12/16/2014 05:32 pm ET Updated Feb 15, 2015

Snowblowing for Virgins

Last year was the first winter that I've been completely responsible for snow removal. I was married for years, then lived in a condo, then had a live-in boyfriend for a while. In all three cases I was happy to let someone else take over snow removal duty while I saw to more important matters, like drinking hot chocolate with Bailey's and reading a good book.

But now I can't avoid it. Prior to the first storm, I asked Facebook friends for advice on snowblowing and received detailed information involving things like "augers" when I was really looking for 101-level advice. Now that I'm several storms in, I can share some advice that I've learned the hard way -- by trial and error.

First, some snowblowing avoidance tips to try:

1. Start kissing up to your neighbors when the weather is warm. Baked goods, compliments, babysitting, etc. If you are lucky enough to have a pool, be sure to invite the neighbors over (after subtly confirming that they have a snowblower). Consult the Farmer's Almanac; if it predicts a particularly snowy winter, consider a neighborhood pool party.

2. Don't be afraid to play any card you have -- I went with the "single mother card," which didn't actually work for me (I live in New England, where everyone assumes you are tough and hardy), but you should try it anyway.

3. Utilize your children as a labor source, even if you have to trick them into it. Mine are 11 and 13 -- old enough to wield a shovel. Don't accept excuses like "school" or "a broken arm." My kids whine about it for sure, so I had to get crafty: I told my son and his friend, "There's NO WAY you can shovel this driveway using only a hockey stick." They just had to prove me wrong. Ha-ha! Remember though, each trick will probably only work one time. Be prepared to get creative.

Assuming you have tried tips one through three and are still stuck snowblowing, here is some more practical advice:

4. For the love of God, clear off your car before you begin snowblowing. It took me two storms to learn this gem. If you clear off your car first, then snowblow, you don't have to shovel around your car later.

5. Start in the middle, NOT the sides. This is because no matter which way you steer the snow, it will inevitably under -- or over-shoot that target by 10-12 feet. In most cases, it will fall back on your driveway but in another spot. If you start on the sides, you will almost certainly end up clearing the sides again. So start in the middle and work your way out. This includes the dreaded plowed-in part at the foot of the driveway.

6. If the front walkway is anywhere near the driveway, do it last. Again, this is because the snow doesn't usually land where you want it to, and you will likely end up having to re-do the walkway if you do it first.

7. Snowblowers require gas. Keep a can in your garage because you will run out in the middle of a blizzard.

I hope this list helps all you snowblowing virgins. I know I could have used this advice when I started out. And if you have a pool party this summer, please invite me.