Almost everyone makes a list—physical or mental—of New Year’s resolutions or intentions. Even if you’re not ready to commit to a gym membership or cancel cookies for a month, here are a few actions you can take to make your home healthier and get the calendar year off to a great start.
First, get rid of a few things
It’s been 5 years since Marie Kondo taught the world about tossing what doesn’t spark joy and one year since her Netflix show sparked a huge uptick in thrift store donations. We’re not suggesting you go Full Kondo unless you really want to, but now’s the time to do a little trimming … which can make a big difference in how you feel about your space.
1. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to edit your closet. Weeding out underused, over-worn, outdated, too-small, or too-large pieces will give your wardrobe a welcome refresh. While you’re at it, don’t forget to sort through your sock drawer and toss singles plus those with unfixable holes.
Remember that we usually make up for what we get rid of by buying new things, which is why so many of us end up feeling the need to clear out again and again. Will 2020 be the year you break the cycle?
We like the idea of keeping a bag in your closet at all times to constantly move through things you don’t love—as you try on pieces and realize you don’t want to wear them, toss them in the bag. When it’s full, donate.
Flyhomes tip: Been hanging onto extras? Shelters can always use donations of new underwear and crew socks. High quality white tube socks and soft wool-based socks (wool is warm even when wet) are especially needed.
2. As you’re clearing out, avoid using landfills: there are lots of planet-friendly ways to dispose of your old clothes. Garments in good shape can be taken to consignment stores, sold on eBay, or donated to thrifts or charities. Worn-out items can be turned into rags or even composted (if the fabric is all-natural).
Flyhomes tip: Think about revamping your laundry habits to help with the huge environmental impact of microfiber pollution. Wash clothing, especially synthetics, less often; use a front-loading machine; wash in cool or cold water; and use shorter wash cycles. Products such as these trap microfibers before they enter the waste water system.
3. Clean out your fridge and pantry. Why are you hanging onto that box of dry spaghetti that expired before Taylor Swift graduated high school*? Toss it! If there are canned and packaged foods that always get pushed to the back of your cupboard, unused, check the dates and donate unexpired ones to a food bank.
*We’re exaggerating. She graduated in 2008, and if you have 12-year-old spaghetti … we’re actually kind of impressed.
Flyhomes tip: Feeding America’s food donation page offers helpful guidelines and lists donation locations near you.
4. Remember the bathroom. The beginning of the year is a fine time to go through your bathroom cabinets and get rid of expired items, such as old prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, personal products, and cosmetics. Most medications are unlikely to cause harm past their use-by-date, but they may lose effectiveness.
Flyhomes tip: Don’t just toss old meds. Read this to learn how to dispose of medicine.
5. Refresh your bedroom with new pillows and bathroom with new towels. Linen sales are everywhere this time of year.
Experts say pillows should be replaced every year or two: materials break down over time and fail to provide the support you need for healthy, pain-free sleep. Otherwise, launder washable pillows and make sure each has a zippered, impermeable cover to protect from mites and dirt.
Flyhomes tip: After you’ve picked out new towels, keep the old ones to use as cleaning rags. They’re also excellent for large spills.
Second, do a few smart things around your home
The beginning of the year is a great time to do some adulting that could help in an emergency, avoid trouble later, or even save you money.
1. Are you ready for an emergency? Depending on where you live in the country, being ready can mean different things.
If your area is prone to severe winter storms, keep a blizzard preparedness kit in your car.
Floods call for a different collection of emergency items.
If you live in an earthquake-prone zone, you can choose from a range of pre-made kits available online, or check this list to make your own.
Flyhomes tip: Stock up on large water containers (empty and refill with fresh water every six months) or keep a rain barrel outside your home. In emergencies, you’ll need at least a gallon of clean water per person per day.
2. Check all smoke detectors (new models are designed to last for 10 years) and carbon monoxide detectors (which last for five years) to make sure they’re fully functional. (Depending upon where you live, you may also have—or need— a radon gas detector.) While you’re at it, make sure you have fire extinguishers on every level of your home.
Flyhomes tip: When it comes to safety, more is more. Many homeowners install a two-pack of smoke detectors and think that’s good enough, but be sure to follow guidelines for the optimal number and placement for your home’s layout.
3. If your home is heated by a furnace, replace the air filter and schedule routine cleaning and maintenance with an HVAC company. Basic air filters trap dust, dirt, and more to protect the furnace itself as well as improve air quality in your home, while higher-end filters help guard against bacteria, mold spores, and pollen. A clean filter improves heating efficiency and reduces your heating bill, which is always a good idea during cold winter months.
Flyhomes tip: Make sure humidifiers and dehumidifiers are clean and operating efficiently, too. If you have an air purifier, determine if its filter is due for replacement.
4. If you haven’t gotten around to installing a smart thermostat, winter is the time to do it. Not only will you likely see immediate savings on your heating bill, but your gas or electric utility may offer a rebate to defray the purchase price.
Flyhomes tip: While you’re at it, check windows and doors for leaks and install weatherstripping as needed. A quarter-inch gap under a 36-inch door doesn’t sound like much until you realize that’s equivalent to a 3-inch square hole in the outside wall of your home.
5. If you still have lamps or light fixtures with incandescent bulbs (or, for that matter, compact fluorescent bulbs), upgrade to LEDs. Did you know they last 25 times longer, while using at least 75% less energy? Opt for dimmable bulbs if you like moody lighting … just remember, you’ll likely need to install a special LED-compatible dimmer switch.
Flyhomes tip: If you want to maintain the look of incandescence, choose bulbs marked 2700K (Kelvin), which will lend a warm, flattering glow to your surroundings.
Bonus tip: Review your home insurance policy. If you’ve made any significant upgrades or improvements to your home in the past year, are those reflected in the insured value? Your mortgage lender requires that your policy covers the structure, but make sure that the contents are adequately covered, too.