It’s a New Year…

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Every January people try to start a new. They join a gym or start a diet. Some folks open a savings account. Others vow to give up using bad language and go to church every Sunday. We do all or some of these things to start the New Year off on the right foot in hopes it will make the next year and the rest of our life better somehow.

New Year Resolutions

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And that is all good, but there is something else you can resolve to do that will improve the lives of your entire family for the coming year. Think about making your house a better place for your family to come home to everyday. Here are just a few ideas to make life at home better this year.

First: Declutter
One of the best and least expensive ways to feel better about your home is to clear it of clutter. Each year we accumulate tons of stuff. Without some regular purging, cabinets and drawers get jam-packed and it becomes hard to find the things you use and enjoy the most. All that clutter also makes your house look dated and dirty. This year resolve to go room-by-room periodically clearing anything that you don't use, wear or love and donate it to charity. After that, think twice about what you bring in.

Stash useful items such as DVDs, remotes and those kicked-off shoes in simple woven baskets. Try grouping similar items together on a sleek tray. Clear your counters of everything you don't use on a daily basis. And get ready to breathe a little easier in your own home.

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storage

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Second: Safety

There are a few things that everyone should do to ensure that they're not living with a potential health hazard or fire risk. Check your house for radon. This colorless, odorless gas causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year from the radioactive particles it traps in your lungs as you breathe, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. One in every fifteen homes has elevated levels. Test kits cost as little as $20 at your local hardware store, there's no reason not to get right on that.

And while you’re at it be sure you install a carbon monoxide detector on every bedroom floor in addition to fire detectors. If a chimney flue or furnace vent gets blocked or leaks, carbon monoxide could back up in your house and kill you. Like a radon test, this is a small investment — $40 or more — for such an important safeguard.

Watch out for dryer lint. We know you clean the little trap inside the door, but most people neglect to clean the vents and ducts behind the dryer. Lint may seem innocent, but it's highly combustible, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, accounting for more than 15,000 building fires a year.

Third: Evaluate your bills
The best place to start is by cutting your energy usage in your home:
Remember your mom's advice and switch off the lights when you leave a room.
Turn off your air conditioner when you leave the house and dial your heater down to 55 degrees at night.
Install compact fluorescent bulbs and low-flow showerheads.
Try drying some of your clothes on the line and wait for the dishwasher or washing machine to be full before you run them.
Turn off your power strips and/or set your home computer to revert to sleep mode when not in use.
Water your yard less. Put in drought-tolerant landscaping if necessary.
Give composting a try. Your garden will thank you.
Fourth: Cleaning

Daily: Dishes go in the dishwasher every night - no excuses! Dirty clothes go in the hamper and jackets or clean clothes are hung in the closet. Bring everything back to its assigned place.

Weekly: Clean your entire house, using these tips:
Keep all of your cleaners, as well as rubber gloves and spare cleaning cloths - in a portable carryall that moves with you from room to room.
Stash cleaning implements such as a toothbrush, scraper, sponge, a few cleaning cloths and plastic bags in a builder's apron that you wear when you clean. Hook your glass cleaner and all-purpose cleaning spray on the loops to keep your hands free as you work around the room clockwise, cleaning from high (cabinets) to low (floors.)
Focus on one type of cleaning at a time. It's faster. Wipe down fingerprints on all of the cabinets, for instance, before moving on to spraying and wiping counters. Then move on to windows and mirrors and appliances. Once that's done move on to sweeping and then mopping floors.
For optimum efficiency, enlist the help of your family. If you can, divide the jobs among at least three parties: One of you can do the dusting/vacuuming and changing beds, the other can do the bathroom cleanup, leaving only the kitchen and trash emptying for you to handle. The upside? You can get the whole house done in 45 minutes leaving more time on the weekends for the park or the movies.

Fifth: Entertaining
Each year most of us vow to spend more time with family and friends. To make you feel like inviting people in, why not give the areas you entertain in a little update?
You don't have go for broke here and invest in a new kitchen remodel. All it takes to get a fresh new look is a little bit of rearranging and a few updates.
One easy update that makes your home seem more "finished" is the addition of plants or fresh flowers. A couple of dramatic presentations like a large flowering agapanthus or potted palm in a bright ceramic planter that complements your existing color scheme will do the trick.
Pulling out a new accent color from your existing decor can make the whole room seem fresh. Pick an underused color in the room and add more of it in the form of a new pillow or throw to update your look. A colorful rug or runner can also help anchor your space.
Lastly, take some time to rearrange your furniture so it is oriented in conversation groups and not just facing the television. That just might up for chances for real conversation and connection in the New Year.

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