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New Year, New Home? 7 Resolutions to Keep Your Place in Tiptop Shape


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OK, we’ll be your mom for a moment: When you own a home, it’s high time you form good habits to properly maintain your property. After all, it’s your biggest investment, and in the same way you brush your teeth twice a day (or at least we hope you do, and floss too!), you should do what it takes to keep your home in great shape, too.

“Good habits mean setting a regular maintenance routine and sticking to it,” says John Riha, author of seven books on remodeling. “A house is like a big animal that needs constant care and attention. Your house will reward you with lower energy bills, smaller repair costs, and a more comfortable, beautiful home environment.”

So, it’s time to make—and keep—some New Year’s resolutions, homeowners. Let others nag you about working out regularly, cutting back on the nightly Singapore slings, or volunteering regularly at the Retired Magicians Assisted-Living facility. No, we’re asking you to focus on your biggest and most beloved asset. Trust us, your home will repay your TLC big-time

Resolution No. 1: I will turn off the lights

When incandescent bulbs were in every home, everyone knew to turn off the light when they left the room, for heaven’s sake. But now that good-quality, energy-conserving options like compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have arrived, the money-saving game has changed. The CFL lifetime is shortened each time you turn the bulb on and off, according to the U.S. Energy Department. To save money on bulbs, keep the CFL light on if you’ll return to the room within 15 minutes. LEDs’ life span, on the other hand, is not affected by turning them on or off. That’s why they’re a good candidate for lights that work with motion-detecting sensors.

Resolution No. 2: I will remove my shoes, and compel others to do the same

The best thing you can do for your floors, carpets, and overall home hygiene is to remove your shoes and boots before you enter your house. A 2014 study by University of Houston researchers found that Clostridium difficile spores, which cause difficult-to-treat gastrointestinal problems, were found on almost 40% of shoe bottoms tested. Gross! Shoes also track in mud, allergens, and other nasties that are best left at the door.

Resolution No. 3: I will put money regularly into a maintenance fund

It’s a fact: Appliances break, water drips, HVAC systems fail, and they all cost money to fix or replace. In general, experts say you should stash 1% of your home’s purchase price annually for a maintenance fund, or put aside $1 per year per square foot. Automate the payment so you don’t have to think about it, and that way once your boiler breaks, the money will be there waiting for you.

Resolution No. 4: I will conduct mini-inspections

Just because your ceiling isn’t dripping and your house isn’t leaning off-kilter doesn’t mean all is well. In the spring and fall, inspect your place to get a firm grip on what needs attention.

  • Inspect your home’s exterior, and look for worn and peeling paint, rotting wood, and cracked caulk.
  • Before the weather grows cold, turn on the heat to make sure it works as it should.
  • If you burn wood in the fireplace, have the chimney cleaned before you start building fires in winter. (If you’ve never used the fireplace, be sure to have it inspected first.)
  • Climb a ladder and look for missing or buckled roof shingles.
  • Walk around the yard and see which trees and shrubs aren’t leafing out, a sign they are dead or dying.


Resolution No. 5: I will wash my windows regularly

Dirty windows not only look ugly, they also block light that brightens and heats your home for free.

“Clean windows will add a feeling of space and light to your home,” says Lee Williams, a Realtor® with New York City’s Level Group.

Wash your windows on a cool and overcast day, which will reduce spots and streaks. And after removing dirt with soapy water, make them sparkle by spraying on a 1:1 solution of water and white vinegar, then wipe dry. While the frequency will vary based on how dirty your windows get, aim for once every quarter.

Resolution No. 6: I will change HVAC filters monthly

A dirty, dusty HVAC filter will slow airflow and make your system work harder, which wastes energy and shortens the life of your furnace and air-conditioning units. Get into the habit of checking filters monthly, and replace or clean them when crud starts building up. At the very least, change the filter every three months.

Resolution No. 7: I will declutter a bit each day

Don’t wait for stuff to pile up in your home, which will wreck its look and your mood. If you don’t use it, toss or donate it; if you take it out, put it back; and if you open it, close it. One painless way to declutter is to put away five objects every time you enter a room. And, choose at least one thing a day to remove from your home. Put the item in a box, and donate/toss/gift the box when it’s full.