The New Year always brings on excitement. Many people talk about the fact that they have a fresh slate and can attack those areas that need improvement with intense focus. They decide that this will be the year that they exercise more, eat less, or quit a bad or nagging habit. Perhaps they will decide to work less and create some margin in their life. Maybe they want to save better and/or pay off some debt that has been lingering. Well… is it cliche to write about New Year’s resolutions in this first article of the new year? Probably, but the fact is that I need this as much as most of you. The past few years have brought a lot of neglect around my home, and that means that I have a lot of catch-up to do in the maintenance and “honey-do” department.

Here are some of the items on my list that I believe will benefit others too:

1) Test all smoke alarms and purchase/install carbon monoxide detectors.

This one is really easy. There really is no excuse not to do this one. The National Safety Council has some general guidelines that can be followed regarding smoke detectors:

  • Change the battery to your smoke alarm once a year and change the whole unit every 10 years. Pick a special day, a birthday, holiday or daylight savings and change the battery every year on that day.
  • If possible, replace smoke alarms with interconnected alarms. When one alarm goes off, the others will sound too.
  • Smoke alarms should be in every floor of your house (including your basement) and outside bedrooms or sleeping areas.
  • Test your smoke alarm monthly.
  • Make sure your kids are familiar with the sound of the alarm.

Being the first of the new year, this is a perfect time to decide to change the batteries and ensure that the other points are noted. I’m going to go ahead and add a calendar reminder for me to test them each month. I also plan on getting my wife and kids together and make sure that they understand what the alarm means and what they should do if they were to hear it.

Regarding the Carbon Monoxide Detectors resolution, I know that this is something I need to do. I’ve had two separate family friends who have actually had carbon monoxide problems in their house in the last year. I know that we don’t have one in our house. Carbon Monoxide detectors are inexpensive and easy to install. That goes on the “to buy” list immediately.

Fire safety and prevention awareness month is in October, but you shouldn’t wait 10 more months to take inventory of your own home’s needs. Most hardware stores like Howard Brothers have a good supply of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors remaining from sales during that month. You can get the variety and selection you want at affordable prices. Click here for a sampling from True Value.com

2) Put together a household emergency kit

This one isn’t as difficult as you may think. It is something that you can start easily and accomplish over time with little effort. No one expects that an emergency is going to happen to them. Whether it be an extended power outage, fire, natural disaster or some other emergency, you should have some basic items stocked away just in case.

First of all I plan on getting a plastic storage trunk. They’re on sale all over the place right now thanks to people un-decorating from holidays and preparing to store for the next year. The trunk needs to be large enough for the items we’re going to put in it. Here are some items you probably should consider adding to your emergency kit:

  • First Aid Kit – You need a separate one for your emergency kit. Put it in your trunk and leave it there.
  • Water – I’ll be adding a case of water bottles to my trunk. That’s 3 bottles for everyone in my family.
  • Flashlights and batteries- This may be obvious, but it isn’t enough to just have some in the house for use. Put some in the emergency kit for emergency only.
  • MREs – Meals Ready to Eat. This will require a little more effort but there are plenty of places online that will sell meals that can be eaten hot or cold and that have a long shelf life. They may not make for the best eating, but in times of need they will be greatly welcomed. I’ll get a case of 12 for my family of 4.
  • Blankets – I’ll add a couple of large blankets to our trunk just in case.
  • Tent – Just sounds like a good idea to throw one in the kit. I should look for some deals and add one just in case.

I know that I could go on and on and get consumed with adding items to this kit. The biggest thing for me to do is create the list and start assembling it. As I come across a deal somewhere I will remember the items on my list and be prepared to make the purchase. This is one task that I’ll eventually complete, but review the contents of my emergency kit periodically. Hopefully, this will be never needed, but it is best to be prepared.

3) Basic Maintenance Around the House

This one is also going to be easy. I should be able to accomplish all this in one Saturday if I don’t get distracted by whatever sport is on TV at the moment.

  • Change Furnace Filters Regularly. This comes down to your preference, but most heating/air guys will tell you that you should replace your filters each month. I’ll go ahead and get a case and have them on hand so that I can easily accomplish this each month. Perhaps add the task to my calendar each month. Some thermostats will actually allow you to track when you need to replace it (assuming you told the thermostat when you last replaced one.)
  • Check insulation on doors and windows. If daylight is seen or a draft of air is felt, there’s not enough insulation. It may be that weatherstripping or caulking is in need of replacement. I personally happen to know of a couple doors that aren’t sealing correctly. It is time to fix that.
  • Clean the gutters and drain pipe. I’ve had the experience of water in the basement in the past and really don’t want that again. We did some aggressive landscaping to fix some of the ground drainage problems that allowed the water in the basement, but part of the problem was also brought on because our gutters weren’t cleaned out and the drain pipes were clogged. I believe that I cleared them out one last time for winter, but it won’t hurt to check once more.
  • Check to see that the ductwork leading to and from the heat recovery ventilator is in good shape, the joints are tightly sealed and any duct insulation and plastic duct wrap is free of tears and holes. I know that this is something that I need to do.

4) Winterize Outdoor Power Equipment.

You may have this accomplished already but if not, now is the time to take care of your power equipment. Be sure to check out this article on winterizing your outdoor power equipment. You can also go ahead and add to your calendar to have the machines tuned up in preparation for spring.

5) Pruning of Trees and Shrubs

Now is a great time to go out and assess your landscaping.  It is a good time to gather estimates on any tree removals that need to take place. Research reputable tree removal companies that have some longevity in the business, have adequate insurance and can produce customer referrals for similar work.

For the smaller jobs that you can tackle yourself, walk your yard and make notes of which plants need some attention. With little or no leaves on the trees, you can make plans for which trees and shrubs need cutting back. There are tons of resources online about proper pruning techniques. We recently created two videos about hand pruning techniques with a local master gardener that can help in your planning.

6) Get the Grass on a Maintenance Schedule 

I have been meaning to do this for many years, but I just haven’t had the time to focus on it. I want the grass in my yard to look nice, but I neglect it constantly. I haven’t aerated it like it needs. I haven’t over-seeded it like I want. I don’t properly fertilize it, and I haven’t done anything to prevent common weeds that plague me each year. The best time to start is anytime.

There are lots of calendars that you can follow online. Walter Reeves has an great resource of lawn care calendars that breaks down what you should do depending on the type of grass you have. For me, I have a combination of fescue and bermuda. I’m going to research what I need to do and then start the schedule. True Value often has Bargains of the Month that coincide with most lawn care needs. They’ll offer good deals on weed and feed and preventative spreads. Maybe I can get that coveted best yard of the neighborhood sign if I just try a little more.

7) Build a Rain Water Collection System

This one is going to be a tad more involved, but the nice thing is that it will directly affect one of my other resolutions. I’ve been wanting to add some water collection barrels to my downspouts for a few years now. I want to reuse the water for my yard and plants. Being in Atlanta, we’ve had our share of droughts, and we often have water bans that dictate when we can or can’t water our yards. This will be a good way to irrigate the yard and not have to pay to do it.

True Value has the project mapped out for me. All I need to do is gather the supplies needed and follow the plans. Click here to check it out. I’ll be building a couple custom collection systems, but for someone who wants it easy, they even have several pre-made rain barrel collection systems ready for use with minimal effort.

So, those are some items on my short list. Have you considered some resolutions for around the house for the new year? What are some of the things you’re looking at accomplishing in 2012.

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