Cleaning & Organizing
30 Little Chores You’ll Be Glad You Did a Year from Now
Spend five minutes now and save hours of hassle and frustration later. Hint: One of these “chores” could get you to a beach.
Make a dentist appointment
“When you avoid seeing the dentist on a regular basis, minor conditions grow into major issues. For example, a small cavity develops and grows until you end up with an abscess. The abscess will take considerably more time and money to fix than the cavity, not to mention the pain. I always emphasize to my clients that it’s just as important to do ‘health chores’ as it is house chores.” —Alice Price, certified professional organizer and coach. Check out 50 other healthy habits that will help you live longer.
Book a vacation
“We tend to put off big projects, like planning a vacation, because they take more than one step to complete and need to be managed over a long period of time. But procrastinating may mean you do a sub-par job or, worse, it doesn’t happen at all. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, do some planning and scheduling. Break down a project into small tasks that can be done fairly quickly. Research locations online one day; then gather supplies another day. Mapping out a plan and scheduling time to do each step will help you save time and money and get the vacation you really want.” —Janet Schiesl, certified professional organizer and owner of Basic Organization
Deep-clean your fridge
“A lot of my clients struggle with productivity and procrastination, especially in the home. One household chore I’ve found that helps clear some mental and physical space is to clean out the fridge. Clean up little spills as you go but once a year make time to clean it out top to bottom. If that sounds too overwhelming, think about the very first thing you need to do to get started rather than the entire chore. One of my favorite mantras is ‘If it’s difficult to get started, the first step is too big.’” —Joel Minden, PhD, Clinical Psychologist at the Chico Center for Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Just avoid these cleaning mistakes that leave your house germy.
File important papers right away
“People defer decisions on paperwork because they don’t know where to put a bill, an office memo, or a recipe, so it ends up in a pile and you can never find anything when you need it. Creating a system that’s easy to maintain means that it will be, well, easy! You’re much more likely to put something away if you know where it goes than if you feel like you have to figure out where it goes each time, so develop a fool-proof filing system—and use it.” —Erin Strasen, professional organizer and owner of Placed by Erin. Check out these other 26 secrets professional organizers won’t tell you for free.
Install a financial app on your phone—and use it
“It’s easy to procrastinate dealing with finances but this is how people get in thousands of dollars of debt and lose control of their financial health. Balance your checkbook, keep an app on your phone such as Mint or LearnVest, know your net worth and stay on top of your daily spending habits and budgeting plans. It only takes a few minutes a day but letting this get out of control can cost thousands in interest payments, late charges, unused and unnecessarily purchased items as well as a lowered credit score which in worst cases, can prevent you from getting jobs, homes and transportation.” —Beth Derrick, life coach at Live Good, Live Well. Your bank account will thank you for these 10 easy ways to save $20,000 in a year.
Back up your digital photos
“Upload your pictures to your computer or a cloud service at least once a month. Even better, take a minute to change the names of the photos to something more meaningful. Or organize them into folders labeled with the date and event (like Sep 2017 Kim birthday). You can go a step further by right-clicking the photo and selecting properties. This menu option will allow you to add keywords or names to an image making it easier to search for specific images later. Making backups will save time and money later on and also give you peace of mind.” —Cheri Warnock, Photo Organizer and owner of Cherish Your Photos
Squeegee your shower
“If you have a walk-in shower, get a squeegee and use it to remove excess moisture from any windows and walls. It only takes 30 seconds and will do wonders to prevent mildew and soap buildup. If you have a shower/tub, wipe down the walls and tub (along with the shower curtain) after each use. These little preventative measures will save you from having to do a massive shower scrub later on.” —Marty Basher, home organization expert at Modular Closets. Learn about the things smart homeowners do every week.
Set up auto-pay for bills
“Take the time to set up auto-pay for all the bills you can; then you don’t have to worry about being late and paying fees and it will improve your credit score. If you can’t do auto-pay, schedule a time one night a week to pay bills. Have a ‘bill paying’ drawer or basket that has envelopes, stamps, a pen, checkbook, everything you need to pay bills.” —Felice Cohen, professional organizer, author, motivational speaker. Here are 35 more things every homeowner needs to know.
Sort your mail at the recycling bin
“Before you even put the mail down on the counter, take a quick look at each piece quickly. If you know you don’t want the catalog, flyer, advertisement, or credit card offer, drop it in the recycle bin or trash straight away. Do not put them down and then let these junk items join the rest of the pile of mail. Recycling as the mail comes in saves you time because you won’t be looking at things twice. Even better, sort it over the outside garbage can so you won’t have to take it out again.” —Diane N. Quintana, certified professional organizer at DNQ Solutions. Memorize these 13 secrets of people who always have a clean house.
Clean out your accessories and makeup
“You should clean out your closets and drawers every season. But don’t just focus on clothing. Make sure you also sort through your makeup, travel items, small electronics, accessories, jewelry, and home goods. You may find some ‘hidden treasures’ that you’d forgotten you had and it will save you the expense of re-buying them.” —Rebecca Gitana Torres, interior designer, Healer through the Home Space. Find out how often you should clean everything in your house.
Check your pantry before shopping
“Many people do not check their kitchen cabinets or fridge before grocery shopping and end up buying multiples of the same things over and over because they can’t remember if they have enough. It takes only a few minutes to check to see what you need to restock or may be out of, but it will save you money (and cleaning) throughout the year.” —Anna Bauer, owner of Sorted by Anna and Thumbtack Top pro
Take things all the way out
“You may be good at putting things in bags or piles to return, exchange, donate, or toss—but do you actually take those things all the way out of your house to their intended destination? Once you’ve decided something needs to leave, get it one step closer to its next home (whether that’s the trash can or the car) and clear up space instantly. It’s easier to take a handful out with you each time you go than to spend hours and make a giant trip once a year. It also means you can drop things off as you pass the store. If it’s already in the car, it’s a quick stop on the way home—not a day full of errands on your one day free during the week.” — Amy Trager, Certified Professional Organizer
Read emails only once
“Too often, people read emails but opt not to respond, sometimes for months! To prevent this, react to emails right as you read them instead of marking them as ‘unread’ and saving them for a later date. Delete any spam or advertisements that are not of interest to you and flag those that are. Reply to any emails with deadlines, even if you don’t know the answer yet. For example, ‘Thanks for your email. I’ll review your request within the week and get back to you. Please feel free to follow up with me if you haven’t heard from me by then. Thanks!’ Then, mark deliverables and dates in your paper or electronic calendar. This will save you time and frustration down the road, not to mention embarrassment when your colleagues wonder why you’ve not answered them.” —Amy Cooper Hakim, PhD, industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert
Flush out your water heater
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“The water heater accounts for a whopping 12 percent of your electric bill. Addressing your water heater can save you time and money, not to mention help the environment. Simply flushing sediment from your older system offers an efficiency boost. If you can afford to upgrade tankless ‘on-demand’ systems don’t store water, offering savings up to 30 percent.” —Glenn Gallas, vice president of operations of Mr.Rooter Plumbing. These are 10 vital home maintenance tasks that could cost you thousands if you skip them.
Take care of yourself
“Self-care often ends up on the bottom of our to-do lists but it should really come first. Before you do anything for anyone else (unless you have very small children) take time to exercise, eat breakfast, and attend to personal hygiene. Over time this becomes a habit and will build self-esteem, improve health, and save you so much time and money in countless ways. Self-care also sets the stage for the rest of the activities of the day to be done with intention, attention, and greater purpose.” —Michele Barton, PhD, Director of Clinical Health at Psychology Life Well
Change out your air filters
“Leaving your air conditioning and furnace filters in place for a longer time than recommended can cause them to accumulate dirt, which restricts air flow and leads to the use of more energy and time to clean them. Keeping your filters clean and working properly can reduce energy costs by about 5 percent. Take the five minutes to change the filter every two to three months to improve efficiency and ensure savings.” —Richard Ciresi, owner of Aire Serv in Louisville, Kentucky. Here are 16 more things smart homeowners do every year.
Schedule a yearly doctor visit
“Many people take an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to their health, but preventative health care is one of the best things you can do for your own health. A yearly exam is about so much more than blood pressure or cholesterol. For me it’s also about the conversation, the discussion, because so much comes out. I hear about substance abuse, depression, pain during sex, domestic violence, and other things that are incredibly important to a person’s health that they wouldn’t make an appointment to talk about otherwise.” —Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN and Women’s Health Expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica. Just avoid these 10 things you should never do before a doctor’s appointment.
Learn how to cook easy dinners
“I cannot count the number of hours I spend trying to convince clients that they are capable and have the tools they need to prepare food for themselves in a healthy and functional fashion. So many people waste time and money waiting on lines for food. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they end up standing in line or waiting for deliveries of food that is more expensive and less healthful than simple dishes they could make themselves.” —Dr. Barton. Here’s how to get dinner on the table faster than it takes to get delivery.
Make a chore chart for your kids
“Getting everyone in the family involved in chores can really help pull your family together as a team. But it can sometimes feel hard to get the kids involved because it feels like nagging. Creating a chore chart system can help take the burden off. Sit down in a family meeting and brainstorm a list of chores that need to be done around the house. Set up a whiteboard and write each child’s name on the board. Post a list under each child’s name and then switch up the chore lists each week—that helps keep kids from dreading chores because they change each week.” —Tonya Dalton, productivity expert, owner of inkWELL Press and the host of Productivity Paradox podcast. Need ideas? Here are 12 chores children should do by themselves.
Create a set of outfits
“Save precious time in the mornings by taking time to create a week’s worth of full outfits. Hang the clothes together in your closet and complete the look by putting accessories in a small bag on one of the hangers. That way you’ll be able to ‘grab and go’ instead of wasting time struggling to find something to wear. Once you’ve established a good outfit, keep it together. And don’t forget to check your calendar for upcoming special events.” —Jamie Novak, expert organizer and author of Keep This, Toss That
Create meal themes
“Assign a daily ‘theme’ for meals, assigning a different theme to each day of the week. For example, Taco Tuesday, Chicken Wednesday, or Pasta Thursday. Keep it the same theme throughout the year. You don’t have to know the exact dish but having a basic meal plan will save you money and time at the store when coming up with meal ideas.” —Jamie Novak
Delete bad photos from your phone
“You shouldn’t keep every photo you take. If the picture is blurry or the lighting is bad, delete it immediately. If you took the picture to remember where you parked, delete it once you find your car. If you take a burst of 10 photos, you can eliminate 8 once you get a good look at them. Set aside a time to go through your phone and delete unnecessary photos, music, and other files. Clutter on your digital devices is just as bad as real-life clutter.” —Cheri Warnock. Here’s how to free up storage on your phone.
Sign up for a helper service
“Most of the time we wait until life is overwhelming to look for help but there are inexpensive options now to help take some of your day-to-day chores off your plate. Apps like Shipt, Instacart, Task Rabbit, and Please Assist Me can help you stay on top of your to-do list. There’s no shame in asking for help!” —Stephanie Cummings, CEO and founder of Please Assist Me. These are 38 things your house cleaner secretly wants you to know.
Get your eyes checked
“The frequency of eye exams depends on your age. For example, if you have healthy eyes and vision, we recommend an eye exam once in your 20s and twice in your 30s, then a baseline exam with an ophthalmologist at 40, after which the ophthalmologist will recommend the next point at which you should have an exam. After age 65 the Academy recommends regular eye exams every one to two years or as recommended by an ophthalmologist. If you wear contacts or glasses you’ll need more frequent check-ups.” —Dayle Kern of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Check out these 51 health tricks you’ll want to make a habit.
Schedule a get-‘er-done day
“Schedule a cleaning/task day. I advise taking one day a month to focus on completing the tasks that you haven’t been able to check off your to-do list. Need to swap out your winter wardrobe for your summer wardrobe? Need to go through your children’s clothes to figure out what still fits? You already have a day scheduled to focus on those tasks if you schedule a recurring ‘get it done’ day.” —Stephanie Cummings. Find out which items only need to be cleaned once a year (or less!).
Put coupons in your car
“If you love coupons but always forget them, put a bag for coupons in the glove box of your car. It will keep your purse from getting cluttered but will make sure you have them when you need them as you’ll likely be driving your car to the store anyhow. Similarly, put digital coupons in a special folder in your email so you don’t have to search to find them.” —Sarah Giller Nelson, Professional Organizer and owner of Less is More Organizing Services
Establish a nighttime routine
“Mornings can quickly turn into a nightmare when everyone is rushing. You can reduce all this stress if you just do most of the preparation at night. Setting out clothes, making lunch, and making sure kids are all set can really save your mornings. You will even sleep better, knowing these things are taken care of. Take the time now to list what tasks you can do each night to make the morning rush easier, and then set up a routine to make them habit.” —Lauren Haynes, cleaning and home organizing expert at Star Domestic Cleaners London
Get a mammogram
“Most women should have a baseline mammogram at age 40 and then discuss with their doctor about the frequency of tests thereafter. I also recommend yearly clinical breast exams. Just make it part of your annual check-up because doctors are trained to find anomalies that you might not recognize yourself.” —Elizabeth Chabner Thompson, MD, MPH, founder of Best Friends For Life (BFFL)-Co. This tip may last you longer than a year depending on your risk factors.
Get a prostate exam
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“While you don’t need a yearly prostate or testicular exam—that’s a myth—you should still check in with your doctor on a yearly basis to be screened for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, colon cancer (if over 50), and review and update of the family history to look for other potential genetic disease. For men at risk of prostate cancer the American Urologic Association recommends screening every two years or more.” —Harland Thomas Holman, MD, a physician at Spectrum Health Medical Group.
Set up a weekly date night
“To strengthen their relationship over time, couples need to make a conscious decision to do things to nurture their connection. Lots of people make a big deal about date night and that is what this is really about. But the date night itself isn’t enough. Their commitment needs to include paying attention to each others’ interests and experiences as well as creating experiences that shore up their bond together. This might include things like maintaining their interest in sharing going to concerts together or some sport, something that doesn’t involve taking care of the kids. Schedule a weekly night date and make sure it happens.” —Mark E. Sharp, PhD, psychologist, relationship counselor and author of Not Lonely at the Top: A Relationship Guide for the Courageous, Successful Single Who Hasn’t Found the Love They Want. Don’t forget about these 14 things all smart homeowners should do once a month.