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Four Steps to Keeping Your Vacation House in Order

Washington designer Lauren Liess shares how to minimize the upkeep and stress of a second home. Above, her lakeside vacation home in Virginia. Photograph by Helen Norman.

If the thought of doubling your housework—caring for two gardens, cleaning two sets of gutters, refreshing two chipping paint jobs—has you wary of taking on a vacation house, you’re not alone. Here, designer Lauren Liess shares tips that help her minimize the upkeep and stress of a second home.

1. Make friends with your neighbors. A lot can go wrong in the off-season or during the week, so build good relationships with neighbors who live near your weekend house full-time. They can alert you that a light was left on, sandbag your front door during a storm, and keep a spare set of keys for emergencies.

2. Save yourself yard work. If you can afford a professional landscaper, congrats. If you can’t, avoid weekends of pruning by choosing shrubs and ornamental grasses that require little effort. Ditch the lawn entirely—Liess covered most of hers with maintenance-free pine straw. And skip annuals in favor of perennials that will pop up every year with zero digging.

3. Find a do-it-all handyperson. Searching for a plumber when you’re meant to be sipping a margarita is nobody’s idea of fun. Instead, ask around for a reliable local who can handle odd jobs such as fixing a doorjamb or unclogging the disposal.

4. Prep for next time. As the weekend winds down, find time on a Sunday afternoon to ready the place for your next visit. Liess says her family is “crazy about leaving [the house] spotless every time, with clean sheets and freshly made beds, so when we come back it’s vacation time.” Toss any food that will spoil in your absence, and ask everyone to pitch in by putting flip-flops and toys back where they belong.

This article appears in our August 2016 issue of Washingtonian.

Design & Style Editor

Hillary writes about interiors, real estate, arts, and culture. She is the former digital media editor of The New Republic, and her work has also been published in Glamour, The New York Times Book Review, and The Washington Post, among others. You can follow her on Instagram @hillarylouisekelly or on Pinterest @hlkelly.