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Home Maintenance, Car Maintenance and Personal Care

car maintenance, home maintenance, and personal hygiene are key to aging in placeYou may have been performing home maintenance and car maintenance activities for many years.  And many of the tasks may be second nature by the time you retire.  But as you age, other priorities can distract you from the tasks that were once second nature.  Medical appointments and even a degradation in your cognitive processing can make memory and schedules more of a challenge.  A really good idea is to obtain a wall calendar.  Banks and other organizations often provide them for free.  Taking the time to note weekly, monthly and annual tasks saves a tremendous amount of frustration and can save money and help you safely age in place.   Use one master schedule for all of your special occasions, appointments and other items of importance.  The benefits you gain will far exceed the time it takes to keep your calendar up to date.  Check it each morning as a reminder for anything that needs to be done that day.

Home Maintenance


  • Refrigerator – Your refrigerator does not necessary just stop working when your filter needs to be changed.  But performance does degrade and ultimately, the lifetime of your unit can be shortened.  It is best to change your filter every 6 months.
  • HVAC Air Duct Returns – Remembering to change air duct filters can save a lot of money over time.  When you begin to hear the wheeze of a choking filter, your unit is already under stress to perform properly.  In addition, the filtering of dust and other particles cannot be captured making illness and lung related medical conditions more difficult to manage.  Consumer feedback data indicates that there is no great benefit to use of the more expensive 3 month filters.  However, if you require filters rated for medical purposes, be sure to follow your doctor’s advice.
  • H2O (kitchen sink water filter and house softener) – change or have serviced annually to ensure the filter is doing its job.  A clogged filter is a useless filter.


You would be surprised at how many animals make nests and deposit debris in chimneys.  It will not be apparent that dangerous materials are present.  It is best to just have a professional check for any potential build-up that create a fire hazard.


If you have not or cannot afford gutter guards, you need to have them cleaned out annually.  A build-up can prevent proper flow of runaway water and lead to water damage.

HVAC Annual Inspection

You HVAC may appear to be working fine.  But if you are low on Freon or have other functional issues that are not apparent, it could dramatically reduce the lifetime of your unit.

Yard/Lawn Treatment

mower, lawn care, lawn treatmentThere is no reason to rely on the expense of yard maintenance.  Some fresh air, sunshine and exercise may be just what the doctor ordered.  But not sure what to do when?  Go to http://www.thegardenhelper.com/calendar.html for a month by month guide.

Dryer Lint

Remove EVERY time you use the dryer.  Build-up can extend into piping and create a fire hazard.  If you are a practitioner or going green, you can toss out lint somewhere on your property for birds to use in their nest.

Disposal Cleaning

There are several ways to clean/cleanse your garbage disposal.

  • Before you throw away those citrus peels (or lemon, or grapefruit, or lime) into the garbage, place a couple small pieces of peel in your garbage disposal, and run some water down the drain as you turn on the disposal.  The rough peels help to clean the blades, and the citrus oils do a fantastic job of naturally freshening things up.  Bad odors disappear and you helped with the going green initiative by using a natural product rather than a cleaner!
  • Place a handful of ice cubes into your garbage disposal, turn on the water, and allow it to run for a minute or two. This can help remove build-up from the blades and remove odor-causing food that remain in the tank.
  • Sprinkle some baking soda down your disposal (I usually use ¼- ½ cup).  Pour around a cup of vinegar down the disposal. Do not turn on the water right away.  Let the two ingredients sit for 5-10 min.  They will foam and bubble.  Then, run hot H2O down and turn on the disposal for a few minutes.

Coffee Pot Cleaning

Keep your coffee pot functioning properly and extends its lifetime by cleaning it once a month.  The first thing you should do is to prepare a mixture of vinegar and water, using one part of vinegar and two parts of water and soak the coffee pot with it. Wipe the outer surface of the coffee maker and the heating element with a rag that has been applied with the vinegar solution.  Pour the solution of vinegar and water in the coffee maker.  Run the machine normally. After the cycle, leave it for about 15 minutes.  Rinse the filter with water and pour the vinegar solution out of the coffee pot.  Lastly, fill the coffee maker with water only and run another brewing process to remove any remaining particles that do not come out the first time.

Dishwasher Cleaning

You should clean your dishwasher on occasion to keep it running efficiently and smelling fresh.  If it starts to smell stale, clean away.  All you need is distilled white vinegar, baking soda, an old toothbrush, cotton swabs, something ti get in cracks (such as a toothpick), a soft cloth, and some paper towels.  Remove racks, utensil trays and any other loose parts before you begin.

dishwasher, cleaning a dishwasher, home maintenanceFill one side of kitchen sink with water and distilled white vinegar water (4 parts to 1 part). Wipe the parts you removed with the soft cloth saturated in the water/vinegar mixture.  Use a paper towel to remove particles and food remnants.

Use the rag saturated with vinegar water to wipe down inside and edges of door.  Use the toothbrush dipped in the vinegar/water mixture for tight places.  Use toothpicks to carefully get any debris stuck in cracks.

Reassemble and replace all parts.  Place a dishwasher-safe cup (approx. 2 cup size container) filled with plain white vinegar on the top rack of an empty dishwasher. Using the hottest water available, run the dishwasher through an energy or low wash cycle. Stop the cycle mid-way so the vinegar can sit on the bottom of the washer for 20 minutes.  The vinegar will help to wash away remaining loose, grease and grime.  It also sanitizes and helps to remove the stale odor.  When done, wipe out the inside with dry paper towels.

Clothes Washer Disinfectant

Turn on a cycle with Lysol disinfectant concentrate (in a brown bottle and located on the cleaner isle) will rid your washer of any musty smell and kill dangerous bacteria. It is laundry safe and very effective!  Do this whenever you begin to notice a musty smell.  Leaving your washer door ajar (for side door models) will help prevent the build-up of mold and mildew.

Faucet Drip (the same process is required for kitchen, bathroom, and washroom faucets)

If you notice a constant drip or leak from around mouth of your faucet you are likely in need of a washer replacement.  Typically you can screw off the mouth of the faucet and the washer is visible.  It will be a flat, donut shaped washer.  Use screwdriver to remove the washer.  Simply place the new washer you purchased and screw the mouth head back on your faucet.  Ta da!  You are now a home plumber.  If you have a leak around a handle rather than the mouth, you can do this too.  Go to http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-replace-a-washer-in-leaky-faucet.htmlfor very easy step by step instructions to avoid more costly plumber charges.


If your toilet is constantly running, your chain may just have slipped.  Remove the tank lid and see if the chain has gotten stuck under the rubber flapper.  If it has, pull the chain out from under the flapper.  You may need to move the hook into a slot the make the chain a little tighter.  If the chain is not in the way of the rubber flapper, you may need to replace the unit.  Go to http://www.wikihow.com/Fix-a-Flapper-on-a-Toiletfor easy step by step instructions.  If you are not comfortable doing this or have not been successful in your attempts get a friend or family member to help (they should be able to do this easily) or call a plumber.  The running water will cost you money.


It seems to happen too quickly.  You just get that tub or shower cleaned and up pops another patch of mold or mildew.   Mildew removal products work fairly well but they are caustic to your skin, irritate your lungs if applied in an areas without adequate ventilation, and are not cheap.  When using such a product, be careful and follow directions.  But application of a daily bath or shower spray helps prevent mold and mildew from forming.

Food Expiration

Expired food will not become a problem if you maintain some regular assessment of expiration dates.  Some foods have more flexibility than others when it comes to expiration dates.  And some foods are more dangerous if ingested following expiration.  Go to http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/do-food-expiration-dates-matterfor detailed information on the importance of food expiration.


Remove batteries from items that are used and then stored, such as holiday decorations.  Flashlights may not be used that often but it is important to have the readily available in the event of an emergency.  Check them occasionally and replace the batteries if not operational.  Once batteries go dead, they should not be left installed.  Acid will eventually begin to leak from alkaline batteries which can be dangerous to the touch.  Do not store batteries or dispose of them where animals or pets can get hold of them.  It is extremely dangerous and potentially deadly for an animal to swallow any kind of battery.  Alkaline batteries can be safely disposed of with normal household waste. Never dispose of batteries in fire because they could explode.  It is important not to dispose of large numbers of alkaline batteries in a group. Used batteries are often not completely dead. Grouping used batteries together can bring these live batteries into contact with one another, creating safety risks.

washer and dryer, washer cleaning, lint, laundrySheet and Towel Laundry

There are many things that affect how often you should run your sheet and towels through the laundry.  Certainly if you have been sick, wash them before reuse to reduce the possibility of a relapse.  If you have any open sores or apply medication to your body, you should laundry them more often.  And if you have episodes of sweating it is best to replace linens with ones that are fresh and clean.

Tree Limbs

Trimming should be performed to keep branches off of your home as it can lead to structural damage.  If large branches are over or very near your home, a strong wind or storm can also break the branch causing damage to your home and potentially even injure you if the structure gives way.  And trees with limbs that make it possible for a thief to break into an upstairs window should be removed for your protection.


Cover outside faucets with a styrofoam or other similar product available in the stores when temperatures are in the twenties or below.  Good information for winterizing your pipes can be found at http://plumbing.about.com/od/basics/a/Winterize-Outside-Faucets.htm

Drip faucets when temperatures are in the twenties or below to prevent the pipes from freezing.  It is also smart to leave the cabinet doors in front of faucets ajar to allow warmer air around the pipes.  This is another layer of protection from potential freezing.  If pipes do freeze, turn off the water source, wrap the pipe in a towel and use a blow dryer to slowly melt the ice.  This may prevent the pipe from bursting.

House Paint

It is smart to generally assess the exterior areas of your home that are painted and when fading occurs, you are close to the paint chipping away.  Once paint begins to chip, wood is exposed to the elements and rotting is not far behind.  You can eliminate the heavy costs associated with replacing rotten wood and underlying infrastructure by preventing water damage through proper home maintenance.


Even small leaks can lead to heavy damage.  As water accumulates and/or continual leakage occurs, your home will become damaged.  Shingles have a limited lifetime after which it is only a matter of time before replacement is needed.  Leakage from degraded shingles and wind and weather than cause loose shingles to break away, both of which lead to damage if not repaired in a timely manner.  Always call your insurance adjuster after major storm to have the roof inspected.  And keep an eye out of shingles that appear to be missing, lopsided, or otherwise out of place.

Fire Alarms

Be sure to change, or have changed, fire alarm batteries annually.  You should also test fire alarms every 6 months.  If you are not proactive, you may not even be aware that alarms have become non-functional.  And the one day you need an alarm, can be your last on earth if the batteries are dead.  So be smart and be prepared.

Fire Extinguisher

Always have a fire extinguisher easily accessible in your kitchen (at minimum).  It only takes a minute for a small grease fire to set the entire kitchen on fire.  Be sure to check the expiration and/or if the pressure needle is in the green are is should be in good working order.  If the unit is older than 7 years, it is suggested to dispose of it and get a new one.  Extinguishers are only expected to the used immediately following a small fire such as a grease in the kitchen.  If you do have a fire in your home, NEVER stay in your home when there is imminent danger, i.e. a large amount a smoke, a large flame, a flame from an unknown source, et..  It is better to lose your house than your life.  Have an emergency plan and practice it every few months so you will react rather than panic.

Car Maintenance

Oil Change

Your vehicle should have a light that comes on to indicate low oil.  But lights burn out sometimes.  The rule of thumb is to get your oil changed every 3000-5000 miles.  When you oil is changed, a sticker should be placed on your upper left windshield.  Check the sticker regularly and compare it to your odometer to determine when it is time for an oil change.  It is smart to have request the mechanic check all of your vehicle’s fluid levels.  Windshield wiper fluid, brake fluid, antifreeze and transmission fluid can all run low; some levels which can mean huge issues if not identified before damaging your car.

Tires – Air and Tread

Use gauge to check pressure monthly or when looks low, look at book for typical air pressure (expect 30-40), tread low when put penny in tread slot and depth does not extend onto Lincoln’s head or when you can tell where the radial belt strip is


Brake pad may need to be replaced when you start to hear a squeal when applying the brakes.  The average lifetime of brake pads, dependent upon the quality used, is 15,000 to 25,000 miles for city drivers and 30,000-40,000 for long distance drivers.

Washer fluid

When your windshield wiper sprayer stops working, you likely need to replenish the fluid.  If the fluid level is not low or replacement does not correct the problem, you may have another maintenance issue.  Washer fluid can be purchased at the store (auto, Walmart, etc.) and easily added to the washer tank.  If you do not know where the reservoir tank is located, look at your vehicle’s user manual.  Otherwise a friend, family member, or automotive care specialist can assist you.

Power Steering Fluid

It is fairly easy to tell when power steering fluid is running low as long as you know what to look for.  When the steering wheel becomes stiffer and more difficult to turn, you are likely running low on the fluid.  It is recommended that you get an automotive maintenance technical to assist in replenishing the fluid.

Brake Fluid

The thought of losing my brakes is terrifying.  Thankfully, you should be able to tell when your brake fluid is running low.  Trust your instincts.  If it feels as though more pressure is needed to stop vehicle than previously, your fluid may be running low.  Have the level checked if you are at all uncertain.

Gas Level

All vehicles have a gas indicator of some kind.  Check the level each time you use your vehicle.  It is recommended that you not allow your gas to get below ¼ tank for safety reasons. Your indicator may not be completely accurate or you may get stuck in a traffic jam. A like everything else, indicators can stop working completely.  If you ever notice your engine to choke out, even very quickly, you may be almost out of gas.  Find a safe place to stop quickly.  If not a gas issue, you may be experiencing another major engine problem.

windshield wipers, changing windshield wipersWiper Blades

Wiper blades are only good if they work.  What may appear to be perfectly good blades may in fact to blades that do very little to provide proper vision during precipitation.  You know blades need to be replaced when they begin to leave streaks across the glass.  While this can be a smaller issue in the daytime, it becomes a much greater issue at night.  Headlights reflect off the streaks making it extremely difficult to see.  Blades may also begin to split or completely break off of the wiper itself.  Take note of your make, model and year of car for purchasing new blades at your local automotive, Target or Walmart type of retailer.  A book should be located near the wiper blades that specifically define the blade that should be purchased for each vehicle type.  Easy to install instruction are on the package.  But in a nutshell, you slide the old blades off the wiper track and slide on the new blades.  You may be able to get an automotive store sales representative to help you.  Otherwise, any automotive maintenance personnel can assist you for a charge.  Less often, the wiper may need to be replaced.  This should be done by an automotive mechanic.


May need replacing if your car is taking more than the usual attempts to start, be sure all interior lights are turned off when you exit your vehicle and close doors tightly.


Most car engines are liquid cooled, meaning that keeping your engine full of coolant is critical. Letting the coolant level in your car get too low can mean disaster.   Most cars have a gauge on the dashboard that indicates with the coolant level is getting low.  But your anti-freeze can also get old and gunk up.  Winterize your car every year by checking the level and quality of the anti-freeze.  However, there are some coolants that do not need to be changed annually.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking your anti-freeze is okay.  You should still check.  It could be the difference between a car that runs and one with a frozen engine.  You can always pay for car maintenance rather than winterizing it yourself.

Personal Body Care

Feet Fungus

As you age, foot fungus often becomes a nagging complaint.  You can help prevent foot fungus by keeping your nails trimmed, wearing synthetic socks that keep moisture away from your feet, sprinkling your feet and the insides of your shoes with an antifungal spray or powder, wearing rubber gloves when hands are exposed to moisture for an extended period of time, limiting irritation of the skin around your nails, wearing shoes in public places (such as sandals in hotel bathrooms), choosing a reputable manicure and pedicure salon, giving up nail polish and artificial nails, and washing your hands after touching an infected nail.

Cracked Skin

If you have issue with dry skin, be diligent about applying lotion with aloe each day.  Cracked skin is a way for infection to find its way into your bloodstream.  MRSA is everywhere in the environment and as you age, immune system weakens making this type of staph infection dangerous and even deadly.


Brush your teeth two to three times a day.  Certainly after eating meals.  Bacteria build-up is not only a cause of gum disease and an increase in your dental issues, it has been tied to the heart.  So dental hygiene goes hand in hand with heart health.

Home Safety Practices

  • Never use electricity near water sources as death from electricity is a very real danger.  It happens every year to those who do not use safety precautions.
  • Have safety outlets installed near sinks if not already present – older houses may not them installed
  • Do not leave clothes dryer on when you leave the house as lint build up is a real fire hazard.
  • Do not leave your coffee pot on.   You may forget about it.  A neighbor of mine lost his home to a coffee pot that was accidentally left running.  This is a major fire hazard!
  • Do not start car when garage door is closed or leave car after lower the door No MATTER WHAT.  What may seem to be a short timeframe can lead to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Never allow a gas fireplace or gas stove to be on without a flame.  Gas build-up can occur quickly.   The gases can ignite very easily.
  • Do not use kerosene heaters as a heat source inside.  This is a huge fire hazard.
  • If you use candles indoors, be sure to full sided glass containers away from any hanging materials or loose items on a surface to prevent fires.
  • Do not manipulate a GPS, use a phone, text or any other distraction (including eating) while driving
  • Use a timer when you are cooking.  It is easy to lose track of time and a fire can start very easily.

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