Real Estate Story

From the Archives: 9 Ways to Make Your House Happier

happy house

Photo courtesy Lara604 via Creative Commons

With the fresh start of January, take the next two weekends to make the rest of the year run more smoothly. These nine tips will save you time, energy, and money, and make you feel better about where you hang your hat every night.



1. MAKE BETTER USE OF YOUR CLOSETS

While this is not a photo of my closet above, it almost could be. Come January every year, and my closets tend to be a mishmash of clothes from all four seasons, piles of give-aways that I haven’t gotten around to giving away, and just general wrecks of disorganization.

Start the new year by decluttering a closet. Pick just one and organize with vengeance over one day (trust me, you’ll appreciate the major improvement in a short time). Save, sell, donate, or chuck everything in there, then vacuum, neaten, and dust. Job done!

2. TAKE A PHOTO INVENTORY OF YOUR HOUSE

If, God forbid, your house is ever burglarized or there is a fire, having photo records of the interior and all your possessions will make the insurance process infinitely easier. I speak from experience here: my house was burglarized a few years ago, but I had taken the time to snap photos of all my art, electronics, and jewelry and put it on a USB drive, which was locked in a file cabinet. I was so glad to have done so. Today, I store my photos in the cloud on Dropbox, which is even more convenient. Jump to read the next seven tips!

3. TOUCH UP SCUFF MARKS

Sometime in March, I’ll write a big spring home makeover and cleaning checklist, but this little “to do” is a prefect new year chore because it makes such a big difference. Over the course of a year, walls, stairs, and floors get scuff marks, those dark streaks usually left by items that have a hard rubber bottom, like heels, hard-soled shoes, ladders, furniture, toys, and such. Attack them all in one fell swoop with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, which should remove the majority of marks.

If that fails, use paint. It can be difficult to match the color exactly if the touch-up paint is not from the same can as the original, so grab your leftover paint from the garage and go to town. Don’t have it? Head to a hardware store and try to match it with the same brand, color, and finish.

4. ENROLL IN AUTOMATIC PAYMENT PLANS FOR HOUSE BILLS

Save yourself time this year and avoid missed payment fees, late fees, and negative marks against your credit score.

5. DO A BATTERY CHECK ON LIFE-SAVING ALARMS

This tip is quick and easy: Put fresh batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. This is five minutes of work that could save your life. Also, make sure you have a working fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

6. MAKE A HOME MAINTENANCE LIST FOR THE YEAR

Remembering what home maintenance chores are need and when during the year is a major struggle for many people. Staying on top of them can help you feel organized, avoid huge or costly repair problems that could result from neglect, and keeps appliance running smoothly.

I recommend the website Demesne, which is packed with home checklists for the year. In January, for instance, here are a few recommendations:

* Call the utility company to do an energy audit. By now you’ll have received your first big winter heating bill, and unless you live in Phoenix, you may be motivated to see how you can improve your home’s energy efficiency. While you’re at it, ask the utility if they can also test for radon gas—especially important if you don’t know if it’s ever been done.

* Wander the house with a screwdriver and make a list of minor household repairs that can be done in a weekend. Tighten screws on drawers, doors, and furniture. Make a list of broken electrical face plates, missing pulls or knobs, locks that need lubrication, and spots that need caulking around sinks and tubs. Go to the home improvement store and buy everything you need to make all of your little repairs at once.

7. CHECK OUT YOUR HOT WATER HEATER

Head to your hot water heater and look for any leaks. Then drain the water to eliminate the sediment on the bottom, and continue to let the water drain until it runs clear. Test the temperature relief valve and clean the burner and ports if it is power by gas. Finally, buy yourself a water heater insulation blanket to cut your energy bill for years to come.

8. KEEP THE WEATHER OUTSIDE ALL YEAR

Check the weather stripping around all your doors and windows. Do you feel any cold air? If so, either adjust it or replace entirely.

9. CREATE A FAMILY EMERGENCY PLAN

Your home is the hub of your family life, so dedicate a small space to supplies for emergencies, whether that’s a tornado, severe weather, flood, pandemic, or zombie apocalypse. FEMA has great emergency plan checklists here and here, so print them out and check them twice.

Next, sit down with your family in your home and discuss what you would do in different situations. Do children know escape routes during fire? Where do you take shelter during a tornado warning? Who’s in charge of keeping the emergency food supply up-to-date this year? Make these decisions now and revisit the plan periodically throughout the year.

So have we missed any happy home tips that you follow every year? Let us know in the comments!