts of the country that don’t get a lot of snow and ice did earlier this month, and it looks like there’s more to come. Readers who live in the North know how easy it is to bring mud, moisture and salt into the house, and have strategies to keep tracked-in dirt at bay. But some of these strategies bear repeating.

First, encourage everyone who enters your home to remove their shoes. This is the No. 1 way for winter dirt to enter your living space, and even the freshest, whitest snow likely contains salt, sand and other contaminants that will dirty the floors. Place trays or washable throw rugs by all exterior doors to catch the muck melting from footwear.

Throw rugs are often the best defense for high-traffic areas; they catch winter dirt and can be shaken out or thrown into the wash easily. Use them even on top of wall-to-wall carpet, since it’s difficult to get carpeting to look clean and bright again once people track dirty snow onto it.

Leave a towel by the door to wipe down your pets following a walk or romp in the snow, says the Vivint Smart Home blog. Many dogs and cats also develop thicker coats in cold weather, and ultimately shed more. Brush and groom them regularly to prevent that fur from flying everywhere and attaching itself to furniture and clothing.

If you haven’t already, change out the furnace filters, dust the ceiling fan blades, and vacuum refrigerator coils and blinds to keep allergens to a minimum while the house is closed up against the cold, House Logic says. Sheets, blankets and comforters also catch a lot of dust and dirt, so be sure to so wash them frequently.

Be vigilant. You can’t keep every speck of dust and dirt out of your house in winter, but you can keep it from building up, aggravating allergies and causing permanent damage to floors, carpets and other surfaces. Sweep, vacuum and mop frequently to get any dirt that’s brought into the house out quickly.

If the weather forecasts are correct, you’ll be spending lots of time indoors for a few more weeks, so take the appropriate steps to make sure your environment is clean and healthy. Then, count down the days until spring!

The Best Gift for Mom? A Clean Home

Many moms will want a big brunch, cards, jewelry and a bouquet of flowers on Mother’s Day. But some would rather have a little bit of quiet time or an hour of extra shut-eye than a big celebration. And a break from everyday chores is a gift that moms young and older will always appreciate.

Money magazine talked to a number of bloggers who write about motherhood, and found that the best Mother’s Day gift is basically a day off—meaning zero time spent in the kitchen, and some space to relax. Simple outings can also be good, but only if mom doesn’t have to lift a finger to help out.

One of the most-wanted “gifts” the moms mentioned is a clean house. “My ideal Mother’s Day gift would be my family all pitching in together to clean up the house, do the dishes, fold and put away the laundry, and make me something yummy to eat while I took a bubble bath or read a good book,”’s Crystal Paine told Money.

That comes as no surprise to this writer, who cleans, sweeps, vacuums and organizes some area of the home every time he visits his longtime neat freak of a mother. Since she’s getting older and downsizing, we often declutter and give the extra stuff to, which makes it easy for us to keep the house tidy while contributing to a good cause.

If your mother has allergies, consider a “real” spring cleaning that cleans up the indoor air after a long winter, Huffington Post writer Amy Ziff says. Open the windows and give her potted plants instead of cut stems; they’ll help keep the indoor air clean. Clean under the sinks and replace the toxic chemicals you may find there with natural alternatives.

“Our homes need to become healthy-air oases,” Ziff says. “By conducting a health check-up this (and every) Mother’s Day, we can help our moms, ourselves and all of our loved ones breathe easier.”

Cleaning and decluttering cost very little, and the effort is sure to be one that Mom treasures. Once the place is neat, spotless and fresh-smelling (and you’ve worked up an appetite), you can take her out to brunch or dinner, too!

Spring Is Here! It’s Time to Clean


Spring has finally sprung! Yesterday—in the Northern Hemisphere, at least—the vernal equinox marked the point at which day and night last roughly 12 hours each, and also the beginning of the growing season.

But spring has a more universal meaning for most busy households in the United States. Not only is it time to emerge from a state of relative hibernation, it’s also a time to make a new start in the ongoing effort keep our homes and lives clean and organized.

Spring cleaning can be a big job, though, and there are tons of ways to tackle it. The Oprah Network offers a single-day checklist to ensure that every part of your home is dusted and sanitized without ruining an entire weekend.

The methodical approach goes from bathrooms to bedrooms to kitchen to family room, using a top-to-bottom strategy to ensure dust won’t re-attach itself to surfaces for a while. Bonus: The final step in this 9-to-5 plan is ordering a pizza for dinner.

Reader’s Digest takes the top-down approach a step further in “10 Ways to Spring Clean Like a Pro,” starting on the top floor and working downward. Shedding excess stuff is a vital step in the plan: “Clear out your junk!” the story says. “If you haven’t used it in the past year, you don’t need it.”

Then, the story says, hold a yard sale or donate lightly-used clothing, books and household goods to charity. To make this stage of the spring-cleaning process even simpler, point your browser to and request a pickup.

Spring cleaning won’t just make your home fresher and more inviting, says Britain’s Spring Cleaning Week site—it will also help you feel more motivated and liberated. “Removing the gunk, ensuring every surface is shiny and every room is filled with cold, fresh air can change you as a person,” the site says.

You may even feel more energized and satisfied once spring cleaning is complete, the site adds. And anyone who has tackled the job in the past knows the sense of satisfaction that a job well done can create.

“The subconscious exercise that takes place when you clean helps release endorphins, therefore renewing your physical self by the end of the day,” the site says. “Going through with the spring clean can give you the satisfaction and thrill of having achieved something.”

There’s no reason to put off that seasonal cleaning and organizing any longer. Get started immediately, and you’ll be finished before you know it. The new you will thank you later.

Dust for a Cleaner Indoor Environment

A closed-up house can get dusty fast in the wintertime. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to dust your home’s ceiling fans, picture frames, electronics and the hidden spaces beneath furniture; vacuum all rugs and carpets; and replace your furnace filters. Not only will you save money on home heating costs, you’ll breathe easier knowing that the whole house is clean — and especially if you and your family members have allergies.