Work smarter, not harder – How to quickly get rid of fall leaves

This post is all about how to rake leaves the easy way, Work Smarter not Harder.


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Published January 30, 2023

In 2019, we bought our new house. We quickly realized there was going to be a lot of work in the backyard quite often. While walking the yard, we noticed the leaves were so thick, and will then needing to be removed.

All my life, our family has been using tools to get jobs done quickly. My dad, possibly the most efficient man I know when it comes to a job, has taught me and my siblings how to rake and then remove leaves in the best way possible. As the old saying goes, “Work smarter, not harder”.

Growing up, there was this trailer that was the back end of an old Chevrolet truck. It was red and bulbous and awesome. Actually, my dad just sold it about two weeks ago. Sad, because I didn’t get to say goodbye. Really, it was like a part of our family!

This trailer was used to haul wood, leaves, and even family borrowed it for odd jobs. My dad even custom-fit sides so that when we do use it, we can fill it up even more. He even custom-made a thick piece of fabric for our twice a year job of doing leaves at the cottage. Below you can see the fabric thrown over the leaves pile once the trailer is full. The neatest part of that fabric is that it has two handholds cut into it by my smart dad. It’s brilliant, really. I’ll explain more about that soon.

red trailer rake leaves

As a parent now myself, it was sure time to teach our kids how to properly rake leaves. However, our oldest Sam has been helping since 2016! He has always been so helpful when a job needs to get done.

sam rake leaves

Along with leaves, this trailer hauled kids as well! They like to get into the leaves in the trailer to stomp them down. Doing this helps compact the leaves and allows for more to be added.

sam matthew in trailer leaves

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Important backyard work, up north

This day, back in November 2016, my grandfather, parents, Tyler and our kids were at my aunts raking her leaves at her cottage. Big red was a big help! We have been raking leaves this way for four generations.

My aunt also had a lot of leaves in her backyard that needed clearing and this day was a lot of work! Guys were even on the roof leaf blowing them off.

family rake leaves

One of the first and best purchases our family did when we bought our house was to buy a trailer. Not only do trailers help haul things, materials and wood, but they also help haul leaves when the fall comes. And in the winter, the trailer holds all of our bikes and summer outdoor items while stored in the garage.

The first fall we lived in our house, we hauled more leaf loads, with my dad’s trailer, than we could remember. And that still didn’t leave a noticeable dent on the amount leftover. However, the leaves would have to wait until springtime, as it was late November once we started raking. So we decided to do the front yard and sides of the house and let the backyard wait until spring 2020.

This backyard was going to be a lot of work.

backyard rake leaves

Come spring 2020, you all know what happened. We then had A LOT of time at home, so our boys collected large sticks and branches that were hidden amongst the leaves, and they made a tepee. This awesome tepee stood and was fun until this past summer 2022. Over the next two years, it did grow and gain more sticks and was a great vertical storage system for firewood.

tp in backyard work

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Starting the Backyard Work

Fall 2020, and we raked the front yard and also the back yard and hauled so many loads of leaves with the trailer. I believe I did at least five myself while the kids were in school. However, playing is necessary while doing work.

backyard work in leaf pile

Have you ever seen so many leaves in one backyard before? It was truly a daunting thought to get rid of them all. And our village does not haul leaves, we have a leaf collection site where residents can go to bring their leaves. Thank God we had the trailer!

backyard work leaves in yard

In early fall, the trees are still green. Yet, some of the leaves have started to fall, thus covering the backyard leading to a lot of work.

leaves in trailer backyard work

While cleaning up the backyard, we sometimes place the trailer in the garage and then load heavy items such as bark and branches in bins and then haul them through the door to the trailer.

Once full, we hook it up and drive to our local dump site where they have separate places for leaves and small branches.

Our village does not collect leaves on a regular basis. The city we lived in for 10 years, prior to 2019, did weekly collections in the road and we were able to rake the leaves to the curb. This village, however, does not do that so we are required to remove our own leaves.

The backyard was covered in leaves, and the trees still had a long way to go. Peak colors in North Central Wisconsin last anywhere between mid-October through November. We typically spend at least three to four days raking, sometimes more.

Having a third of an acre, mostly trees, this process is long. Having a trailer helps to make short work of the massive number of leaves we remove each spring and fall.

leaves house backyard work

As you can see, our front yard is covered with leaves and the trees have only just begun to drop their fall colors.

Place a large tarp INTO the trailer

backyard work trailer

This is the super specific time, where to be picky and precise. The tarp, the LARGER tarp, should go into the trailer and up the sides to prevent any leaves from leaving and flying out, kind of like a liner.
In doing this, make sure the ends lay OVER the front and back of the trailer so that when it is loaded, these two ends can fold OVER the leaves.

Rake the leaves into a pile

This is pretty self-explanatory. Just make sure to use a good and strong rake.

leaf pile

Rake the leaves ONTO a tarp

Use your rake and then rake the leaves onto a tarp. The tarp helps to gather the leaves to then be able to move them to the trailer.

leaves on tarp

There are a few tricks to doing this step successfully. Step one is to have a nice and large tarp. We typically use a 7 X 7-foot tarp, nothing too fancy.

The second tip is to have the tarp close to the pile of leaves with one person each standing on the corner, raking the leaves onto the tarp. Doing this allows for none of the leaves to get under the tarp.

Drag the tarp to a trailer

Typically, dragging a tarp loaded with leaves, is a two-person job. Trust me, it is not easy to drag a years’ worth of leaves by oneself. On the short edge of the tarp, each grab one of the corners and then work hard to drag it.

pick up leaves on tarp

Load the leaves into the trailer

This is also a two-person job, lifting the tarp to flip it INTO the trailer. You can then keep the tarp in place and get onto the trailer, stomping the leaves down so you can then fit more into the trailer.

Then, remove the tarp and keep loading the trailer until it is sufficiently full.

Once full, on the last load, keep the tarp in place and then fold over the two ends of the larger tarp, creating a sandwich and then, if desired, lay a few heavy objects on top so the tarps stay in place. A few lawn pavers work great. This was necessary with this tarp on this day as it was sightly windy. If you have a higher sided trailer, it may not be necessary.

leaves in trailer

Empty trailer

This is my favorite part. This “LEAF HACK” has saved my back and takes only minutes to move a trailer load of leaves. No more shoveling leaves into bags, raking them out of a trailer or bin. With this method, you can get your leaves raked, moved and dumped in a fraction of the time.

empty trailer backyard work

When at the dump site, pop down the ramp and then remove the pavers or heavy objects from the top of the tarp and then set them aside.

Grab the back end of the larger tarp, the one that is UNDER the leaves and pull it off of the trailer. This will literally take all of the leaves off of your trailer in one go.

dump leaves backyard work

Then, remove the top tarp and flip over the bottom tarp, upending all of the leaves off of the larger tarp.

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Pack up and head home for more backyard work

reload tools backyard work

Place both of the tarps back into the trailer and then place the heavy pavers on top so you do not lose the tarps. Finally, close your trailer gate.

This day, driving into our leave collection site, there were three other trucks unloading leaves from their beds. Each had either a person in the back raking leaves out of the truck or unloading bags or containers of leaves.

In the time it took to unload these leaves, the other trucks were still working.

Not to brag, but kind of, I was in and out in under two minutes.

selfie backyard work

Finally, head out of that dump site like a boss, knowing that this process was quick, efficient and not tiresome as you unloaded an entire trailer full of leaves in one go. Realizing that you did not have to rake them out of the bed of the trailer, truck, or emptying any bags or bins of leaves.

Then, call your dad, if you are me, and thank him for teaching you this amazing process as a child.

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