By Jennifer Segelke Jeffers
Now that we’ve closed the books on 2014, it’s officially time to welcome 2015. And like the start of most years for many of us, January 1 also represents the begging of New Year’s resolutions.
As you prep your list of the year’s self-improvements, why not also consider making a list for the place you do the majority of your living: your home. If you’ve just purchased a newly built home, then you’re all taken care of. But, if one of your resolutions includes buying a new home in the next year, here are some ideas for your current home. We’ve talked to the experts and compiled our Top 5 list of New Year’s resolutions for your home:
1. Give Your House an Honest Once Over
As you begin your improvement to-do list, you might be a little lost on where to start. In order to better understand the condition of your home and know what needs to get accomplished in 2015, it’s imperative that you look at your home with fresh eyes.
“I get a notebook and stroll around the inside of my house pretending I’m going to buy it. I jot down everything I would bring up with the real estate agent and then assess what I need to do myself. I do the same thing outside,” says Cheryl Reed, director of communication at Angie’s List, a local business review website. “I inventory my major appliances and HVAC system and even hire an energy auditor to learn if my house is sealed up tight or if I’m sending all my heat out into the winter air.”
2. Make Your Home Healthy
Your home is your haven, but if not monitored properly, your home can become unhealthy for you, says Caroline Blazovsky, a national healthy home expert. In order to help your home achieve optimal health, Blazovsky suggests:
Healthy Vacuuming: Vacuum slowly every other day, especially if you have pets and/or carpeting. Regular cleaning and vacuum maintenance is critical.
Reduce VOCs: Volatile organic compounds are chemicals that come from a variety of sources we use everyday — personal care products, paint, furniture, fragrance — and, when levels become elevated, can cause a variety of symptoms such as headache, asthma and respiratory problems. Because paint is the largest contributor to total VOCs in the home, remember to buy low-VOC options when possible and store all paint outside of the home.
Reduce Mold: “If you have a musty/moldy smell or visible mold in an area of your home that is larger than 10 square feet, call a professional to deal with the problem immediately,” she says. “I recommend testing your home every three years, to make sure your air quality is healthy and not exposing you to unnecessary mold, allergens and chemicals.”
3. De-clutter and Organize
They say a cluttered house leads to a cluttered mind, so if you’re hoping for a bit of mental clarity in the New Year, de-cluttering your home is a logical resolution. Sally Morse, director of creative services at window-covering company Hunter Douglas, suggests beginning with the basics. “Put things where they belong. Remember the old adage: A place for everything and everything in its place,” she says. “Give unused toys in good condition to the needy, an excellent lesson for your children and an activity you can enjoy doing together. Remove anything from the kitchen counter that you don’t use every day and store it in a cupboard.”
She suggests tackling closets, a daunting undertaking for even the savviest organizer, for weekends when you won’t feel rushed. Once your home is clutter-free and well organized, you’ll feel empowered to keep it that way — all year long.
4. Get Rid of Your Home’s Energy Vampires
Vampire energy, the electric power consumed by consumer electronic devices when they’re switched off but still plugged in, can cost your home hundreds of dollars each year. “Your plasma TV can suck up more than 1,400 kilowatt hours annually, adding up to as much as $150 every year, and cable boxes use about 500 kilowatt hours per year because they’re plugged in and sucking power, even when you’re not watching TV. Combined, cable boxes alone cost Americans $2 billion in wasted electricity each year,” says Gene Wang of Power People, a software company that focuses on smart devices.
Appliances that use a remote control, have a continuous display or have an external power supply are almost always energy vampires. Wang suggests grouping these vampires together on one power strip. “That way you can easily turn all the devices on and off with one switch,” he says. “Smart power plugs can detect how much electricity your vampires are consuming and can be set to automatically turn off every night and then turn back on every morning.”
5. Remember the Basics
Because of its simplicity, this resolution may be the most difficult one to remember and follow through with: do as Grandma said, and wash your hands, take off your shoes and open the windows. Keeping the windows open and allowing fresh outdoor air into your home can help lower levels of airborne pollutants, which are known to cause health problems.
For those who can’t open the windows or leave a door open, HEPA filters are a great alternative, says Blazovsky. “Air filters can actually reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease caused by air pollution.”
Washing your hands and leaving shoes at the door are both great ways to keep outdoor toxins and microorganisms out of your home.
Jennifer Segelke Jeffers is a contributor to New Home Source. You can find her on Google+.