The holidays are upon us. This is the time of year we let ourselves eat, drink and be merry, and we disregard any dietary restrictions we may have imposed on ourselves at the beginning of the year. But the New Year is around the corner, and we may be thinking about changes we want to make. Some of the resolutions may seem all too familiar.
While we make improvements to our diet and our physical and mental health, we can also commit to making changes to our house and our energy consumption. This year, take a walk around your house or apartment and see if there are ways to make it more attractive, less wasteful, and a happier place to live.
Clutter can be overwhelming — too much stuff in our space can make us more confused and less productive. We might claim we know where everything is, but that’s because it’s all stuffed in the same drawer. Or is it?
Tackle one space at a time. Don’t set yourself up for failure by thinking you can organize your home in one day. Start with your desk, your closest or whatever space troubles you the most. Get rid of as many things as you can. If you can’t bear to part with it, invest in bins, hooks, hangers and file folders.
Have a designated spot where you store all of your shoes, appliance manuals, CD’s, mementoes and the like. If you use bins, make sure you label them on the top as well as the side, so they don’t become one nondescript blue bin among many others.
Organization is the first step and will better prepare you to achieve your other goals.
Think of this as losing weight for your home. We waste a lot of energy without even thinking about it. Turn lights off when you exit rooms. Don’t leave the TV on all day for background noise. Unplug items which are not in use, but can contribute to ghost energy consumption. These may include printers, cable boxes, computers and other devices which are always plugged in. If a light is on, it is using energy.
Switch to LED light bulbs. An LED bulb can last somewhere between 20 and 40 years, depending on how much they are used. They cost a lot more than incandescent bulbs but use a fraction of the energy. You won’t recoup the cost for about ten years, as they are quite expensive. But think of it as investing in the environment and reducing your carbon footprint.
Think of this as your house not drinking so much. Drinking water is good for us but wasting it isn’t. We all love taking hot showers, but we probably stay in there more for pleasure than we do to get clean. Be conscious of your water use. Install a low flow showerhead and limit yourself to ten minutes or any other time less than usual. Low flow showerheads increase the amount of pressure while using less water. They are enjoyable, and they save energy.
Don’t run the water when you brush your teeth. Get in the habit of turning the water on only when you need to rinse or clean out the sink. It simply doesn’t need to run while you are brushing.
Replace your toilet. Older toilets use much more water than is needed. There are also high-efficiency toilet models which use compressed air to increase the water pressure and cleaning power. Ask your neighbors or friends who have newer toilets. If they flush twice as much, they aren’t saving water.
We like “fresh air” because it smells and tastes better than the air in our homes. Take steps to make the air in your home as fresh and clean as possible. Think of this as quitting smoking for your house.
Check the manual for your furnace’s requirements, but expect to change them twice per year. When you change them, take a look at all the nastiness those filters have captured. A filter is the only thing keeping that stuff from being in your lungs. A clean filter will be better for you, and it will allow your furnace to operate more efficiently. This will save you money.
This is especially important if you are in an older house where they may never have been cleaned. Professional services will recommend cleaning your vents once every five years. This is their business, so of course, they want them cleaned as often as possible. Decide for yourself and factor in whether you have pets, or if you live in a particularly dusty or damp area.
If someone has allergies in your home, it may be wise to invest in a portable air purifier. They filter the air and release it back into the room. You can smell the difference. Keep those filters changed regularly, too.
If you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector, get at least one per floor.
The filter traps particles from your clothes which would otherwise end up in the air. If it is clogged, it won’t work as well, or not at all. Check if your dryer vents outside, and remove any lint clogs which may have built up over the years. Enlist the help of a professional if simple tools won’t help you reach it. Be careful, because vents are made of thin, sharp metal and can easily cut you.
Just as there are many ways to improve ourselves, our homes always need cleaning and reorganizing. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make simple changes which will improve your indoor cleanliness and efficiency. Like your resolutions, it simply requires you to identify the problem and to commit to making the change.