The beginning of a new year is the best time to get a fresh start on things. This is a time to get organized, prepared and renew your commitment to your future goals.
Many people start with better personal finance or health and nutrition as a goal for the new year, but taking care of your physical environment is a great way to start as well.
Cleaning and organizing your home is something well within your control, and will help you be ready to tackle the other goals you have set for yourself.
By tidying your home in the right way, you can start off the year in a place that is uncluttered, organized, and less expensive to maintain going forward. Here are some home maintenance and cleaning tips to start off the year:
Create Calendar Reminders for Long-term Home Maintenance
Your smartphone, computer or tablet will allow you to use the calendar app to create reminders for yourself for all of the maintenance tasks ahead of you. Do some advance planning now so you’ll have a clearly laid out calendar for when specific tasks need to be accomplished.
Some of the cleaning tasks on our list below will need to be done every three to six months, so go ahead and schedule them now. Have a calendar alert set to remind you a few days in advance of the next cleaning so you’ll have time to get any cleaning supplies you might need.
While you’re at it, mark your monthly calendar to remind you to check that all of your monthly bills have been paid. Having a reminder pop up on your phone once per month is a good way to make sure you don’t miss any payments.
As you move through your house, decide how often each task needs to be completed, and consider adding it to your calendar. Especially tasks that don’t come up very often, like cleaning blinds or cleaning out your house’s gutters. Any household chore where you can’t remember the last time you completed it is a good candidate for this list.
Take Inventory of Your Home Cleaning Supplies
Before you dig into the cleaning tasks, take an inventory of all of your cleaning supplies. Besides chemicals and cleaning agents, count up:
- Trash bags
- Rubber gloves
- Mop heads/dusters
- Vacuum cleaner bags
- Pet-related cleaning supplies
- Fireplace cleaners
Consider breaking this list up by room—kitchen cleaning supplies vs. bathroom supplies, etc. Don’t forget laundry detergent and the like—these are all the kinds of things you likely buy from the same location, so take an inventory up front so you only make one shopping trip and only buy what you need.
You might consider looking into a loyalty club or subscription service for some of these kinds of items. If you know you use a bottle of laundry detergent every month, you might be able to save money by having that item regularly delivered. It saves you a shopping trip later, and it’s an item you know you’ll use, so there’s little risk to having something like that set to auto-deliver. Some big-box retailers will give you a 5% discount on orders that are scheduled to automatically recur. Include personal hygiene items like deodorant, and toothpaste as well. The less often you have to go shopping, the less opportunity you will have to overspend.
Start a Yard Sale Pile to Clear Out Your Home
As you clean and get organized, start boxing up things for a future yard sale. January is no time to host an outdoor sale in most of the country, but by starting now, you’ll accumulate more things over the next six months that can be included. By the time summer comes around, you’ll have a nice haul of things you can pass on. You’ll free up space in your home and make a few dollars in the process.
Think about de-cluttering as you clean. This is a time to decide what items you really need to keep vs things that are just taking up space. Anything that has any value can be included in your sale pile.
Also, take the time to clean out the closet and set aside any old clothes that no longer fit or you never wear. If you don’t want to include these in your yard sale, you can donate them to a good cause.
Look for redundant supplies. Do you have extra kitchen gadgets or pots and pans that you don’t need? Anything you’ve never used is probably a good candidate to sell.
If you have kids, take this an opportunity to teach them a little bit about commerce. If they have toys that they’ve outgrown, have them clean the items up and set them aside for a yard sale. Any money they make selling old goods can be added to their allowance. Help them learn from your example and get organized while turning old clutter into extra cash.
Maintain Your Home’s Systems
An annual cleaning spree is a good time to service major home systems and appliances you might not normally dig into like:
- Heating and air conditioning unit
- Kitchen appliances
- Water heater
- Lighting fixtures
- Fire alarms
Your heating and air conditioning system is a good place to start. Do you need new furnace filters? Have you cleaned your ducts and register covers? You probably don’t need to hire a professional to clean your ducts and just removing the air registers and cold air return grates will reveal some opportunities to clean out some dust and debris. Taking good care of your home’s major appliances helps avoid unnecessary expenses that can throw a wrench in your financial goals.
Don’t forget your ceiling fans while you’re at it. A clean house means clean air, so don’t skip this part of the checklist!
While you’re checking light bulbs and the like, consider switching over to LED bulbs wherever you can. This will save you money on your electric bill going forward, and LED bulbs shouldn’t have to be replaced as often as incandescent bulbs.
Include your appliances in this cleaning. Clean out your dishwasher and run it empty with a cup of white vinegar instead of detergent to break up hard water deposits. Clean out the microwave thoroughly, as well as your stovetop and oven. Also, clean out your washing machine; run it empty with a cup of bleach to kill any germs that might be growing in it, and wipe down anywhere detergent or fabric softener might have spilled. In addition, clean the dryer vent—this is something you should do regularly as having a dirty dryer vent makes the appliance work harder and costs you more money in lost energy. Don’t just clean the lint off; wash the dryer vent under running water.
Clean Your Fridge and Freezer
Cleaning out your refrigerator and freezer should be a regular task, for your health and your budget. As you clean these out, inventory the food you have stored inside. After throwing out anything that is expired, formulate a plan to start using up everything you have stored or frozen. This is a new year so, make it your goal to prepare everything you have on hand and start fresh.
Part of cleaning and organizing your home is organizing your life. Having meal plans will help you avoid buying things you don’t need. It will also prevent items from spoiling before you get around to using them.
If it’s been a while, try to get the freezer empty and defrost it completely. Anything you’ve had frozen for more than 3 months should be a priority to thaw out and prepare soon. Get markers for your freezer bags so you can clearly label everything you freeze and when you put it in.
Reorganize Your Landing Zone
Every home has a “landing zone”, where pockets get emptied, mail is brought in, car keys are stashed, etc. Is it a shelf in your entryway? A junk drawer in the kitchen? Wherever these random items collect after they come into your home is a prime spot to focus your attention when cleaning the house.
First consider what things need to be kept accessible in this area. Coats, hats, gloves, book bags… it’s likely you’ll want an organized way to keep these things at the ready.
Do sunglasses, keys and other things come out of people’s pockets when they come through the door? Create trays to keep these items accessible so they aren’t forgotten. Anything that has been dumped out of someone’s pocket and never picked back up again can probably be thrown out or put away. Try to make your landing zone an “in-out” area, where nothing stays for too long and all the items there are necessary.
One important aspect of this is mail and paperwork. People tend to bring in a stack of mail, open what’s important, and leave a lot of junk mail piled up. Use some sort of organizer so that the junk is separated from the important mail and mail you don’t need can be thrown away immediately.
While you’re figuring out how to sort your bills and paperwork, extend that system into wherever you permanently keep bills and financial paperwork. You should be doing your taxes soon, so create a system that will keep all the necessary paperwork organized and in one place.
If you’re having trouble getting your finances organized in the new year, a professional financial coach can help you create a budget and an action plan to eliminate your debts and reach your financial goals. This is a free service that is confidential, free of judgment, and available on demand.
Let this new year be the year you have your home, your health, and your finances completely under control.