Household chores to prepare your home for fall

With cooler weather and the holiday season in sight, early fall is a great time for taking stock of household areas in need of a little TLC. Here are 10 home features you'll feel good about cleaning and/or organizing early in the season (while time is on your side), in anticipation of those longer nights and home parties.

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1. Clean cabinet drawer and door fronts. Cabinets take their fair share of abuse, with all the splatters they collect daily. If yours have raised decorative panels, dust is also guaranteed to join the mess. Even though we may overlook dirt and grime on our own cabinets, guests are sure to notice. Wipe the fronts down with a mild cleanser suitable to your cabinetry's finish.

RELATED: Cabinet Refacing 101

Tip: Cotton swabs make wonderful cleaning tools for crevices.

2. Launder pet bedding. If your family spent any part of the summer enjoying the great outdoors, the evidence is probably all over (and inside) your pet's bedding.

RELATED: Freshen Up Your Pet’s Place With New Cat Furniture

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Clean slipcovers and pillows according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Continue to use a pest repellant to ward off unwelcome bugs. Rosemary, lavender, lemon and cedar oils in spray form offer natural protection and have a wonderful aroma.

3. Edit your cookbook collection. If your bookshelves are packed too tightly, it will be hard find the holiday recipes you want. Pare down your library by photocopying your favorite recipes. Add them to a designated binder or upload them to a laptop or tablet.

Donate books you don't need to charity or give favorite ones to someone who is trying to build up a collection.

4. Freshen up baseboards. Just like cabinets, baseboards get beaten up. Wiping down baseboards may be all you need to feel good about inviting guests inside your home. For high-traffic areas, however, paint touchups will restore baseboards to their original beauty.

5. Dispose of old paint. Aside from your much-needed baseboard paint, you probably have many other old cans of paint (likely colors that were painted over ages ago) lying around.

Over time paint can leak through rusting cans, leaving you with a big problem. Check with your local recycling or hazardous waste center about properly disposing your stockpile. Imagine how much more storage you'll have for holiday decorations with all those cans gone.

Tip: Consider using old cans to create unique planters.

6. Clean out the sofa. Yes, you really should. You never know what you'll find deep inside those corners, especially if you've got children or guests who keep lots of coins in their pockets.

Confession: I routinely stick the vacuum hose deep inside the recesses of my family sofa, and it's a prolonged process in which lots of cereal and cracker bits make a terrible crackling sound. The good news is, we've found lots of socks, pencils and puzzle pieces we thought were lost forever. Nothing starts puzzle season better than a complete set!

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7. Clean your dining chairs. Don't spoil a lovely dinner affair by having your well-dressed guests sit on chairs covered in the remnants of a previous party. Now's the time to vacuum, steam clean or spot clean each chair.

Tip: If you aren't sure how to clean your chairs' upholstery, call in a professional. The pros have seen and cleaned it all.

8. Have your chimney inspected. If you burn wood in your fireplace, it's important to have a professional chimney sweeper check and, if necessary, clean your chimney annually. Doing so reduces the risk of a house fire and carbon monoxide poisoning due to creosote buildup or other obstructions.

9. Replace the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This is the season when candles and wood-burning fireplaces increase the danger of home fires.

Keep your family and home safe by replacing batteries in all devices and performing a quick test to make sure they're still in working condition.

If you don't have any carbon monoxide detectors, this is the perfect time to stock up.

10. Update your emergency kit. September is National Preparedness Month. Make sure you have a safety plan for your household, including pets, and enough emergency supplies for three days. The Red Cross offers a complete list of what you'll need.