Too much paper?

paper shredderWe all have too much stuff.  It isn’t just stuff we buy. I sometimes work with people who have boxes of canceled checks and paper copies of bills with “paid” written on them. Paper bank statements and boxes of receipts too.

These days just about everything, including bills and bank statements are available online. They don’t even have to be printed but for people who feel the need to have copies, they can be downloaded and stored on a computer.

I can find bank statements from years ago online. I can’t imagine how or why I would ever need a paper copy. I haven’t balanced a checking account in 20 years or so. The pennies I might be missing are not worth the time it would take to find them. I can see the math online when I look at the running balance and it passes my “seems about right” test.

Don’t  keep warranty information and instruction manuals for appliances they no longer own.

There isn’t any rule that states that paper copies of tax returns have to be kept forever. The IRS says “3 years from the date you filed your original return or 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later if you file a claim for credit or refund after you file your return. Keep records for 7 years if you file a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction.”

Many companies offer the opportunity to go paperless. Get an email alert or a text message when bills are due instead of paper statements.

Don’t forget to use the paper shredder before disposing of documents. When getting rid of large amounts of paper look for secure disposal boxes or shredding services. There are many options. Search online for document disposal close to home.

Optional air duct cleaning

According to the EPA Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts. This is because much of the dirt in air ducts adheres to duct surfaces and does not necessarily enter the living space.

However, the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends air duct cleaning every 3 to 5 years.

If there are rodents in the air ducts or mold or some other air quality problem related to the air ducts they may need to be cleaned.

Air duct cleaning is sometimes sold along with furnace tune-ups. Furnace inspections and tune-ups should be part of yearly home maintenance. In most cases, duct cleaning is an optional add-on.

State fair and home improvement time

Nothing like the Minnesota State Fair and it starts this week (August 24th) and ends on Labor Day. I go to the fair every three to five years. Our state fair is the largest in the county by average daily attendance and the second largest in the country by total attendance. It is a big deal if you have never been you should go.

State Fair time is also a great time to check around for sales. I have purchased major appliances and gotten some great deals. Look for siding, window, and roofing sales. Visit the home improvement building at the State Fair.  

For me, the best days to go to the fair are the first couple of days when everything is still fresh. Going after dark or getting there when it opens is fun too. The State Fair changes a little every year but never really changes. I still remember going with my parents and grandparents when I was 5 years old.  My dad and Grandfather would head for machinery hill and the livestock barns.

My favorite exhibits are in the Creative Activities building which is why it is usually best if I attend the fair alone.

yarn horse
Horse outside the creative arts building


No you do not have to grow grass

According to a new Minnesota law cities can not require homes to have grass lawns.

The new language requires cities to allow homeowners to install and maintain a “managed natural landscape,” defined as “a planned, intentional, and maintained planting of native or nonnative grasses, wildflowers, forbs, ferns, shrubs, or trees.”

The law explicitly states that “turf-grass lawns left unattended” are excluded from the definition of a “managed natural landscape,”. This means mowing-averse homeowners are not allowed to simply let their grass grow and declare it a natural garden.

Our lawn is mostly weeds but we mow it anyway.  I also grow many types of perennials and native plants. The bees and butterflies and goldfinches enjoy the Zinnias. The bees love the cone flowers, hostas, and hollyhocks too. I like to think I have a little something for everyone.

Having less lawn has been a gradual process.

collage of flowers from my garden
For the bees and butterflies

Are you growing invasive species or noxious weeds?

I don’t have to look far to see invasive species or noxious weeds being grown and even cultivated by well-meaning St. Paul gardeners. There are so many that it is hard to keep track. Ramsey County has a list with pictures. If you are not sure you a growing an invasive species check the Ramsey County cooperative weed management page.

By the way, St. Paul has rules regarding vegetation. I think the most important thing to know is that vegetation has to be controlled and can not encroach on sidewalks streets or alleys.  There are rules against tall grass and vegetation that may harbor rodents.

City rules also state “Cut and remove overgrown, uncontrolled vegetation, shrubs, trees, vines throughout the yard that may harbor rodents. (The City does not have enforceable code for trees or vegetation hanging into neighboring private properties.) ” Find more rules at property code enforcement.

Property codes in St. Paul are enforced by a complaint-driven system which is unfortunate because it is not consistently, fairly or evenly enforced.

Here is a screenshot of some invasive flowers. It does not include purple loosestrife which is an invasive species in Minnesota that came from Eurasia and can be found in our wetlands.

Invasive flowers
Invasive flowers Ramsey County

Many people can not identify invasive plants or noxious weeds, which is why they grow them in their gardens.

Furnace filter PSA

Today is the first of March. If you haven’t changed your furnace filter yet this winter change it today. If you have changed it more recently change it today if it is dirty.

Most of the forced air furnaces I see need a new furnace filter. People don’t seem to understand that the filter needs to be changed on a regular basis. Some filters are supposed to last three months.

When we have weeks of cold weather and the dang thing runs all the time I like to put in a clean filter every month.  People who live in warmer climates can probably go for three months.

How do I know mine should be changed every month?  I don’t know for sure but it usually looks kind of grey and furry and I would rather err on the side of changing it too soon.

You can buy furnace filters at home improvement stores.  I usually buy at least six at a time.

If you don’t know where the filter is or what kind to buy call a heating specialist. There are also some great videos on youtube that will show how to change the filter.

Your furnace has to work harder if the filter is clogged with stuff. That might mean a higher heating bill and it could shorten the life of the fan in your furnace or the furnace itself.  A severely clogged filter can cause the furnace to shut down.

The filter on the right in the picture is a new filter. The one on the left is dirty. They can get much dirtier than that. It depends upon how much the furnace is being used rather than just the passage of time.

Furnace Filters – dirty and new