There’s a chill in the air and Halloween candy in the stores, so homeowners know that means one thing: It’s time to do a little fall maintenance before the days get any shorter. Fall can go from “crisp but gorgeous” to “freezing cold” very suddenly, and you’ve got things to do before that happens.

All the prep work you do today will make it possible for you to have a safe, cozy winter — and let you stay mostly indoors once the bad weather hits. Here’s your guide to the steps you need to take today.

Plant Spring Bulbs and Fertilize Your Lawn

Do you want a gorgeous spring garden and a beautiful lawn all summer? Then get everything prepped for fall and winter.

This is the best time to plant bulb plants, like tulips and crocuses, so head over to your local nursery or landscape supply store and pick out a selection that you’d like to see grace your garden in the spring.

While you’re at it, pick up fertilizer for your lawn. While the grass will stop growing soon for the season, the roots underneath are still alive and active. The nutrients from your fertilizer will help them endure the cold of winter better, which means a brighter, healthier lawn in the future.

Clean, Cover and Store Your Outdoor Furniture

You can put this one off until it gets too cold to sit outside — as long as you don’t forget to do it entirely.

Ideally, to preserve the longevity of your outdoor furniture, you should clean everything off and tuck it all into storage. If you don’t have the room, at least make sure the grill is unhooked, cleaned off and put away for the season. Waterproof covers will protect your patio and porch items from the winter elements.

Cover your patio or porch items with a waterproof cover that will protect them from the winter elements. While you’re at it, check your outdoor spigots for leaks and put away your hoses for the duration.

Check for Drafts and Seal Them Up

Heating your home all winter is expensive, and you don’t want money (in the form of warm air) leaking out of cracks around your doors and windows. In fact, roughly 30% of the average home’s heating and cooling energy use is lost to drafts, so you need to eliminate those as much as possible.

Weatherstripping is your friend. It’s cheap and easy to use, so start checking your doors and windows now for drafts. If you haven’t updated your weatherstripping in a while, it’s time to replace it. If you haven’t put any down, it’s time to begin.

Clean Your Gutters (and Consider Shields)

The vast majority of the year, you can totally forget that your gutters even exist and they’ll keep on doing their job just the same. If you forget to clean them out in the fall, however, you can end up with water in your basement or other damage — so clean those things out before winter hits.

You may even want to consider installing gutter guards or shields so that you don’t run into unexpected problems. Plus, that will make keeping your gutters clean a breeze in the future.

Yes, this is one job that everybody hates. If you absolutely dread the thought of hauling out the ladder, setting it up, climbing up there and dredging out the accumulated muck from your gutters, now is a good time to hire someone to do it for you.

Attend to All of Your Home’s Heat Sources

You probably haven’t thought about your furnace since the first time the weather broke 60 degrees in the spring, but it’s time to give it a little TLC.

Make sure that the area around your furnace is free and clear of obstructions that could hinder airflow and increase your heating costs. Change the filters, and consider getting a seasonal maintenance check done by a professional.

Do you have a fireplace? It’s also time for its annual cleaning and safety inspection. (Don’t just casually eyeball this, either. If your chimney has a buildup of soot, that could lead to a fire.) While the pros do their job, you can stock up on firewood so that you’re ready for that first frost-covered night.

In the same vein, this is also a smart time to do the annual battery replacement in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. You also need to make sure that your fire extinguisher is handy, clean and in good working order.

Attend to the Creature-Comforts Indoors

These are all the small tasks that will help make your indoor areas cozy once it’s cold outside:

  • Clean your ceiling fan blades and reverse their direction. This will help them efficiently push warm air down from the ceiling to keep your rooms comfortable.
  • Change the window treatments and other accessories. Ditch the light, airy fabrics and pull out the winter drapes. Get rid of the plain cotton throws from the couch and pull out the thick, soft lap blankets you use in the winter.
  • Rotate the rugs and the couch cushions. This just helps your furnishings wear evenly, which means they’ll last longer.
  • Reprogram your thermostat. Every season has its rhythms, so use the winter routine to your advantage. If nobody is home during the weekdays, you can set your thermostat to lower the heat after everybody leaves and kick it back up when they’re due home again.

Finally, it’s time to do a little “fall cleaning,” which just means you need to pick up any clutter that’s accumulated over the summer, sweep the rugs and do a little dusting. That way, you’ll be ready to decorate for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas without any major effort or stress.

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