New Year's Resolutions for Your Living Space

With January 1st just around the corner, perhaps you’re starting to plan your list of resolutions—exercising more, saving money, creating more time in your schedule for family and friends. In the spirit of new beginnings, what goals will you set for your home? HGTV has consulted with the experts and come up with some excellent ideas to start fresh, making your home a more beautiful, efficient, and eco-friendly place in the coming year.

Here are five of the top home improvement goals for 2018, and ideas for how to achieve them with ease:

1. Clear the Clutter: Streamlining Your Stuff

One of the best and least expensive ways to feel more confident and relaxed about your home is to clear it of clutter that has built up over the past year. With all the excess stuff jam-packed in your cabinets and drawers, it can become difficult to find the things you actually need and use on a regular basis.

This year, why not make a resolution to periodically check room-by-room, clearing anything that you haven’t used or worn lately? Once you’ve gathered these items, donate them to charity.

"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," says Antoinette Nue, an Atlanta consultant who specializes in ways for people to simplify their surroundings and go green.

As for items that are useful but not necessarily attractive to look at—such as DVDs, remote controls, and baskets of piled up shoes—stash them away in less visible spots. Finally, clear your countertops of everything you don't use daily.

2. Create a Safe & Healthy Atmosphere

No matter how beautiful and pristine your home may appear, you want to make sure it’s a safe space to live in. There are a few things that every homeowner should check for to ensure that they're not living in the midst of a potential health hazard or fire risk.

Number one: Radon alert. This colorless, odorless gas causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year from the radioactive particles it traps in your lungs as you inhale. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one in every fifteen homes has elevated radon levels. But the problem can be easily fixed, and it’s not expensive to do so. Test kits cost as little as $20 at your local hardware store.

Another deadly gas you may have heard of is carbon dioxide. In addition to fire detectors, make sure you install a carbon monoxide detector on every bedroom floor, if not every floor of your house. A blocked chimney or leaking furnace could be fatal. It’s a small investment—running around $40.

Dryer lint presents another safety hazard. While you may clean the small trap inside the door after a load of laundry, many people neglect to clean the vents and ducts behind the dryer. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, lint is highly combustible, accounting for over 15,000 building fires a year.

Worried about mold? Give your house some space to breathe. Hickory Hills, Ill. home inspector Jack McGraw advises to vent bathrooms and attics to the outside, making sure not to cover vents over with shingles. 

Considering remodeling your home? If your home was last built or remodeled before 1978, be sure to test for lead paint and asbestos flooring. If either was used in the original modeling, it will have to be removed.

3. Shrink Your Bills—and Carbon Footprint!

Going green doesn’t necessarily mean installing solar panels or investing in a hybrid car. Bob Schildgen, who writes the "Hey Mr. Green" column for Sierra magazine, says the best place to start is by cutting your energy usage in your home:

- Switch off the lights when you leave a room.

- Turn off your air conditioner when you leave the house.

- Dial your heater down to 55 degrees at night.

- Install compact fluorescent bulbs and low-flow showerheads.

- Try drying clothes on a clothing line.

- Before running the dishwasher or washing machine, wait for them to be full.

- Turn off your power strips and/or set your home computer to revert to sleep mode when not in use.

- Compost!

- Water your yard less often—or put in drought-tolerant landscaping.

4. Create a Weekly Cleaning System

Jeff Campbell, author of the book Speed Cleaning and owner of the Clean Team housekeeping service in San Francisco, offers some helpful tips for controlling the mess:

Daily: Every night, bring everything back to its assigned place. Make sure all dishes are in the dishwasher, dirty clothes are in the hamper, and clean clothes are hung up in the closet.

Weekly: Clean your entire house, using these tips:

Keep all cleaning supplies—including rubber gloves and spare cloths—in a portable carryall that you can move from room to room.

Prepare a builder’s apron to wear when you clean! In the pockets, stash a toothbrush, scraper, sponge, cloths, and plastic bags. To keep your hands free, hook your glass cleaner and all-purpose cleaning spray on the loops. Then work around the room clockwise, cleaning from high (cabinets) to low (floors).

Focusing on one type of cleaning at a time is faster. For instance, Jeff Campbell suggests wiping down fingerprints on all of the cabinets before moving on to spraying and wiping counters. Next, move on to windows and mirrors and appliances. After you’ve finished those areas, move on to sweeping. Then mop the floors.

Enlist your family’s assistance! Divvy up the chores: 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. Campbell says you can get the whole house done in 45 minutes. When you’re done, treat the family to a leisurely afternoon bonding activity! 

5. Let Your Place Entertain!

If your vow this year is to spend more time with family and friends, it may be time to update the areas in which you entertain. That way, you’ll feel more excited to invite people inside.

If you want to decorate but are on a budget, plants are a fabulous addition to bring in new energy and clean the air. For a dramatic presentation, try a large flowering acanthus or potted palm in a bright ceramic planter that complements your existing color scheme.

Feeling inspired to experiment more with colorful decorating? Freshen up the space by pulling out a new accent color from your existing decor. Pick a subtle color that’s perhaps underused in the room—then add more of it! A new pillow, rug, or throw blanket that matches the color scheme can really update the look of the room and help anchor your space.

Last but not least, spend some time rearranging your furniture. Rather than having it all face the television as the room’s main focal point, orient couches and chairs inward, so people sitting in them can face each other and engage in conversation and connection this year.