It's that time of year again - the time when many homeowners work to scrub, dust and vacuum away the signs of winter in order to welcome spring and summer with a clean house.
While doing your spring cleaning, there are also many annual chores you should consider doing that may require some out-of-the-box thinking.
When dusting off televisions, DVD players and stereos, most wouldn't think to maintenance the electronic device they probably use most often - their computer.
Mirror photos by Gary M. Baranec
Bob Marra of Wilmore, a technician at Monro Muffler Brake and Service in Altoona, performs an oil change.
Sam Birtle, an agent for the Geek Squad at Best Buy in Altoona, said you should maintain your computer the same way you would your car to keep it in the best possible working condition.
"A lot of people use their computer for very important things," he said. "A lot of times, people don't realize that they use their computer for so much."
When it comes to cleaning a desktop computer, Birtle said many people neglect to clean dust from their keyboards and inside the cases of their hard drives.
"That can get into the cooling system and stuff within the computer and cause a lot of problems," he said.
Also, whether it be a desktop or a laptop, Birtle said it's important to run regular utility updates. This includes disk cleanups, emptying recycling bins and temporary files and going through and uninstalling programs you may not use. It's also a good idea to defragment your hard drive, which put simply means to rearrange data in order to efficiently use space. Birtle said people know to do this maintenance activity, but probably don't do it as often as they should.
Most importantly, Birtle said keeping back-up copies of important files is a must.
"In an instant, you can lose stuff you rely on daily," he said.
Something else many people rely on daily is their car. And after a long winter, spring is a good time to get routine maintenance.
"You should take care of your car just as you do your house," said Chuck Lerch, assistant manager for Monro Muffler Brake and Service in Altoona. "Your car is the second biggest investment you make. Take care of your car, and it will take care of you."
Lerch said it's important to check tires and tire pressure at winter's end. Also, making sure that oil, fluids and suspension are checked regularly will help you "gain more life out of your car."
From the life of your car to life in the ground, many people hope to have a nice garden and lawn together by the summer.
But Larry Moore, assistant store manager at Lowe's in Altoona, said there are a lot of things people should be doing now to make it happen, which could also make for a pleasant spring cleaning experience.
"With the weather being nice, it's nice to be outside," he said. "It's not hot this time of year, so you can be outside and enjoy the nice weather while also cleaning your house. By waiting too long, you'll have a lot of weeds. It's more manageable to do it early."
Since it's already past the season for weed prevention, Moore suggests anyone who hasn't touched their lawn should fertilize with a weed control fertilizer. If few weeds have popped up yet, you may be able to use a regular fertilizer with phosphorus or iron, he said.
"That will green your grass right up," Moore said. "You need fertilizer to make your lawn really grow."
Even though it's spring, Moore said it doesn't hurt to also water your lawn if it goes a few days without raining. Water from pressure washers is also the best way to get the deck, patio, outside windows and outside furniture clean and ready for summertime use. Other outdoor chores include checking the sharpness of your lawn mower blades, and having the tools you need to rake up dead leaves and dispose of them properly.
It's also important to dispose of something else inside your home properly - your financial records.
With identity theft on the rise, Patrick Fiore, certified public accountant with Fiore Fedeli Snyder Carothers LLP in Altoona and a past president of the Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs, said it's time for people who keep financial documents to invest in a shredder.
"You can read stories about people going through garbage to get information about people," he said. "I think a lot of times, people open mail and just discard it, but you just have to be so careful."
As long as you're careful, cleaning up your finances after filing taxes is a good time to do so, Fiore said. He suggests individuals have a retention policy for their financial documents, but things like canceled checks and old receipts can be thrown away after three years, pay stubs after one year in the event of receiving your year-end statement, and things like ATM receipts and utility bills can be pitched monthly.
"A lot of people hang on to stuff," he said. "They say, 'I have utility bills from day one,' but you don't need to do that."
Though everyone organizes their financial documents differently, Fiore said one important file everyone should make is their "forever file," which should contain retirement documents, documents related to the purchase of stocks and other securities, life insurance policies and estate planning documents.
Other things you should consider holding on to for awhile include documents for home improvements and those proving the purchase of a "big ticket item," in case you need to submit them to redeem a warranty.
Fiore said it's a good idea to have your finances in order because they are so personal and disclose so much information.
"Finances are an important part of everyone's lives," he said. "You don't have to keep things forever, but there are some things you should know to keep, and have a process to annually purge out old records."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.