Halloween-themed goods may have hit store shelves ages ago, but the high heat of summer has only just subsided, leaving us rummaging in closets for long-forgotten jackets perfect for momijigari (leaf peeping).
The seasonal switch — Sept. 23 heralded the official start to autumn — offers a chance for us to tidy up and start preparing for the cooler weather ahead. With a little elbow grease, you and your home will be ready to spend autumn cozy and comfortable.
Not merely confined to spring, pollen allergies can crop up throughout the year in Japan. Sneezes, coughing, scratchy throats and itchy eyes — all bad symptoms to have during a pandemic — provoked by butakusa (ragweed) and yomogi (Japanese mugwort) wreak havoc on those with kafunshō (hay fever).
If you suffer from autumn hay fever, get your pollen protection prepared before the levels get too high. Avoid exposure by checking weather forecast websites, closing doors and windows, and limiting time in places where you may be close to the offending plants. Consider investing in an air filter if allergy symptoms follow you indoors.
If heading outside, wearing a face mask, or even pollen-blocking glasses, can help reduce exposure (helpfully, the former is likely a habit you’ve already picked up to protect yourself against COVID-19). Stock up on any allergy medication in advance, such as over-the-counter antihistamines, eye drops or even tenbiyaku (nasal sprays) or nasal creams, so that you can ease your symptoms without needing to run to the pharmacy. Check with your doctor if you are unsure about the best method of treatment.
Insects are very sensitive to changes in the seasons and in the coming weeks you might spot spiders merrily wandering into your home. These guys can come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiniest of shirahige-haetori (white-bearded jumping spiders) to the more fear-inducing (though not poisonous) ashidaka-gumo (huntsman spider).
Spiders aren’t actually pests. Usually, any you spot are just males on the lookout for good food supply (other insects) or a mate, since it’s that time of year (for them). If you aren’t keen on the eight-legged lads crawling around your space, the best thing to do is to keep doors, windows and vents sealed.
Check for gaps where spiders and other bugs can get in. Seal up any holes — also useful for heat insulation — and clean out any corners where they may be hiding. Most important of all, don’t squash them! Have a large-ish glass and piece of cardstock ready in case you spot one crawling across the floor to remove it from your house in a humane way.
Chances are during those hot and sweaty days of summer you were less inclined to deep-clean your home. Take advantage of the cooler weather to give your home a fall clean, and clear away any of the items you won’t need in the coming months.
Refrigerator: Out with the hiyayakko (chilled tofu), and in with the hearty winter fare. Clean out all your half-used sauces and out-of-date products that always seem to linger at the back. Pull out the draws and shelves and wipe down the inside (one part that can get grimy is the door seal).
Kitchen appliances: Autumn also means getting back into cooking again, because who wants to stand by a hot stove when it’s 35 degrees Celsius outside? Give your microwave, oven, grill, rice cooker or any other cooking appliance you use a wipe down.
Bathroom: Long, hot baths will be a thing again as temperatures drop, but nobody wants to soak in a tub that has been sitting grubby and neglected all summer long. Scrub around the bath, polish the taps and don’t forget about the gross bits around the drain — unused, uncleaned drains can attract annoying chōbae (drain flies). Now get ready to relax in your very own onsen.
Kabi (mold) is a pesky problem in the summer months — with high temperatures and humidity, the black stuff creeps into bathrooms, closets and bedding. But even during the transition to colder temperatures, the kabi curse lingers on.
Closing windows, combined with turning on the heater, creates humid conditions that will cause condensation to form on windows, walls and, if you’re not careful, what feels like every surface in your home.
The first defense against mold is to ventilate. Open your windows an inch or two to allow fresh air to circulate and prevent mold forming around the window and on your curtains. If you have regular condensation forming around your home, make sure to wipe it off as soon as you can and maybe give ketsuro kyūsui shīto (結露吸水シート, condensation absorption sheets) that stick to the windows a try.
Mold in bathrooms can be avoided by simply wiping down your bathroom after you’ve used it, and keeping the extractor fan on as much as you can. Using a cleaning product such as Kabi Killer (カビキラー) can remove any mold that does appear, or just scrub with an old toothbrush, warm water and cleaning liquid (vinegar also does the trick). Wearing a face mask and keeping the area well-ventilated while cleaning is advised.
Bedding can also be badly affected by condensation in the autumn and winter. For those using mattresses or futons on sunoko (slatted wooden frame), if you don’t air out or fold your bed each morning, get ready to be surprised by a colorful display of mold growing on the underside of your bed.
If you are going to store your lighter summer bedding, wash it on a sunny day and make sure that it is completely dry before packing it away — any remaining moisture can cause (you guessed it!) mold. Bedding that is difficult to clean can be cleaned professionally. Store it in a vacuum-packed bag together with a dehumidifying sheet in a dry place, e.g. the bottom of a closet. Air out any thicker winter covers that have been in storage before using them.
It’s time to swap out your light summer clothes for your winter wardrobe. No matter how you’ve stored your garments, give your winter clothes an airing before wearing them, as they may have become musty, creased or even mildewed.
This is also the time to sweep the floor and clean the shelves, as well as any storage containers or draws. Then you safely stash away summer clothing and warm weather essentials until next year.
Although you may not feel the need to crank up your heaters quite yet, you’ll soon need to, particularly in the early mornings and in the evenings. Give your heater a once over to make sure it is working properly; if you use a kerosene heater, you can stock up on fuel.
Those of you relying on your air conditioning’s heating function may want to clean the dust filters. Other warming appliances such as heated carpets or kotatsu can also be purchased or extracted from storage. And then your trusty electric fan can be dusted off and tucked away until it gets so hot again you can’t remember how you lived without it.
After a busy day cleaning and clearing up, it’s time to get cozy. Don’t forget to enjoy your warm house and create a welcoming space to return home to after a walk under the colorful leaves. Get some comfy cushions, grab some blankets and have a pile of good books at hand: You and your home are ready for autumn.
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