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Organizing a Yard Cleanup Day

By Dave Ulacia

It’s that time of year again: time to put the yard to bed for the winter.  We know—you’re looking out your window wondering where the time went. Most of us are. There are always so many plans for the yard that never quite get completed—landscaping ideas that may have to wait until next year. And now the thought of putting the plants to bed just feels like another chore that has come too early (one you may not be looking forward to).

On the other hand, hopefully, you have great memories of activities, get-togethers, parties, picnics, and children’s playtime that keep you smiling even as you consider the work ahead of you. Preparing your yard for winter now makes it easier to get started in the spring, so next year you may have a bit more time for those big projects.

Now the question: how do you do it, involve your family in it, and keep your kids engaged and having fun along the way?  These suggestions certainly won’t work for every family situation or every yard, but they should help spur some ideas.

Attitude Makes All The Difference
The attitude with which you approach your work helps determine whether it will be enjoyable or drudgery. Attitude is contagious.  That is both good and bad news. An energetic, positive approach will go a long way with your kids. But if they have a bad attitude, you’ll have to work hard to avoid catching their attitude. Stay positive, assign tasks cheerfully, thank them for their hard work, remind them how much easier the yard work will be in the spring, and make things as fun as possible. But there’s a reason some things are called work, and it doesn’t hurt kids to experience it.

Work Efficiently
The most efficient way to clean up your yard is from the top down. First prune trees, trim hedges, and clean gutters. Next, clean and stain your deck and fence, close the pool if you have one etc. End at ground level. Mow your lawn, fertilize, and apply pre-emergent weed killer, cut back spent flowers, and pull up worn out vegetable plants.  Sounds simple enough, but just because this list fits in one small paragraph, it doesn’t mean it’s a small job. It will take more than one family cleanup day to get all of this done. Plan as much as you can do in a day, and set the rest aside for another time.

Set Limits
A family yard cleanup day doesn’t have to last all day, and it doesn’t have to include the whole family for the entire time. Give your children a list of items to complete and promise them that they can do their own thing as soon as their work is done. (Then keep your promise.) Free time is a great motivator.

Make It Fun
Take your kids to the store a day or two before you start your family yard cleanup day and buy the “necessities.” Get some of their favorite treats and any tools you may need (a new lawn rake, if the old one has bitten the dust, paint brushes, hedge trimmers, etc.). Talk with them about how much fun you’ll have in the yard together. When you begin to work, be sure to play music, order pizza, keep a pitcher full of punch and take breaks often. Start some friendly competitions. See if your children can finish something on their list before you finish something on yours. Give them a fun reward if they win. You get more done when you’re having fun.

Organize Your Tools
There are several ways to organize your tools. You can build a small rack in the corner of your garage, or you can purchase tool organizers at your local hardware store. However you choose to do it, now is the best time to do it. This is likely the last time you’ll use your yard tools before spring. Wherever you leave them at the end of this project is likely where they’ll be when spring arrives. Don’t waste time looking for tools—they hang well on fences, on the sides of sheds, on garage walls, and pegboard hooks. Find the best place for your tools and make it permanent.

Consider Composting
With all the debris you’re trimming and pulling back, you may want to consider composting. It’s a great way to reduce your environmental impact and gardening costs. Your local hardware store will likely have a variety of easy-to-use compost bins. As you clear your garden, remove blackened plants and add them to your compost. By spring, you’ll have a good amount of mulch to liven up your garden at no real cost to you. Composting is an art, but it’s easily learned, and your children will have fun working on it with you.

Hopefully these suggestions have sparked some ideas of your own. If so, leave a comment and share them with us. We’d love to hear from you. Meanwhile, good luck preparing your yard for the cold season.

Have fun and happy organizing!

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