New Year, New You

We say it every year. “Last year was rough, next year is going to be better.” But it really could happen if you set yourself up for success instead of failure. How your surroundings influence you is too powerful to ignore. If you are wondering why you may not be reaching your goals, check out your home and how it makes you feel. Is it a sanctuary? Is it something you are proud to invite guests into? Has it been decorated the same way for the past 30 years? Check this out.

In the spirit of new beginnings, HGTV has consulted the experts and come up with some resolutions that will make your home a more beautiful, efficient, clean and green place in the coming year.

Here are our five picks for the best home improvement resolutions for the new year and how to achieve them:

1. Streamline the stuff

One of the best and least expensive ways to feel better about your home is to clear it of clutter.

Each year most of us acquire a mountain 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, designers say.)

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, says Antoinette Nue, an Atlanta consultant who specializes in helping people simplify and go green.

“Fill your home with the things that raise your energy level and make you feel good, and get rid of the things that drain your energy or are broken,” she says.

Stash useful (but not beautiful) items such as DVDs, remotes and those kicked-off shoes in simple woven baskets. Group similar items together on sleek trays, says Stuart McCormick, a designer with Liz Levin Interiors in Washington D.C.

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. 

2. Make it safe and sound

Your home may be beautiful, but is it safe? There are a few things that every homeowner should do to ensure that they’re not living with a potential health hazard or fire risk.

First, 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. And with test kits costing as little as $20 at your local hardware store, there’s no reason not to get right on that.

While we’re on the subject of deadly gas, make 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.

Make sure your house can breathe. Hickory Hills, Ill. home inspector Jack McGraw is always surprised at how many people’s bathrooms and attics aren’t vented to the outside (or the vents are covered over with shingles.) This makes you a prime candidate for mold.

And if you’re considering a remodel – and your home was last built or remodeled before 1978 – consider testing for lead paint and asbestos flooring. It will have to handled properly during removal, or particles can be released into the air for you to ingest.

3. Shrink your bills (and your carbon footprint in the process)

When people think of going green, they often think it takes solar panels or a hybrid car to make a difference.

Not so, says Bob Schildgen, who writes the “Hey Mr. Green” column for Sierra magazine. It just takes a little old-fashioned common sense.

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.
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