Muskoka Invasive Plant Management

Giant HogweedNo, I have not gone crazy, I don’t want to build a wall or cause panic, but we are being invaded here in beautiful Muskoka, by a series of invasive and noxious plants. If we ignore them, they will do permanent damage to our beautiful home, but the good news is we can all help eradicate them before they get a permanent foothold here.

Starting this month, the district of Muskoka will start a program of treating the roadside verges with herbicides wherever they find any of these plants. You can help by contacting them and letting them know if you see plants of this type growing. So, what are the plants, how do I recognize them and who do I contact?

Giant Hog Weed.  This one may be the easiest to recognize as you drive around Muskoka and certainly poses the most “danger to humans” as its sap can cause burns to the skin.

According to the District of Muskoka’s website

Giant Hogweed has two major negative impacts. Firstly, due to its invasive nature, it poses a threat to native biodiversity. Secondly, Giant Hogweed is a public health hazard. It produces a noxious sap that sensitizes the skin to ultraviolet light. This is known as photosensitivity, which can result in severe and painful burning and blistering. It is important to avoid any skin contact with this plant.

  • The plant can grow from 2.5 to 4 metres high (8 – 14 feet).
  • The saw-toothed leaves are deeply lobed and can grow to 1 metre (3 feet) across.
  • The stems are hollow with dark reddish-purple splotches and coarse white hair.
  • The watery sap produced by the leaves and stems contains a chemical that causes skin to become highly sensitive to the sun.
  • Small white flowers are clustered in an umbrella-shaped head that can grow larger than 30 centimeters (1 foot) in diameter.
  • The seeds are oval and flat.
  • It can be found along: roadsides, vacant lots and stream banks.

Getting rid of this plant if you have located it on your own property is not recommended. The District of Muskoka suggests calling in a professional weed control company to handle both the removal and disposal of this noxious plant. Remember if you do attempt this by yourself you cannot put it out for garbage collection. The plant waste must be disposed of properly. Read the specific instructions on the District of Muskoka website.

Japanese Knot Weed.  While it is not as simple to identify as Giant Hog Weed this plant also has distinctive characteristics.

According to the District of Muskoka’s website

The stalks grow straight up and can reach as high as 3 metres. The stems appear to be round and reddish-purple in colour. Large, heart-shaped leaves form in a zigzag pattern along the hollow stem. Flowers are cream-coloured that grow vertically from the stem in clusters.

  • Japanese Knot Weed has a strong root system and can spread about 10 metres from the parent stem.
  • It has the ability to grow through concrete and asphalt.
  • This fast-growing invasive species is known to change river flows, interrupting spawning beds, it rips through roadways and even threatens foundations of homes.
  • Knot Weed commonly grows in gardens, along roadsides and near old buildings or former building sites.

Unfortunately, getting rid of this plant is very difficult. While digging and cutting knotweed is a solution, this method can break up the rhizomes, creating more growing ends. To control the spread of Japanese knotweed in gardens and residential properties, stems must be cut down several times throughout the growing season to deplete the root system.  Cut the base of the stalk just before flowering once the plant reaches a height of 5 to 6 feet. This usually occurs around mid to late June in Muskoka. Subsequent cuttings may occur around early August and again in early September. Persistent cutting may be combined with other options such as digging out roots and laying down tarp material for several years in order to successfully control this species.

Invasive Phragmites (European Common Reed). This last plant of concern is perhaps the most difficult to identify as it looks very similar to natural local reed varieties.

According to the district of Muskoka’s web site

Invasive Phragmites:

  • grows in stands that can be extremely dense with as many as 200 stems per square metre
  • can grow so densely that it crowds out other species
  • can reach heights of up to 5 metres (15 feet)
  • has stems that are tan or beige in colour with blue-green leaves and large, dense seed heads.
  • Invasive Phragmites uptake nutrients from their environment and out-compete native plants such as cattails and willows; they result in loss of habitat for other plants and animal/aquatic life and further jeopardize species at risk.
  • Inhibit agricultural drainage ditches and cause flooding.
  • their dead stalks resist decay, filling in open ponds and creating dead zones unusable for wildlife
  • Once their seeds colonize an area, they spread quickly with seeds and rhizomes (horizontal plant stems growing underground).

Native Phragmites:

  • grows in stands that are usually not as dense as the invasive plant
  • well-established stands are frequently mixed with other plants
  • usually has more reddish-brown stems, yellow-green leaves and smaller, sparser seed heads.


It is very important to remember that invasive Plant Species cannot be collected at the curb, due to the possibility of seed spread during transportation.  Any mature invasive plants with seeds should be carefully bagged in a sealed household sized garbage bag and loaded into your vehicle (covered with a tarp or canopy), and disposed of at the Rosewarne Landfill in Bracebridge.  The district of Muskoka cannot accept invasive plant waste at Transfer Stations as the seeds could become airborne and spread throughout our area. Be sure to inform the Guard upon entering that you have invasive plants (and not simply yard waste), to ensure that your Invasive Weeds are disposed of in the proper location.

Keeping Muskoka beautiful and free from these invasive plants is a mission we should all undertake. It not only enhances our wonderful environment but will help to keep our property values strong. Real Estate is not just the bricks and mortar it is “location, location, location” so let’s all work together to keep our location spectacular!


Getting Your Home Winter Ready in Muskoka

Eavestrough-Cleaning-Karen ActonOK, so the snow fell, the thermostat dropped, and you still have not done any winter prep around your Muskoka home or cottage. All is not lost; the weather man says that it will be gone in a day or two, so you still have time to get things done. Let this little dive into winter be a great reminder that you still have a few unfinished home maintenance tasks left to check off the list.

Here are some helpful lists I have put together for you from the many great resources on-line. Hope you find them helpful.

Windows and Doors

  1. Check the weather stripping around windows and doorframes for leaks to prevent heat loss. Replace weather stripping, if necessary.
  2. Replace all screen doors with storm doors if you have them.
  3. Replace all window screenswith storm windows if you have this type of window system.
  4. Examine wooden window frames for signs of rot or decay and repair if required.
  5. Check for drafts around windows and doors. Caulk inside and out, where necessary, to keep heat from escaping.

Lawn, Garden, and Deck

  1. Trim overgrown branches back from the house and electrical wires to prevent iced-over or wind-swept branches from causing property damage or a power problem.
  2. Aerate the lawn, reseed, and apply a winterizing fertilizer to promote deep-root growth come spring.
  3. Ensure rain or snow drains away from the house to avoid foundation problems. Make sure the ground slopes away from the house. Add extra soil to low areas, as necessary.
  4. Clean and dry patio furniture. Cover with a heavy tarp or store inside a shed or garage to protect it from the elements.
  5. Clean soil from planters. Bring pots made of clay or other fragile materials indoors.
  6. Dig up flower bulbs, brush off soil, and label. Store bulbs in a bag or box with peat moss in a cool, dry place for spring replanting.
  7. Remove any attached hoses and store them away for the winter to prevent cracks, preserve their shapes, and prolong their life.
  8. Shut off exterior faucets. Drain water from outdoor pipes, valves, and sprinkler heads to protect against pipe bursts.
  9. Inspect decks for splintering, decay, or insect damageand treat, if needed, to prevent further deterioration over the winter. Clean leaves, dirt, and pine needles between the boards of wooden decks to thwart mold and mildew growth.
  10. Inspect outdoor lighting around the property. Good illumination will help minimize the chance of accidents on icy walkways at night.
  11. Check handrails on exterior stairs to make sure they’re well secured.

Tools and Machinery

  1. Bring all seasonal tools inside and spray them with a coating of lightweight oil to prevent rust.
  2. Weatherize your lawn mower by cleaning off mud, leaves, grass, and debris.
  3. Move your snow blower and shovels to the front of the garageor shed for easy access.
  4. Prepare the snow blower for the first snowfall by changing the oil and replacing the spark plug.
  5. Sharpen ice chopper and inspect snow shovels to make sure they’re ready for another season of work.
  6. Make sure you have an ample supply of ice melt or sand on hand for steps, walkways, and the driveway.

Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning

  1. Inspect the firebox and flue system to ensure that they’re clean of any soot or creosote and that there aren’t any cracks or voids that could cause a fire hazard.
  2. Check fireplace for drafts. If it’s cold despite the damper being closed, the damper itself may be warped, worn, or rusted. Consider installing a Chimney Balloon into the flue to air seal the area tightly.
  3. Clean or replace the air filter in your furnace for maximum efficiency and improved indoor air quality.
  4. Clean your whole house humidifier and replace the evaporator pad.
  5. Bleed valves on any hot-water radiators to increase heating efficiency by releasing air that may be trapped inside.
  6. Check that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.
  7. Remove air conditioners from windows or cover them with insulated liners, to prevent drafts.
  8. If you have an older thermostat, consider replacing it with a programmable unit to save on heating costs.
  9. Install foam-insulating sheets behind outlets and switch plates on exterior walls to reduce outside airflow.
  10. Make sure fans are switched to the reverse or clockwise position, which will blow warm air down to the floor for enhanced energy efficiency and comfort.
  11. Flush hot water heater tank to remove sediment, and check the pressure relief valve to make sure it’s in proper working order.
  12. Examine exposed ducts in the attic, basement, and crawl spaces, and use a sealant to plug up any leaks.

Gutters, Roof, and Drains

  1. Check for missing, damaged or warped shingles and replace, as necessary before you get stuck with a leak.
  2. Check for deteriorated flashing at the chimney, walls, and skylights and around vent pipes. Seal joints where water could penetrate using roofing cement and a caulking gun.
  3. Check the gutters and downspouts for proper fastening, and re-secure if loose or sagging. The weight of snow and icecan pull gutters off the house.
  4. Clean gutters of any debris. Make sure downspouts extend away from the house by at least 5 feet to prevent flooding of the foundation and water damage from snowmelt.
  5. Ensure all vents and openings are covered to prevent insects, birds, and rodents from getting inside to nest in a warm place.

It is always a challenge to get started with a long list of chores but by taking care of your property you prolong the life of it and you will enjoy a safe and warm winter in this beautiful winter wonderland we call home.

Keeping Your Muskoka Home Mould Free

mould-in-bathroomCan you safely and permanently clean up mould and mildew in your Muskoka Home? We have all heard about how some moulds are toxic so how do you know what you can tackle and what you should leave to a professional?

As a Realtor, I see all types of homes and cottages, from elaborate and grand to small and cozy and I can assure you, that any one of them can be prone to mould. It is not a question of cleanliness but more one of ventilation.  When you find mould in your home it is better to take care of it sooner rather than later. Mould can cause health problems and damage what it grows on. The spores of mould fungi commonly float through the air and when they adhere to damp surfaces and start to grow, they can gradually consume the surface. The key to keeping your Muskoka home in great shape is to get the cleanup done before any damage happens.

There are lots of different types of mould which are more accurately called fungi. Many produce allergens that can cause health related reactions in some people

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Coughing and phlegm build-up
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Symptoms of asthma
  • Allergic reactions

Health Canada has a great web page with helpful video segments and lots of tips and recommendations.

Moulds cannot grow without moisture so controlling moisture is the key to preventing and or eliminating mould growth. Moulds are very fast growing organisms and can take hold in a very short time. Add a little heat to the mix and in just a few hours mould can have a real grip on your home. In warm Southern climates, if you leave your laundry in the washing machine for just a few hours after the cycle has finished, you could have mould all over the laundry.

Where is Mould Most Common

A leaky roof or plumbing, flood damage, or indoor humidity that’s too high and without proper ventilation can all lead to mould problems. Anyplace that remains damp and unventilated is a potential mould-forming zone. “Anywhere water travels” in a structure is vulnerable to mould. That includes areas where major plumbing arteries are located, crawl spaces with drains, walls plumbed from bathroom to bathroom and between floors. Incorrectly sealed tubs and faulty construction can cause water to seep into crevices and create big problems over time.  Buildings that are tightly sealed may lack adequate ventilation, which can lead to moisture buildup.

Most Mould-Prone Areas

  • Basements or cellars
  • Under kitchen and bathroom sinks
  • Under or behind refrigerators
  • Behind walls that house plumbing
  • Around air-conditioning units
  • Baseboards or around windowsills
  • Under carpeting

Mildew is another fungi-produced coating that can form on damp surfaces. Mildew usually grows in a flat pattern and appears powdery and white or gray. Moulds are darker in color, usually black or green but can be almost any colour. Moulds penetrate the surface of what it’s growing on. You may follow the same cleaning steps below to remove mould and mildew.

Mould Removal

Here are some options I’ve seen on a variety of websites for simple surface mould removal.

Bleach: Mix 1 cup bleach with enough water to make 1 gallon. Put the solution in a spray bottle, or spread it with a sponge or cloth. There’s no need to rinse.

Borax: Mix 1 cup borax with enough water to make 1 gallon. Borax is less harsh-smelling and corrosive than bleach. Apply the solution to the surface and scrub with a brush; don’t rinse. Wipe the surface dry.

Vinegar: Use full-strength vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the affected area and wipe off.

Ammonia: This is suitable for killing mould on smooth, nonporous surfaces. NEVER USE IT WITH BLEACH. Treat the area with a solution of equal parts ammonia and water, leave on for 10 minutes, and rinse with water.

Hydrogen peroxide: Spray full-strength (3%)hydrogen peroxide on the mouldy surface and let it sit for 10 minutes to loosen the mould. Wipe the surface and don’t rinse.

Baking soda: Mix ½ teaspoon baking soda in 1 gallon water and scrub the mouldy surface, then rinse with water. This is particularly useful for killing mould on upholstery.

Tea tree oil: Use 1 teaspoon tea tree oil per cup of water and spray on the surface. Leave it on for a few minutes and then wipe off.

Note: Health Canada suggests that before beginning any mould clean-up, take steps to ensure that you do not expose yourself or others to mould spores. It is recommended that you wear an adequate breathing mask (N95 or better respirator), safety glasses or goggles and rubber gloves.

Even with adequate precautions, mould spores may become airborne. As a precaution during clean-up, children, the elderly and sensitive people such as those with asthma, allergies or other health problems should leave the house. Consult your physician if in doubt.

To Clean or Throw Away?

If the mould is on a porous surface, such as carpeting, ceiling tiles, drywall or wallpaper, the items might have to be thrown away since the mould may be impossible to remove.

When Should You Call a Professional?

Wiping down mildew in damp areas is always a good idea, but how do you know when it’s time to bring in a professional? Health Canada advises using a mould remediation expert if there is

  • One or more patches of mould larger than 1 square metre
  • More than three patches of mould less than 1 square metre
  • Patches of mould that keep coming back after cleaning
  • A mould problem that you cannot solve on your own


Testing for Mould

Chronic allergy-type health problems or mildew odors mean it’s time to consider more extensive mould treatment. Start by using a mould testing company, which will take samples, send them to a lab, and obtain a report on mould levels and species. Use a company that does testing only, to avoid a conflict of interest. Once the mould species are identified you can determine if a remediation specialist is indicated.

Mould Remediation

There is no doubt that some types of mould are toxigenic meaning they produce substances toxic to humans. They are rare in this region but it you have a lot of mould or several different looking moulds you really should call a professional to take care of the situation. Below are several companies that service this area and should be able to assist you.

Mold Removal | Mold Remediation | Muskoka, Huntsville, Bracebridge

Mould Removal & Remediation | Restoration 1 Muskoka

Mould Removal & Remediation ON | R&F Construction | R&F …


How to Prevent Mould

Just like granny always said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” so the very best way to deal with mould and mildew is to prevent it from growing in the first place.  Controlling moisture inside your Muskoka home is the key to avoiding mould. Consider an annual inspection of roofing, plumbing, exterior drainage and interior ventilation to verify that there are no repairs required. Check for leaks under sinks and in crawl spaces. Always use ventilation in a bathroom to remove condensation from showers.

It’s Time to Change Your Clocks and Check Your Smoke Detectors Muskoka!

Muskoka Real EstateThis month we “Spring Forward” and that signals that it is also time to check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. In accordance with the province of Ontario and the Ontario Fire Marshal office as well as standards set by the NFPA (National Fire Prevention Association) for fire prevention residential dwellings must have smoke detection devices installed and in good working order.

This rule can be found in subsection 6.3.3 of fire code, but far more relevant, it should be found in our hearts. A desire to protect our family and even the Muskoka real estate we have worked so hard to own should be paramount to each of us. Sadly, we all know what it’s like to hear that screeching siren of our smoke detectors when we burn toast or even worse something in the oven! Then, there is the annoying chirp of the cottage smoke detector with the battery out of juice, which we have been meaning to replace. Going to the extreme of disconnecting, or removing the batteries and then even failing to replace them when needed, can be potentially fatal. When we are tempted to disable an alarm for temporary relief of an annoying sound, we do not intend to get caught up in our busy lives and to forget to re-place or re-connect the detector. But if the time comes that there is a real fire emergency, seconds count and a functional smoke detector truly can save the lives of your family and yourself.

It is so important to not become complacent as Muskoka property owners or in fact property owners anywhere! Just having a detector in your home is not enough.  You need to makes sure they are operational. Most new homes have hard wired smoke alarms and by regularly checking the “power on” light to ensure it is operating is usually sufficient. In battery operated smoke detection units, changing the batteries annually and pressing the test function button monthly is the recommended method by fire safety professionals. With a battery operated unit, an intermittent beep can be heard for about 7 days prior to a complete failure. This is designed to let you know the batteries are wearing out and need to be replaced immediately. I know we tend to think of it as an annoyance but to ensure optimal operation of the device and that it will be working in the horrid event you need it, change the batteries when you hear the signal.

In the case of rental properties, the property owner or landlord is considered to be the owner and therefore is responsible for installation and maintenance of smoke detectors and alarms. While the occupant of the residence, can be held responsible for disabling or making the alarm device inoperable it is the duty of the landlord/owner to inspect these units regularly and give the tenant notice to not disable them if they have been found to have done so. Failure to maintain and keep detectors in working order is a violation of fire code and is punishable by fine, imprisonment or both.

Please take care of your family and your beautiful Muskoka property, make sure your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are all operational today!

Keep Your Holidays Safe and Happy –Review Your Muskoka Home Emergency Checklist


Holiday Fire Safety - Karen Acton Royal LePage Lakes of MuskokaMost of us don’t think about emergencies especially now that the Holiday season is upon us. And living in Muskoka we are blessed not to be subject to too many natural disasters. However, have you made a plan for what you need to do to protect your family in case of fire, flood, winter storm or any type of possible disaster? When disaster strikes, you may not have much time to act. Take a look at the home safety plan that I have put together with help from many internet resources and revise it to fit your family’s needs.

Have an Emergency Plan

  • Meet with household members. Discuss with children the dangers of floods, fire, severe weather like tornados and other emergencies.
  • Discuss how to respond to each disaster that could occur.
  • Discuss what to do about power outages and personal injuries.
  • Learn how to turn off the water, gas/propane and electricity at main switches.
  • Post emergency telephone numbers near telephones or make sure they are programmed into cell phones. Teach children how and when to call 911, police and fire.
  • Instruct household members to turn on the radio for emergency information. Make sure you have a battery operated radio – and a supply of batteries for it. (Your cell phone charge will not last long if you are using it for everything).
  • Develop a Home Escape Plan with your family and post it where each person has access. Everyone should be aware of at least two ways out of the house and know where a pre-arranged meeting place is outside.
  • Take a basic first aid and CPR class.
  • Keep family records in a water and fire-proof container.

Prepare an Emergency Supplies Kit

Prepare an Emergency Supplies Kit for each member of your family. Store in a convenient place, known to all family members, near an exit. Keep the kit in a backpack or bag that can be easily carried. Check periodically and replace products whose “best before” dates that have expired. Regardless of the additional needs your family may have, the bare essentials for an Emergency Supplies Kit include:

  • Water. In almost any scenario, having enough drinking water for at least 3 days is essential. You will need a minimum of one gallon per person per day and more if it’s hot. Keep at least one gallon of water in your car at all times; rotate through your supply to maintain freshness.
  • Food. Store non-perishable, ready to eat food, including individual special needs for each family member and for pets if you have any. Be as simple or extravagant as you have time and money to be. If you will be staying at home through an event, start by eating the contents of the fridge first, then the contents of the freezer. Many foods can be prepared over a camp stove, barbecue grill, or open fire. And remember to keep a manual can opener in your emergency kit.
  • Flashlight and spare batteries. Candles and oil lamps are fine, but can pose a fire hazard. Batteries should be replaced regularly.
  • Swiss Army knife. Get a good one for your emergency kit. Even if you don’t get any other tools, the Swiss Army knife has enough basic tools to be useful.
  • Vital personal needs such as diapers and formula for babies, medication for health conditions, spare eyeglasses.

You may also decide to include some or all of the following items:

  • A change of clothing, rain gear, jackets and sturdy shoes.
  • Blankets or outdoor sleeping bags.
  •  Matches in a waterproof container.
  • Whistle (in case need to attract attention).
  • First aid kit to include several sizes of adhesive bandages, gauze, breathable tape, hand sanitizer, antiseptic wipes, an anti-bacterial ointment, tweezers, and small scissors. Add more items as you deem necessary.
  • Toilet paper and other hygiene items.
  • Copies of important documents such as personal ID, insurance and home inventory, etc. Scan, digitize, and add a CD of other important records to your Emergency Supplies Kit. Revise at least once a year.
  • Books or games (it will be important to keep your children occupied if you have a long wait before things start to be restored).

Store your Emergency Supplies Kit in a place known to everyone in the family. If you need to leave in a hurry, you should be able to pick up your Emergency Kit and head out the door. Keep your vehicle gas tank at least half full in case you have to evacuate and gas is not available.

Other emergency supplies in case you have to stay at home during a power outage include:

  • Alternate power source such as portable generators. However, this must never be operated indoors or in an attached garage.
  • Alternate heat sources such as portable space heaters and recommended fuel, wood for fireplace/wood burning stove.
  • Clean fireplace/wood burning stove. If it has not been used for a long time, have the chimney and appliance checked by a professional technician to ensure the unit is not a hazard.
  • Alternate cooking methods – candle warmers, chafing dishes and fondue pots; barbeque and fuel, stored in approved container and used outdoors only. Use propane or charcoal barbeques outside only.

During an Emergency

  • Use 9-1-1 for life-threatening emergencies only.
  • Use non-emergency telephone numbers only as required keeping your calls short.
  • Listen to the radio or television (if you have power) for emergency updates, location of emergency shelters and instructions, including emergency routes.
  • Check on neighbours, especially the elderly or disabled.
  • In case of fire or other home threatening occurrence, follow your Home Escape Plan. Get everyone out of the house immediately. Do not re-enter for any reason until it has been declared safe.
  •  In the case of a power failure, turn the thermostat down to minimum and turn off all appliances, electronic equipment and tools. Power can be restored more easily when the system is not overloaded. As well, this will help to prevent injury, damage to equipment and fire.
  • Avoid opening the refrigerator or freezer unnecessarily. To minimize the number of times, post a list of the contents on the door and remove all the items you need at once. Use perishables and food from the refrigerator first, then from the freezer and lastly use non-perishable supplies.
  • Use only recommended fuel in portable space heaters, keep at least one meter (three feet) away from combustibles. Never refuel appliances indoors or when hot.
  • Spend time outdoors each day in fresh air or keep windows open to provide necessary ventilation.
  • Use flashlights sparingly to extend battery life during power outage.
  • Secure candles in solid protective containers. Keep away from all combustible materials. Never leave candles unattended. Don’t let young children carry or play with them. Never carry candles throughout the home, use flashlights for portability.
  • Check every room before going to bed to make sure candles are extinguished and portable heaters are turned off.

If You Need to Evacuate

  • Make sure you have a reliable source of information. Listen to the radio for the location of emergency shelters and follow the instructions of local officials.
  • Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.
  • Take your Emergency Supplies Kit.
  • Lock your house.
  • Use travel routes specified by local officials.
  • Leave notification for additional family members.
  • When you get to the shelter sign up there so you can be located                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                If you are sure you have time … 
  • Shut off water, gas and electricity, if instructed to do so.
  • Let others know when you left and where you are going.
  • Make arrangements for pets. Animals may not be allowed in public shelters.

After an Emergency

  • Stay calm and help the injured.
  • Check on neighbours, especially elderly or disabled.
  • Don’t use the telephone unless absolutely necessary.
  • Before returning home, make sure your home is structurally safe and hazard free. Check for fire risk, gas leak, unsafe electrical wiring, damaged utilities and make sure that the water supply is clean.

Preparation is the key to minimizing the adverse effects of any kind of emergency situation. I hope that you never need this check list but protecting your family and your Muskoka home is important. The holiday season is a time when fire emergencies are more frequent, so please make extra sure you have a safe and happy season filled with love, peace, joy and safety.

Have a Clutter Free Home in 2014

De Clutter your Bracebridge Home - Karen ActonMany of us start out each New Year with a pledge to declutter.  This may be to declutter our homes our offices or even our lives. As a Realtor, I can certainly testify to the fact that decluttering your home will add value to it as well as giving you, a sense of achievement and well-being.

When your home is filled with clutter, deciding where to start can be quite daunting. So here is a great strategy for getting it done. Try the 5 minutes a day system.

Baby steps are important. For most of us five minutes will barely make a dent in the pile, but it’s a start. You will feel awesome once you have made that first 5 minute investment.  Tomorrows 5 minute project will be easy and the day afters even easier.

If you are overwhelmed by your clutter, here are some great ways to get started, five minutes at a time.

  1. Designate a spot for all your incoming papers. We often drop them in different spots — on the counter, table, desk, in a drawer or even left in our car. Make this the first place papers land and keep them there until you have time to process them.  Mail, receipts, school papers, warranties, manuals EVERYTHING.  Then you will always be able to find it and it is all in one location when you are ready to process them. Simple!
  2. Clear in zones. Pick one room to work on at a time and one location in the room to clear at a time. A countertop in a bathroom or a kitchen may be your starting point and move out from there. Remember,  5 minutes a day is ok if that is all the time you have.  The only rule you need to abide by is once it is clear of clutter you cannot put any new clutter on it as you move to the next area.
  3. Plan for a decluttering weekend. You may not feel like doing a huge decluttering session right now. But, if you take the time to schedule it for later in the month, (you can get psyched up for it) and if you have a family, get them involved too. Be prepared by gathering boxes and garbage bags. Pan a trip to the ReStore or Salvation Army to drop off donated items. You might not get the entire house decluttered during a weekend, but I expect you will make a great dent in it.
  4. Once the small clutter is dealt with it is time to tackle the bigger things. Look around your rooms and identify 5 things that do not really fit, and find places for them. These should be things that you actually use, but that you just seem to put anywhere, because they don’t have a designated storage place. Take a minute to think about where would be a good spot for each item and then always put them there when you’re done using them. Do this for everything in your home, a few things at a time.
  5. Create a “maybe” box. When you are decluttering you know exactly what to keep and what to throw away or donate. However there is always some stuff you don’t use, but think you might want or need someday.  If you cannot bear to get rid of that stuff put it in the “maybe” box. Store the box somewhere hidden, out of the way.  Now here is the important part of this process, put a note on your calendar six months from now to look in the box and see if there is  anything you really needed in there. I expect you will be able to part with it all by then.
  6.  Use a 10-day list.  Clutter is an accumulation of things we do not need but bought anyway! We do not want to put a huge effort into decluttering, only to reclutter immediately by buying more stuff.  Every time you want to buy something that’s not absolutely necessary, put it on the list with the date it was added. Make a rule never to buy anything unless it’s been on the list for more than 10 days. Often you’ll lose the urge to buy the stuff and you’ll save yourself a lot of money and most importantly clutter.
  7. Teach your kids (or grandkids) where things belong. Start teaching them the habit of putting things away and you will be doing them a huge favor for their futures. Of course, they won’t learn the habit overnight, so you’ll have to be patient with them.
  8. Clear out your medicine cabinet. If you don’t have one spot for medicines, create one now. Go through everything, the outdated medicines, the stuff you’ll never use again, the tatty looking Band-Aid, the creams that you’ve found you’re allergic to and the 10 year old sun screen. Simplify to the essential.

Learn to love the uncluttered look. Once you’ve gotten an area decluttered, you should take the time to enjoy that look. It’s a lovely look. Make that your standard! It will de-stress your life and if you decide to sell your property it will enhance its value and saleability.


Holiday Fire Safety Tips for Your Bracebridge Home

Holiday Fire Safety - Karen Acton Royal LePage Lakes of MuskokaWith the holidays just around the corner our homes will become the hub of family celebrations and activities. Add to this, the fact that many of us decorate our homes to make things festive and joyful and you have a recipe for great fun and potential disaster.

Sadly there is a 12% increase in residential fires in December most likely caused by the increased levels of activity in our homes around the holidays. We cook more, entertain more, need more heat and hydro and have more things around our homes that are combustible like Christmas trees covered in tinsel!

Here are some great tips to protect your family, home and peace of mind:

  • First and foremost make sure you have working smoke detectors on every level of your home.  Test them as you put up your decorations to make sure they are fully operational, especially if they are battery dependent and not wired into the main hydro system.
  • Do not overload outlets during the holiday season. If you need more outlets, buy a good power bar not a wobbly outlet splitter.
  • Inspect all cords before using. Look for loose connections or frayed or exposed wire especially on tree lights as they spend a whole year coiled up between uses.
  • Insert plugs fully into outlets. Poor contact may cause overheating or shock.
  • To avoid possible overheating, do not coil or bunch an extension cord or run it under carpets or rugs.
  • Never burn gift wrappings, boxes, cartons, or other types of packing. These materials burn far too rapidly and often release harmful gasses.
  • Always use a screen in front of the fireplace to protect against flying sparks.
  • Use only seasoned and dried wood. Wet wood will pop and splutter and can send sparks out to grab your decorations!
  • Never leave the fire unattended or smouldering.
  • Clean the ashes regularly. Place the ashes in a metal container and store outside but NOT in your garage near flammable items until you are sure they are completely out.
  • When decorating make sure that you leave clear pathways around trees and large ornaments.
  • If hanging wreaths over fireplace or stockings on the mantel, make sure they are well attached and cannot fall in.
  • If you have a real Christmas tree remember to keep it watered as, once dry, it will burn very quickly.
  • In the kitchen many hands may make light work but if your helpers do not know your kitchen well make sure they are working safely.
  • Lots of cooking can mean more grease so keep a pot lid ready and some baking soda too. You can smother a grease fire quickly:

1. Turn off the heat source immediately

2. Smother flames with a lid

3. Use baking soda to smother flames that will not fit under a lid

4. Turn off the exhaust fan to prevent the fire spreading.

NEVER throw water on a grease fire as it will dilute the grease and spread the fire!

NEVER throw flour on a fire as it can explode.

Let`s make our Bracebridge homes safe and secure this holiday season by taking a few extra minutes to make sure all is prepared properly.