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7 winter home improvement projects to tackle before spring

If cold, miserable weather keeps you indoors until spring appears, winter blahs can sap your energy. Keeping busy cures that, and winter provides an ideal time to tackle indoor DIY home improvements. So put on some comfy old clothes, send your phone calls to voice mail, and step away from the computer when you finish reading this. Chase those blahs by taking care of these relatively easy projects that often end up on a back burner indefinitely.

1. Schedule your spring home maintenance check ups. If you don't have the know-how or equipment to do these yourself, it is not too early to get these appointments on your calendar: roof inspection, gutter cleaning, air conditioning service, and landscape clean up.

2. Clean out the closets and declutter. Now is the perfect time to go through the closets and cupboards. Dispose of all those excess empty yogurt and cottage cheese containers, collections of plastic bags, and, yes, wine corks you've been saving for the art project you haven't done. Or do the art project.

3. Organize your junk drawers. Throw out buttons you will never use, rusted safety pins, twisted paper clips and pens that don't write anymore. Don't forget to dispose of old junk mail and coupons with offers that have expired, statements for accounts that have already been paid, and any unidentifiable keys. Get or make a drawer organizer to corral all the little things left that roll around in there.

4. Paint the walls. Most users of the new low- and no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint find they smell little or no fumes shortly after painting. The latest technology in paints allows them to dry amazingly fast. You can also get paint with primer already in it to cover dark colors with ease. If you're tired of that purple wall, just do it.

5. Paint some furniture. If you just painted the purple wall white, you can give your decor a splash of color with a painted furniture piece. Just don't use latex paint. There are special paints for furniture painting made with a clay/chalk/mineral base for the right finish, such as those from American Paint Company.

6. Make no-sew throw pillows for spring. Make new coverings for old, dingy throw pillows. There are plenty of "how-to" instructions on making no-sew pillows online. All you will need is material an inch wider than each edge of the pillow for both sides of the cover, scissors, some heat bond tape, and an iron.

7. Start your seedlings. Depending on your climate zone, some young plants may go into the ground soon, so it may be just the right time to get the little ones started in some of those plastic yogurt cups you were saving. Yes, you cheated and didn't throw them away because you knew they would be useful for something.

Winter can be a productive time of year. Take advantage of it, and reap the benefits come spring.