Vol. 9, No. 1

New Year, New Habits

The best part of a new year is the opportunity to start fresh. Instead of new year, new you, how about, new year, new habits.

For many of us, stress is the biggest factor in our health and well-being. Daily habits can contribute to stress as well as reduce it.

Here are a few stress-reducing suggestions:

  • Move your body every day. Even short bursts of activity like a five-minute dance party while waiting for the coffee to brew or picking up the pace while you walk the dog can help add up to the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day.
  • Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Soups, smoothies, and salads are great ways to get several servings at once!
  • Start mornings off with three deep breaths. End the day with three deep breaths. Taking a few minutes to breathe can help clear minds and hearts and create a habit of calm.
  • Get in the habit of telling the people in your life that you are grateful for them. We all want to feel appreciated and when we appreciate others, gratitude tends to flow back to us.

In many ways, our daily habits make up our daily lives, so let’s focus on the habits that increase our sense of well-being, making it easier to reduce the ones that we know aren’t helping.

How to Prioritize Home Maintenance

A home maintenance schedule can keep your home safe, healthy, and operating smoothly. Staying on track with home maintenance can catch issues early and prevent costly repairs. For a general guideline on home maintenance, check out the Healthy Homes Maintenance Checklist by the National Center for Healthy Housing.

If you have recently moved into a new home or if routine home maintenance has gotten lost in life’s shuffle, here are some tips on how to prioritize home maintenance tasks:

  • Do a thorough walk-through of the interior and exterior of your home and make a list of tasks or issues that need to be addressed.
  • Use the Healthy Homes Maintenance Checklist as a guide or even look back at the home inspection report that was completed when you purchased the home.

  • Categorize each task or issue to help determine which tasks to tackle first.
  • Immediate: issues that could cause harm to health or safety should be addressed immediately like broken smoke or carbon monoxide detectors, a faulty electrical system, tripping hazards, improper storage of household hazardous materials, or a failing septic system.
  • High: issues that could lead to bigger problems or costly repairs should be addressed as soon as possible, like leaks, broken or damaged gutters, and getting your septic system inspected every year or so. 
  • Medium: tasks that are not yet posing a potential issue but are necessary, such as replacing the furnace filter or arranging to have the HVAC system serviced.
  • Low: any tasks or projects that are purely aesthetic or decorative, like painting or purchasing new furnishings.

  • Financial consideration.
  • Determine which tasks you can do on your own at a relatively low cost, like replacing the batteries in the smoke detector, and which tasks will require the help of a professional, like having the HVAC system serviced.
  • Consider which tasks will provide the most bang for your buck – for example, getting your septic system inspected and fixing minor issues can help avoid costly repairs in the future.
  • If possible, have funds set aside in case of an emergency.

  • Be flexible. Immediate and high priority tasks could emerge at any time, so be prepared to allow some flexibility within your home maintenance routine.

Taking care of your home and keeping up with routine maintenance can help create a healthy and safe space for you and your family.

Planning for the Season to Come

Winter lawn care is mostly about planning for the season to come. Think about the challenges from last year and make a plan to deal with issues that took up too much time and energy.

Common problems and their solutions:


Indicates low-soil fertility and soil compaction. Aerate in the spring and add a thin layer of compost. Plan to fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer in April or May and overseed with a shade-specific grass seed.

Right now: Figure out where to rent the aerator and pencil in the action weekends on the calendar.


There will always be weeds, but healthy grass can out compete them. Focus on removing the weeds going to seed to reduce their numbers in the long-term. The best tools are long-handled weed tools that have a pincher on the end and remove the entire root. Use two buckets when weeding – one for weed disposal and one with compost and grass seed. Add a handful of compost and grass seed to every hole created by pulling.

Right now: Purchase a weed tool if you don’t already have one. Put on a thick pair of gloves and get to it!

Red Thread

This can be caused by compacted soil, improper mowing, and frequent, shallow watering. Fungus is an issue that healthy grass can grow out of. Mow with a sharp blade when the grass is dry. If watering in the summer, make sure grass is watered by 10:00 AM so that it can dry out throughout the day. No more than one inch of water per week is needed if watering in the summer.

Right now: Sharpen mower blades. Empty out gas from gas-powered tools and safely dispose at HazoHouse.

Yellow Grass

Lack of nitrogen will result in a less-green lawn. Add slow-release fertilizers in late-April or May. A soil test is the best way to know exactly what is needed.

Right now: Collect soil samples when temperatures are above freezing and get a soil test. We recommend waiting until late spring to fertilize when soil temperatures warm and biological activity in the soil increases, but it can be easier to find fertilizers to purchase in early spring. Purchase fertilizer and store in a second container like a plastic bin until temperatures increase.

Go Green Yard Care

Looking to create the yard that you’ve always wanted? Or, simply trying to save time and money and not be forced to spend every weekend working in your yard this year? Whatever your yard care goals, the Go Green Yard Care Program can support your efforts.

Go Green Yard Care is a free program that includes an online course and a chance to talk to experienced yard care professionals throughout the year. The Go Green Yard Care program offers a free soil test to participants and then makes recommendations based on the results of the soil test, the yard that you aspire to create, along with the amount of time that you want to spend in it.

The first 5 folks who sign up in 2024 can get a bag of slow-release fertilizer AND a long-handled weeding tool. Reach out to Miriam at [email protected] to get your incentives.

Thurston Home and Garden Subscriber Survey

Thurston Home and Garden aims to provide meaningful content to our e-newsletter subscribers. For this month’s Q&A, we would like to ask you, the subscriber, for your input! We kindly request your participation in a short survey, so we can learn more about you and the topics you’d like to see covered in the Thurston Home and Garden e-newsletter. Survey participants will receive a free microfiber cloth. 

Take the Thurston Home and Garden Subscriber Survey

Do you have a question for the Thurston Home and Garden editors or a topic you’d like to learn more about? We’d love to hear from you!

Please contact us at 360-867-2674 or send us an email at [email protected]

Local Resources

Winter is a great time to research, learn, dream, and plan for the busier months to come. Below are some of the resources that we turn to time and time again.

Connect to Farmers

Olympia Farmers Market

Winter Season: Saturdays,

January 6-March 30, 2024

10:00am - 3:00pm

700 Capitol Way N

Olympia, WA 98501

(360) 352-9096


Community Farm Land Trust Fresh From The Farm Guide

Community Events

Check these great local calendars for up-to-date information about what's coming up.

Thurston Conservation District

Thurston Talk

Experience Olympia Calendar of Events

Stream Team Calendar


City of Lacey Arts and Events

City of Tumwater Special Events

City of Tenino Community Recreation Page

Master Gardener Foundation of Thurston County