If your dishes are piling up and the laundry hamper is overflowing, you could probably use some help. Sometimes the easiest chores are left undone simply because there's not enough time (or energy!) in the day to do them. The trick is to maintain a certain sense of order so you're not bogged down with clutter and chores. Here's our ultimate list of things to do to keep your house in order throughout the year.
Photography by Robin Stubbert
AROUND THE HOUSE
1 Change light bulbs and switch to energy-saving ones if you haven't already.
2 Test your carbon monoxide detectors and change the batteries if necessary.
3 Test your smoke alarms and change the batteries if necessary.
4 Clean the ceilings. Dust and cobwebs are often hidden in this part of your home.
5 Put an emergency kit together. You never know when you may need it. According to the Government of Canada website, every family should have a 72-hour emergency kit in their home. The kit should include basic necessities like water, food (canned and dried), a manual can opener, flashlight, radio (wind-up or battery), extra batteries, first aid kit, house and car keys, cash and finally an emergency plan.
6 Surround yourself with your loved ones. Create a photo wall and update it every few months.
7 Brighten up your place and your mood! Invest in fresh flower arrangements regularly. You'll be surprised how much cheerful flowers and a splash of colour can improve your mood.
8 Store seasonal items. Why take up valuable closet space with clothes and accessories that won't be worn for another six months? Invest in space-saving vacuum storage bags. All you need is a vacuum to remove excess air to increase your storage space.
9 Add catchall baskets. One for bulky items like scarves and mitts and another for small things like keys and sunglasses. If you have a bench or chair in your entryway, place a big basket on the floor beside it. Place the small basket on a side table in close proximity to the door. When they're full of stuff that shouldn't be there, have one family member return items to their rightful places.
10 Install hooks for children's coats and low shelving with baskets for their accessories. This encourages them to dress themselves and put away their own things.
11 Place a stool or chair in your foyer for a comfy place to sit and put shoes on.
12 Add extra hangers in the closet for guests. Nothing's worse than having guests over and having to throw their jackets on your bed!
13 Go through the closet and ditch any coats, shoes and anything else that's not in regular use. Use the one-year rule for this endeavour. If you haven't used it in at least a year, it's time to let it go!
Photography by Yale Wagner
14 Need a fresh outlook? Try rearranging your furniture. Sometimes a mini-makeover is all you need to make you and your home feel refreshed.
15 Add some greenery. Plants add instant beauty to any room and clean the air at the same time.
16 Clean and organize your bookshelves. Take every book off the shelf and give it a thorough wipe down. Return only the books you love and might read again. For books that you haven't read yet, promise yourself you will read them within a reasonable timeframe.
17 Donate old books and magazines to local hospitals, doctor's offices or schools.
18 Go through your media collection and ditch any CDs you haven't listened to or movies you haven't watched in years. Digitize any music or movies you want to save.
19 If you have carpets, steam clean them. This is the only way to get ground in dirt out. Regular vacuuming only removes surface dirt.
20 If you have hardwood or laminate floors, give them a good cleaning. Remove dust and dirt with a vacuum or sweep before you start mopping. A simple vinegar and water solution will do the trick for both types of flooring. The floor can either be air dried or dried with a clean towel.
21 Clean the baseboards. If they're not cleaned often, dust, dirt and grime can harden, making it even more difficult to clean. A simple solution of warm water and vinegar can help clean caked on dirt. Simply soak a clean cloth in the vinegar and water solution, wipe the baseboards and let them air dry. Use a vacuum with a brush attachment to take off dust between cleanings.
22 Thoroughly clean couches and chairs monthly. You'll be surprised at the amount of dust and dirt that gets trapped between and underneath cushions.
23 Give the drapery a wash at least once a year. Use a handheld vacuum with a brush attachment for weekly cleaning.
24 Clean your electronics. They're literally dust magnets. A microfibre cloth should clean the majority of the gunk off.
25 Clean plants and remove dead ends. This is important to keep them pest free and healthy. Take a damp cloth and gently wipe each leaf. To thoroughly clean them, put them in the bathtub and give them a shower!
26 Give the buffet a thorough cleaning. Take everything out and wipe it down. Only return the items that you've used within the last year.
27 Donate the items you didn't return to the buffet. If you didn't use it during Christmas you probably never will!
28 Give the dining room table and chairs a thorough cleaning. Vacuum out the chair pads and spot clean right after your upholstery gets stained. TIP: A simple solution of club soda, baking soda and water is a good multi-purpose stain remover. Most dining room tables can be polished with a gentle wood polish but spills should be cleaned immediately with a damp cloth.
29 Polish your silverware so it's ready for your next dinner party.
30 Time for an update? Replace your dining room tablecloth with something fitting to the time of year.
Photography by Donna Griffith
31 Ditch old herbs and spices that haven't been used in about a year. If their scent has dissipated or their colour has faded, they're probably past their prime.
32 Take stock of what's in your pantry. Ditch any items that you haven't used in the past year. There's no point in keeping things that you don't use. Donate excess pantry items to a local food bank.
33 Make sure you have non-perishable staples on hand. Pasta, grains, rice and canned foods should be at your disposal when you're short on time.
34 Give the floors a good cleaning, including the grout. TIP: To clean the grout, make a simple paste with baking soda and water or vinegar. Scrub the paste into the grout with a small brush and let it sit for at least half an hour then wipe clean with a damp cloth. This method takes a little elbow grease but it's worth the effort once you see the results.
35 Can't find the cooking utensil or gadget you need? Go through your kitchen drawers; chances are you have too many you don't use. TIP: Remove all your utensils and gadgets from your drawers and put them in a box. For the next month, put the ones you use back in the drawer. When the month is over, donate what's left in the box.
36 Go through your fridge and freezer. Dump any old food. Most frozen meats should be consumed within three months.
37 Do the dishes when you're finished eating. Try to keep the dish tray empty to encourage this endeavour. Dishes pile up quickly so make family members accountable for washing the dishes they use.
38 Clear off the top of the fridge. If you're storing anything up there it probably means you need to pare down what's in your cupboards.
39 Get rid of any recipes you've printed online but haven't had the time or energy to try. Any recipes you'd like to keep can be organized in a binder. Try slipping the recipes into protective plastic page inserts and organize them by meal type (breakfast, lunch etc.) or by ingredient type (vegetables, meat etc.). Keep the binder in the kitchen or close to the kitchen for instant inspiration after a long day.
40 Take stock of those pesky plastic containers. If they are even slightly disfigured from being heated in a microwave they should be thrown away. Also dump any that are missing lids.
41 Properly clean your stainless steel appliances. Daily cleaning can be done with warm water with dishwashing liquid and a soft cloth. For a more thorough cleaning, try a stainless steel cleaner. Fingerprints can be removed with a glass cleaner.
42 Set your oven to self clean monthly or as recommended by the manufacturer. To prevent food build up on the bottom of your oven, install a piece of aluminum foil on the bottom to catch any drips.
43 Replace or sterilize your dishcloths daily. Germs and bacteria breed in the damp environment. An easy way to do this is to disinfect with simple bleach and water solution.
Consider a new paint colour. It can make a world of difference to your morning mood!
Update bathroom accessories. Sometimes a small change is all you need to give the room a lift.
Change or clean the shower curtain. A grimy old curtain won't do much to put you in a good mood in the morning.
Give the tiles and grout a thorough cleaning. Clean the tiles with a non-toxic vinegar and water solution. Use a sponge with a scouring pad to remove tough stains.
Wipe down the walls. First, use a dry cloth to remove any dust or dirt. Use a clean cloth dampened with a solution of warm water and dish detergent. A clean environment will do wonders for you and your mood.
Invest in a stainless steel hanging caddy for your shower. Organizing your toiletries in this way will help keep mould at bay.
Install shelving for towels and extra toilet paper. They should be at arm's reach when you really need them!
Consider replacing your toilet to a more water efficient one if you haven't done so already.
Toss anything in your medicine cabinet that's expired. Some pharmacies like Shoppers Drug Mart will take unused medication and dispose of it safely.
Let go of any makeup that hasn't been used in the last year. Mascara has the shortest life span, about three months. Some makeup lasts longer than others but use the one-year rule as a benchmark.
54 Make your bed every day. This small initiative might just give you the right amount of spring in your step to get through the day.
55 Do the laundry when the hamper is full. This sounds obvious but life's daily obligations often get in the way. An easy way to achieve this is to use a small hamper. Laundry isn't as daunting when you're not faced with 10 loads of it!
56 Remove anything that doesn't lend itself to a calm and tranquil environment. This includes kids' toys and your work laptop!
57 Go through your closet and drawers. Get rid of any clothes and accessories you don't need or use. Women's business attire can be donated to companies like Dress for Success that provide business appropriate clothing to deserving women who are entering the workforce.
58 Don't invite dust mites to sleep with you. Change your bedding weekly. Dust mites feast on dead skin cells, which we shed while we sleep. Slipping on new sheets every week is an easy way to minimize the risk of dust mites.
59 Revisit old memorabilia. This includes ticket stubs, baseball cards, programs from musicals, children's art and maybe a letter from a past love. Ask yourself if you really need and love these items. If the answer is no, then ditch it before you have the chance to change your mind.
60 Consider painting the room a different colour. Admittedly, this requires some planning as well as elbow grease. But it's also the simplest way to make a remarkable change in your surroundings.
61 Update your bedroom accessories. If you're not quite ready for an all-out makeover, try replacing some small pieces like lamps, throw pillows or wall hooks. This is an easy way to make your bedroom feel like new!
62 Update art and framed pictures. Enlarge some recent pictures and display them. If you've got a box brimming with your child's art, pick one you like and show it off.
63 Get rid of clutter. Look through your room and spot the clutter hot spots. Have you got piles of paper on every flat surface? Employ a paper tray to keep your mess in one place. When it's full, it's time to file! If you're tripping on piles of clothes on the floor, you should consider installing hooks for clothes that are not quite laundry-ready. Over-the-door hooks are the perfect solution.
64 Take stock of what's stored under beds and get rid of anything you don't need or love.
65 Extend the life of your mattress and flip it every three months. This encourages even wear on both sides.
66 Vacuum your mattress regularly. This helps keep dust mites and other allergens out of your bed while keeping your air clean.
67 Organize the clothing in your closet by colour. You'll find it a lot easier to find things when you're short on time.
68 Seasonal bedding should be laundered then stored in protective cases. Find a cool and dry space to store them to prevent mildew. Storing them under your bed is a good option to free up some space in your linen closet.
69 Underneath the bed is a haven for dust. Remove the mattress and box spring then dust and vacuum under the bed frame.
70 Buy new duvet covers: one for spring/summer and one for fall/winter. A change of season warrants a change in decor!
Photography by Robin Stubbert
71 Make room for new toys received at Christmas or birthdays. Consider having a garage sale to purge your house of surplus toys and make some money while you're at it!
72 Take stock of your children's clothing and shoes. Gently used clothing and shoes can often be sold at consignment stores or handed down to a friend with younger children. TIP: Organize a swap meet. Invite friends to your place and exchange clothing and toys that your children are done with.
73 Go through your child's bookshelf and remove any books he or she has outgrown. Find a website where you can swap your gently used kids' stuff with other parents.
74 Change the bed sheets weekly to keep dust mites away.
75 Hang your child's art and display in a gallery frame. But don't keep everything your child brings home from school; it can pile up quickly.
76 Clean and disinfect toys regularly. Hard toys can be washed with warm water and soap, then air-dried. Most soft toys can be thrown into the washing machine.
77 Encourage your children to be self-reliant. Install child-level hooks for clothes and low shelves for toys and books so your child can learn to put things away.
78 Get rid of anything stored in the basement that hasn't been used in over a year. If you've been storing old or broken furniture and appliances down there, it's time to make a decision. Either fix it up or let it go!
79 Invest in a dehumidifier to get rid of the damp air.
80 Make use of your basement. It's a large space, so create a playroom, TV space, spare bedroom or just an organized storage area.
81 Keep basement windows open in the summer to let the house breathe.
82 Go through tools and get rid of doubles or things that just haven't been used. Try an online auction or peruse the classifieds to make some money from your old sports stuff.
83 Get rid of old or broken sports equipment. Consider selling them at a consignment store or giving them to a friend who can use them.
84 See what can be stored on wall hooks and hang to free up floor space.
85 If there's no room to park your car in your garage, chances are you're probably using it as storage. That old treadmill you ordered from an infomercial in 1999 won't do you any good just sitting in the garage. Dust it off and use it or have a garage sale and sell it.
86 Give the garage a good cleaning. Take everything out and sweep or powerwash the floors.
87 Safely dispose of any chemicals you haven't used or don't need. Take them to your local recyling centre where they will dispose of them safely.
Photography by Donna Griffith
88 Wash windows and doors (inside and out). Dirt and grime can accumulate quickly both inside and out. The outside windows should be cleaned at least once a year. TIP: To clean outside windows, use a hose first to gently take off surface dirt. Then, using a solution of water and dishwashing soap, wipe the windows.
89 Powerwash the house exterior and driveway when the weather gets warmer. Oil stains and other spills on your driveway should be cleaned immediately to avoid permanent marks.
90 Clean up and throw away any leaves or trash lying around your property. Keeping a neat appearance on the outside adds curb appeal to your house.
91 Clean gutters in the spring and fall. Clogged gutters could mean costly repairs later. To clean gutters, first you have to ensure you have a sturdy ladder on-hand. Next, scoop out any debris like leaves and twigs. Finally, use a garden hose to help flush out excess debris. If your drainpipes are clogged, you may have to use a plumber's snake to help loosen the debris.
92 Check interlocking stones on the driveway. Fill any holes with sand that's specially made for interlocking stones. It's finer than average sand so it packs more compactly. The sand is available at hardware stores or anywhere that sells interlocking stones.
93 Go through files and shred any paperwork that you don't need. This task could be daunting if you're the type of person who files everything. But, if you break up the task into more manageable chunks, it might not seem as discouraging. TIP: Try to spend 30 minutes to an hour each day on this task. You'll be done sooner than you think!
94 Streamline your tech life. Go through your computer and delete any files you don't need that are just hogging valuable hard drive space.
95 Make sure your will is up to date. This is such an important document that often gets overlooked. But unfortunately, it's better to have one ready than not.
96 Place important files and identification papers in a fire proof box or safety deposit box off-site. If you get caught in an emergency situation like a fire, you'll feel better knowing that these documents are safe.
97 Organize photos by date and delete any that aren't print-worthy. It's easy to get snap happy with a digital camera and a huge memory card.
98 Back up your important computer files and store your back up disks off-site. Invest in a safety deposit box for this and other small yet important items.
99 Ditch or donate office or craft supplies you'll never use. If you have an abundance of stickers, glue and other craft supplies, consider donating them to a daycare or school.