5 NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS FOR YOUR HOME
Every year when January rolls around New Years Resolutions are set with a whole new resolve. We vow to lose weight, save money , spend more time with family and friends, reduce our waste. Did you know goals you set for your home can help you realize the resolutions you’ve set for your personal life as well? Here’s how that works.
1. Streamline the stuff
A few years ago on a flight home, I did what most travellers do and purchased a book called “Clear the Clutter With Feng Shui.” I had no idea what Feng Shui was but I did know about clutter. I completed the book on that five hour flight. When I walked in the door of my home, I realized cleaning the clutter was going to make my life simpler, and my home more enjoyable.
Each year most of us acquire a mountain of stuff. Without some regular purging, cabinets and drawers get jam-packed and it becomes hard to find the things you use and enjoy the most. (All that clutter also makes your house look dated and dirty, designers say.)
This year resolve to go room-by-room periodically clearing anything that you don't use, wear or love and donate it to charity. After that, think twice about what you bring in, says Antoinette Nue, an Atlanta consultant who specializes in helping people simplify and go green. Before you buy that next thing you think you need, ask yourself if you can live happily without it. Chances are, you can. Take the money you saved from NOT purchasing and put it in a special savings account. You’ll be surprised how much you save in a year.
"Fill your home with the things that raise your energy level and make you feel good, and get rid of the things that drain your energy or are broken," she says.
Stash useful (but not beautiful) items such as DVDs, remotes and those kicked-off shoes in simple woven baskets. Group similar items together on sleek trays, says Stuart McCormick, a designer with Liz Levin Interiors in Washington D.C.
Clear your counters of everything you don't use on a daily basis. And get ready to breathe a little easier in your own home.
2. Make it safe and sound
A safe home is as valuable, if not more so than a beautiful home. There are a few things that every homeowner should do to ensure that they're not living with a potential health hazard or fire risk.
First, check your house for radon. This colorless, odorless gas causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year from the radioactive particles it traps in your lungs as you breathe. One in every fifteen homes has elevated levels. And with test kits costing as little as $20 at your local hardware store, there's no reason not to get right on that.
While we're on the subject of deadly gas, make sure you install a carbon monoxide detector on every bedroom floor in addition to fire detectors. If a chimney flue or furnace vent gets blocked or leaks, carbon monoxide could back up in your house and kill you. Like a radon test, this is a small investment — $40 or more — for such an important safeguard.
Watch out for dryer lint. We know you clean the little trap inside the door, but most people neglect to clean the vents and ducts behind the dryer. Lint may seem innocent, but it's highly combustible, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, accounting for more than 15,000 building fires a year.
Make sure your house can breathe. Home Inspectors are always surprised at how many people's bathrooms and attics aren't vented to the outside (or the vents are covered over with shingles.) This makes you a prime candidate for mold.
And if you're considering a remodel — and your home was last built or remodeled before 1978 — consider testing for lead paint and asbestos flooring. It will have to handled properly during removal, or particles can be released into the air for you to ingest.
3. Shrink your bills (and your carbon footprint in the process)
When people think of going green, they often think it takes solar panels or a hybrid car to make a difference. Not so, says Bob Schildgen, who writes the "Hey Mr. Green" column for Sierra magazine. It just takes a little old-fashioned common sense.
The best place to start is by cutting your energy usage in your home:
- Remember your mom's advice and switch off the lights when you leave a room.
- Turn off your air conditioner when you leave the house and dial your heater down to 55 degrees at night.
- Install compact fluorescent bulbs and low-flow showerheads.
- Try drying some of your clothes on the line and wait for the dishwasher or washing machine to be full before you run them.
- Turn off your power strips and/or set your home computer to revert to sleep mode when not in use.
- Water your yard less. Put in drought-tolerant landscaping if necessary.
- Give composting a try. Your garden will thank you.
- Put a timer on your hot water tank. Did you know that the largest waste of energy is your hot water tank? Surprises you doesn’t it? Your hot water tank runs 24/7 to keep your water at 140 degrees F (or whatever you’ve set it to). During the day when no one is home to use hot water, or night when everyone is sleeping, it’s still burning energy to keep that water hot. Installing a timer on the hot water tank can reduce your energy bill significantly. If you want to know how much energy it’s using, the label on the tank will tell you how many kwh it uses per day, take that figure and look at your fuel bill to see what a kwh is costing you, multiply those 2 figures then multiply by 30. That’s what it’s costing. Putting a timer on the tank that turns it on 30 minutes before anyone needs to shower and 30 minutes before anyone comes home and shuts it off in the evening will save you a lot of money, and reduce the carbon footprint significantly.
4. Work out a weekly system for keeping your house clean.
Here are a few tips for keeping the mess under control from Jeff Campbell, author of the book Speed Cleaning and owner of the Clean Team housekeeping service in San Francisco.
Daily: Dishes go in the dishwasher every night - no excuses! Dirty clothes go in the hamper and jackets or clean clothes are hung in the closet. Bring everything back to its assigned place.
Weekly: Clean your entire house, using these tips:
- Keep all of your cleaners, as well as rubber gloves and spare cleaning cloths - in a portable carryall that moves with you from room to room.
- Stash cleaning implements such as a toothbrush, scraper, sponge, a few cleaning cloths and plastic bags in a builder's apron that you wear when you clean. Hook your glass cleaner and all-purpose cleaning spray on the loops to keep your hands free as you work around the room clockwise, cleaning from high (cabinets) to low (floors.)
- Focus on one type of cleaning at a time. It's faster. Wipe down fingerprints on all of the cabinets, for instance, before moving on to spraying and wiping counters. Then move on to windows and mirrors and appliances. Once that's done move on to sweeping and then mopping floors.
- For optimum efficiency, enlist the help of your family. If you can, divide the jobs among at least three parties: One of you can do the dusting/vacuuming and changing beds, the other can do the bathroom cleanup, leaving only the kitchen and trash emptying for you to handle. The upside? You can get the whole house done in 45 minutes, Campbell says, leaving more time on the weekends for the park or the movies.
5. Get your place ready for entertaining
Each year most of us vow to spend more time with family and friends. To make you feel like inviting people in, why not give the areas you entertain in a little update?
You don't have go for broke here and invest in a new kitchen remodel. Any designer will tell you all it takes to get a fresh new look is a little bit of rearranging and a few updates.
One easy update that makes your home seem more "finished" is the addition of plants. Plants bring in new energy and help clean the air. And it's a great way to decorate if you're on a budget.
A couple of dramatic presentations like a large flowering agapanthus or potted palm in a bright ceramic planter that complements your existing color scheme will do the trick.
Pulling out a new accent color from your existing decor can make the whole room seem fresh. Pick an underused color in the room and add more of it in the form of a new pillow or throw to update your look. A colorful rug or runner can also help anchor your space.
Lastly, take some time to rearrange your furniture so it is oriented in conversation groups and not just facing the television. That just might up the for chances for real conversation and connection in the New Year.