50 Things You Need to Do Before the Fall
From taking care of your health to getting organized for fall to squeezing every last drop of fun out of the warmer days, here's how to maximize the rest of your summer.
Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links.
Don’t let the farmers down
Everyone loves the farmer’s market during watermelon and peach season but your local growers have plenty of great things to offer as the weather cools down too, says Kristamarie Collman, MD, a family medicine physician specializing in preventative health, nutrition, and weight management. “Take advantage of the seasonal foods such as butternut, pumpkin, and other root vegetables,” she says. “These eats are loaded with vitamins and immune boosting nutrients to help keep you healthy throughout the season.” Here’s how classic fall activities will be different this year.
Go sleep outside and burn a marshmallow
Thanks to cooler temps, fall camping can be the best camping, says Christian Shauf, CEO and founder of Uncharted Supply Co. The mild weather, changing foliage, and crackling fire will give you lasting memories, plus nothing will solve your sadness about summer ending better than crisp air and the beautiful colors of the leaves around you, he adds. This is what the fall equinox means for your zodiac sign.
Be the person who plans all the fun stuff
Combat the dreaded end of summer by giving yourself something to look forward to. “Create a dream board filled with pictures of places you want to go or things you want to do to celebrate fall,” says Janine Knighton, creative director at PuttingAPinInIt.com. Apple picking, drives to see the changing leaves, pumpkin spice lattes, a cozy bed and breakfast, a sumptuous Thanksgiving family feast—whatever says “fall” to you. Then hang it somewhere you can see it every day, she adds. These 38 photos of fall across America will inspire you.
Arm yourself for allergy season
You may feel like you’ve just escaped the pollen-induced snot-fest of spring but ragweed allergy season is right around the corner come fall, says Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, author of The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health. So now is the time to talk to your doctor about your particular sensitivities and what you can do to treat them. Many allergy meds are over the counter these days or you can try a more natural route by drinking plenty of water and supplementing with magnesium citrate, she says. Check out these hidden travel gems that are cheaper in the offseason.
Make it rain money with a garage sale
Spring cleaning is normally seen as a prime time for yard sales, but a post-summer garage sale can be the perfect way to clean out the summer toys and gear you no longer need while making room for holiday decorations—not to mention making a little extra cash, says Aaron LaPedis, author of The Garage Sale Millionaire. Plus, it is a great way to meet your neighbors and their kids before school starts to set up playdates and carpools, he adds. Follow these tips to rake in the big bucks.
Bring back your regular bedtime
Schedules are just as vital for adults as they are for kids, so use this time to get yours back on track. Implement a regular bedtime routine at least ten days before school starts, says Fran Walfish, PhD, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent. “This will help your child’s body get into the groove of winding down and waking up earlier so when school begins, your child’s body, energy, and focus will be prepared for school’s physical and mental expectations and demands,” she explains. These are the best places to see New England fall foliage.
Buy glue sticks that actually glue
For parents, filling your cart with fresh packs of crayons, still-sticky glue sticks, and neat notebooks is one of the most poignant reminders that summer is ending and fall is coming. The key to a smooth back-to-school transition is to include your kids in the shopping and preparing, Dr. Walfish says. Let them help you round up stuff you have at home and pick out the new items at the store to help them feel more calm and prepared. Take a look at these stunning photos of New England in the fall.
Take a tour of the school
Whether it’s your child’s first year at a new school or they’re a seasoned elementary expert, taking a quick walk around the school, pointing out their new classroom, and saying hi to their teachers can go a long way in helping them feel ready for school, Dr. Walfish says. Most schools offer a formal back-to-school night for this purpose but they’ll often let you come in during other times as well. Don’t miss the 33 things your kids’ teacher wants you to know.
Set up a cozy homework nook
Whether it’s putting a box of supplies near the kitchen table or getting a desk for their bedroom, make sure your child has a quiet, well-stocked place to do their homework. This not only serves as a visual reminder to your child of the upcoming summer-to-school transition but gives them the routine and structure they crave, Dr. Walfish says. Before school starts they can use it as a book nook to catch up on their favorite novels—perhaps one of these 13 books that you won’t believe have been banned?
Ruthlessly purge your closet
The shift between seasons is the perfect time to declutter and organize your closet, says Rachel Rosenthal, a professional organizer. Overwhelmed? Use this trick: Look at each of your items and think about whether or not you’ve used it or worn it since the end of last summer. If the answer is “no” then it’s time to get rid of it, she says. This tough love will make way for more seasonal items like ski pants or a new holiday dress. This flowchart will help you decide what to keep and what to donate.
Get down with your down comforters
Soon the sweat-soaked summer nights will be replaced with the chill of fall evenings—and that means flannel sheets, down comforters, and snuggly throws. The end of summer is the perfect time to unpack your heavier linens and check for signs of moth holes, mold, or mildew, says Kendra Williams, owner of The Kreative Life. Get rid of any storage odors by giving them a wash with a cup of vinegar.
Make your friends jealous with your custom pumpkin spice mix
It’s almost pumpkin pie spice season! Lattes, muffins, chocolates, doughnuts, coffee, and many other tasty foods will be spiked with the seasonal spice. Skip the pricey store-bought blends and make your own, Williams says. It’s easy and cheap. Simply buy bulk sizes of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves and then mix together. (We like this recipe from The Pioneer Woman.)
Have the talk with yourself (No, not the sex talk, the work talk)
Fall is usually the “home stretch” for work-related goals and accomplishments before the annual end-of-year performance reviews, making this the perfect time to review your goals and accomplishments and make sure you’re still on track, says Nicole Littmann, business coach, founder, and CEO of Aurelian Coaching. This way you’ll know what you need to prioritize in order to finish off the year on a high note—and land that bonus, she says.
Beat your coworkers and get your holiday time-off requests in now
The end of summer may feel too early to be thinking about your winter holiday vacation plans, but a little planning now will make sure you get the time off you want when you want it, Littmann says. Talk to your manager about how they handle holiday time off requests and if they have any rules and then get your request in as soon as it’s allowed. This will save you a lot of grief and frustration later on, she adds. These are the best places to spot fall foliage in America.
Celebrate sweater season with stuff you forgot you already own
Prep your wardrobe for plunging fall temps by pulling out your cold-weather clothing now, says Jacquelyn Youst, a modern manners and image expert. Doing this early can help you see exactly what you have and identify any missing pieces, allowing you time to buy what you need before you need it. Preplanning your outfits will increase your confidence and save time and stress in the mornings so you’re not scrambling to find something that works for that first cold snap, she says.
Get shot (with a needle)
“Without a doubt, the most important health tip to get ready for fall is to get your flu shot,” says Pat Carroll, RN, author of What Nurses Know and Doctors Don’t Have Time to Tell You. Doing it now will help you beat the fall rush and give you plenty of time for it to strengthen your immune system. While doctors’ offices typically don’t have the shots available until October, you can get one at walk-in centers and pharmacy mini-clinics as early as August. And no, you can’t get the flu from the flu shot or nasal mist.
Go on an HSA or FSA spending spree
Fall is the time to evaluate your health spending account (HSA) or a flexible spending account (FSA) or to set one up if you aren’t already taking advantage of this tax break, Carroll says. Basically, both an HSA and FSA allow you set aside pre-tax money in an account to pay for any health expenses but while the HSA rolls over to the next year, an FSA must be used during the plan year. (You’re eligible for an HSA if you have a high-deductible health plan.) Before fall comes, tally up how much money in your account you’ve used and plan how you’ll spend the rest before the new year, she says. Don’t forget to submit any reimbursement receipts for costs you’ve covered. Read up on these fun facts about the fall equinox.
Deep dive into your health insurance
Fall is when most companies ask you to update your health insurance and if you get your insurance under the Affordable Care Act, you need to make any changes between November 1 and December 15, 2018. Get prepared by looking at how you spent your money on healthcare over the past year. Was it on prescriptions? Specialist visits? Lab tests or imaging? “Once you know your pattern of using services, you can pick the best plan option available to you,” Carroll says.
Scrub off your dead skin
Cooler temps means drier skin and dry skin is flaky skin. Keep your skin smooth (and your clothes clean) by doing a weekly scrub with an exfoliation brush, says celebrity aesthetician Joshua Ross of West Hollywood’s SkinLab. Exfoliation is great but there are so many ways you can go wrong.
Upgrade your moisturizer
Summer is all about light, protective lotions while winter is all about creamy, penetrating balms. So, what to do about the in-between weather of fall? “You might not be ready to switch your summer moisturizer out for something heavier just yet, but adding a drop or two of a facial oil is just what your skin needs,” Ross says. “It will amp up the hydration of your moisturizer without making it feel too heavy.”
Make your Instagram real life
Half the fun of the long summer break is getting to relive the sunny memories as the days get shorter. To keep it fresh in your mind, create a visual reminder of your magical summer moments, says Knighton. Don’t just let those pictures languish on Instagram or Facebook! Make a wall of framed photos, a printed photo book, an electronic photo collage on your computer, a scrapbook, or simply pin printed photos on a corkboard. These are the spots you should never skip when fall cleaning.
Make a battle plan for the next time you see your mother-in-law
The fall holiday season can trigger a tide of emotions. Whether this is your first Thanksgiving without your mother or your first Halloween since the divorce, the holidays have a way of bringing up big feelings. Instead of avoiding them or stuffing them down (which doesn’t work long-term anyhow!) identify what you’re dealing with now and make a plan for how you’ll deal with each situation and mitigate stress in a healthy way, says Cali Estes, PhD, life coach and founder of The Addictions Academy. Start with these 11 simple tricks for managing holiday stress and anxiety.
Explore your hidden talent for ju-jitsu macrame
When the kids leave to start school again, you may suddenly feel empty or lonely. So sign up for a class or two yourself! You can further your formal education at the local community college or develop a hobby with painting, dancing, or woodworking lessons. It’s important to find productive ways to stay busy as feeling alone is a major trigger for alcohol or other addictions, Estes says. Follow these strategies to find a new hobby you’ll love.
Put your phone in tech jail
Chances are you’ve gotten pretty loose with your technology over the summer, staying up later to watch movies or playing on your phone through casual dinners. But when vacation ends or school resumes, you’ll need more discipline and structure with your digital devices, says Nicole Dreiske, author and executive director of the International Children’s Media Center. This is the perfect time to draw up a family tech agreement, spelling out rules for social media, video games, and Netflix binges while setting aside tech-free family time, she says.
Channel Martha Stewart and whip up some freezer jam
Summer is peak produce season but all those juicy pears, plump berries, and crisp peas will soon start to die off. Take advantage of cheap produce prices and lock in the flavor and nutrients by freezing or canning your favorites, says Kristen N. Burris, a licensed acupuncturist and nutrition expert. If that sounds like too much work, know it can be as simple as dumping strawberries into a freezer bag and storing them. Feeling a little more advanced? Puree some fruit and make freezer jam or try canning peaches and beans.
Get a skin cleanser that’s actually nice to your face
As temperatures cool down, so will your skin, so your summer skincare may be too drying for what your skin needs now, says Jacqueline Schaffer, MD, author and founder of Schique Skincare. “A good rule of thumb is to use a non-drying sulfate-free cleanser in the morning and a lightweight lotion-based cleanser at night, depending on skin type,” she explains.
Put your water bottle where you can see it
You’re constantly being reminded to stay hydrated in the summer but even though summer may seem like the dry season because of the heat, fall and winter can be just as dry, if not worse, Dr. Schaffer says. That means drink up! Even if you’re not sweating in the sun, your body still needs plenty of fresh water to be happy and healthy.
Be that person with the sunscreen clipped to your keychain
“Just because it isn’t summer doesn’t mean the sun’s rays back down,” Dr. Schaffer says. The UVB rays that give you suntans definitely subside during the fall, but the UVA rays that cause more serious damage like skin cancer are still prevalent and strong. So keep applying that SPF! These are the best socially distanced weekend trips for fall.
Level up your wardrobe with transition pieces
Contrary to what the fashion world might have you believe, you actually don’t need an entirely new wardrobe for every season. What you really need are a few pieces that can help transition your basics from summer to fall, says Christine Andrew, founder of Hello Fashion and ILY Couture. A cardigan, moto jacket, tights, scarf, hat, or booties can help make even your summer-iest of summer dresses into a cute fall outfit, she says. Brush up with these tips on how to accessorize like a pro.
Smell like a baby deer in an apple orchard drinking a latte
Fresh floral perfumes are perfect for summer days where you spend a lot of time outside. But fall calls for a warmer, more decadent scent, says Sona Gasparian, makeup artist, founder of Pérsona Cosmetics, and YouTube beauty guru. Think scents with earthy or musky notes. This is one of the simplest and easiest ways to give your personal style a little fall flair, she adds. Want more tips? Check out these 51 secrets fashion stylists won’t tell you for free.
Channel your inner goth (a little)
The warmer months are all about lighter colors, but the time right before fall is the perfect opportunity to try out some darker, more moody tones in your makeup and clothing, Gasparian says. “I trade bright lipsticks and eyeshadows for richer plums and burgundy, and opt for outfits in black, deep brown, and gray,” she says. “This is true no matter your climate. Whether you live in NYC or L.A., a black dress and a dark lip color will be on-trend.”
Try out one of those workouts everyone is always posting on Facebook
Biking, swimming, hiking—the options for summer workouts feel practically limitless. But don’t let your exercise routine slide just because cold temps are around the corner, says Nancy Irwin, PhD, primary therapist at Seasons in Malibu. Scout out indoor options, like Zumba or weight lifting classes. Or, if you prefer to stay outdoors, now is the time to dig out your skis and snowshoes. The trick is to actually schedule that class or hike on your calendar to make sure you go, regardless of the weather, she says.
Schedule an appointment with a therapist—massage or talk, your choice
A change in the seasons is a great time to do a mental health check-in and schedule some ways to take care of yourself, Dr. Irwin says. This can include getting a massage or a facial. Or, it could be scheduling therapy sessions, finding a life coach, or talking to your doctor about antidepressants. Whatever helps you find more balance and happiness in your life.
Get mad about SAD
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a real thing and affects up to 20 percent of the population in the United States each year, says Monte Drenner, LPC, therapist and life coach in Orlando. While it stinks that you get it, the upside is that because it is predictable, you can prepare for it. Put a plan in place by buying a light box, trying out supplements, and talking to your doctor about medication. Make sure to make note of any early changes in mood and sleep patterns so these symptoms can be addressed quickly rather than letting them progress throughout the fall and winter months, he adds.
Get your 72-hour kit together before the earthquake, forest fire, or hurricane hits this time
September is emergency preparedness month and while no one likes to think about the worst happening, you only have to watch the news to know that it does. Now is the time to get you and your family prepared by packing all the essentials you’ll need in case of an emergency, says Lauren Casler, communication strategist at SAIF Corporation. Not sure where to start? Check out these lists of emergency essentials for your home, car, work, and school.
Can you read the fifth line down on the eye chart? No cheating!
August is eye health month (there’s a month for everything!) so take advantage of it by scheduling an eye exam for you and your kids. It’s especially important to get kids checked out before school starts, says Brian Boxer Wachler, MD, an eye surgeon and founder of the Boxer Wachler Vision Institute. “It’s important to correct these issues, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness before they create more serious complications such as difficulty learning or recurrent headaches,” he says.
No, the gunk will NOT just burn off naturally
There’s nothing worse than breaking out the grill on the first fine day of spring only to discover last year’s food still stuck to it. Scrape off food residue, seal propane tanks, and use a wet/dry vac to suck out all the ashes and grime that’s settled in the bottom, says Isabel Posada, a rep for Vacmaster. Next, make sure you’re not making any of these common grilling mistakes.
Pack up your patio furniture
The time to put away or cover your outdoor furniture is before the weather gets cold, Posada says. Do your future self a favor by taking a few extra minutes to vacuum off cushions, wipe down the glass, and polish the metal, she adds. These are the things all smart homeowners do once a year.
Don’t be a victim to crazy deer attacks
It’s a sad but true fact of fall: Migrating animals, particularly deer, means an increase in car-animal collisions, says Trevor Chapman, a spokesperson for Farmer’s Insurance. There are some things you can do now to reduce your risk, however. Drive during the daylight, wear your seat belt, drive in the middle lane, and keep your headlights on, he advises. One more pro-tip? “While it may seem counter-intuitive, it may be better to hit an animal directly in your path, rather than swerve at high speeds to avoid a collision,” he explains. “Swerving may increase the likelihood of losing control of the car and hitting barriers, causing a rollover or worse.”
Stop making it so easy for bad guys to steal your stuff
Holiday preparations often mean buying expensive gifts—and thieves know it, Chapman says. If you have a home security system, take time now to check and make sure all the components are working properly. If you don’t, take common-sense measures like putting lights on a timer, having your packages sent to a secure mailbox, and not advertising your big purchases or absences on social media, he says. For more, check out these other signs that your house is vulnerable to being robbed.
Blow out your sprinklers
If you live in warmer parts chances are you don’t even know what this means but for cold-weather folks, it only takes one burst pipe to understand how important it is to blow out your sprinklers before fall, Chapman says. You can rent a machine from a local hardware store or hire someone to do it. Make sure you turn off all your outdoor water and empty any hoses and spigots while you’re at it.
Try stripping (of the weather variety)
Weather stripping is a cost-effective and simple way to keep your house warm and lower your electricity bills. Simply apply the weather stripping on your exterior doors, as well as sealing gaps and cracks around window frames, Chapman says.
Prune any trees with violent tendencies
Heavy snow and ice can cause branches to snap and break, sometimes causing serious injury or property damage, Chapman says. Guard against this by having your trees trimmed back now, making sure there aren’t any heavy or weak branches overhanging your home or sidewalks, he says.
Evict the bird family from your chimney
Nothing says fall is coming like a cheery, crackling fire—unless your chimney’s blocked and then you have a smokey mess at best or a house fire at worst, Chapman says. Get your chimney and fireplace cleaned out and serviced by a licensed professional now before you want to use them.
Stalk the back-to-school sales
Whether or not you have a child heading back to school come fall, you can still take advantage of the seasonal sales, especially on items like office supplies, lunch boxes, and clothing, says Olya Hill, creative director and founder of Living Notes. Just make sure you set a budget before heading out or you risk falling into the “Target Trap” and spending way more than you wanted to, she adds. Try these other smart strategies for back-to-school savings.
Freak your friends out and make your New Year’s resolutions now
“Many people think that the holidays are the worst time to get their health in order but on the contrary, I believe fall is the best time,” says Amanda Walker, certified nutrition coach and trainer. The kids have returned to school, the weather is gorgeous, and if you set your health resolutions now you’ll be prepared for peak temptation time, a.k.a. the holidays. Starting your resolutions now can help you minimize the average American holiday weight gain.
Put the smart back in your smartphone
The “summer slide,” where kids forget what they learned the previous year, is a real phenomenon. But it doesn’t have to be, says Adrian Ridner, CEO and co-founder of Study.com. “Kids are regularly on their phones or tablets anyway, so install educational apps and encourage them to use them daily to help them reinforce what they’ve learned,” she says. “This can make a huge difference when it comes to a successful school year in the fall.”
Start stressing, er, thinking about college applications
For high school seniors, the time to decide on a college and major will arrive faster than you think, so start helping your teen research their options now. “By the fall, students should have a solid understanding of where they want to go to school, what they want to major in, and the costs associated with the schools they want to apply to,” Ridner says.
Get an attitude upgrade with gratitude
It doesn’t have to be Thanksgiving to count your blessings. Writing down a few things each day that you’re grateful for can help you have a positive outlook and guard against depression, says Tiffany Young, PhD, LPC, a counselor at Trinity Gives Hope Mental Health Consulting Agency. Starting now will get you in the habit before the days get short and the nights get dark and long.
Keep your pets from barfing on your new carpet
Fall offers some unique risks for cats and dogs, says Erin Askeland, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA of Camp Bow Wow. For instance, while you may love fresh-picked apples they can be quite harmful to your dogs. In addition, many seasonal candies are super tempting for Fido but can also make him very sick or even kill him. Lastly, many animals can’t resist gnawing on school supplies like pens, pencils, and paper which also isn’t good for them. Make sure all your fall decorations and treats are safe for your animals or are safely out of reach. Quick, while it’s still summer complete your ultimate summer bucket list.