Perhaps one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions is to lose weight by eating less and exercising more. This very moment, numerous bloggers are posting articles on how to sneak kale into every meal, earn an extra 200 steps on your Fitbit, and cleanse your body from the holiday hangover. Though these are all lofty goals worthy of achievement, how about adding a resolution to make your home environment healthier too? This year, as you write out your personal resolutions, create an annual home inspection checklist to follow for 2017 and to utilize for years to come. To start, here are six simple tips to keep your home as healthy as your body.

1. Clear out the clutter. Albert Einstein once said, “Out of clutter, find simplicity.” Our current cultural climate is full of useless advertising messages, daily distractions, and constant clutter. In order to obtain mental clarity, one must find refuge from all the noise. What better place to find peaceful serenity and calmness than within the walls of one’s home? Dr. Laurie Buchanan opined that “inner alchemy (personal transformation) occurs when we clear our clutter -- internal and external -- and let go of things that no longer serve us well. This creates balance and space, a place that nurtures contentment...” Not only does de-cluttering and de-owning free up visible space in your home, it also yields a renewed spirit and awareness of life’s true treasures. The task itself may appear overwhelming at first; however, simply tackle one room each week until your house is complete. Donate unwanted “treasures” to local charities or foundations like the Kidney Foundation, Dorchester Children’s Center, Lowcountry Orphan Relief, 180 Place, Charleston Hope, or local church closets. As an alternative, you can sell furniture on local Facebook pages such as Mt. Pleasant / Daniel Island Furniture Swap or Mt. Pleasant Mommy Exchange. Local consignment stores like Uptown Cheapskate in Mt. Pleasant or Butterfly Consignment Boutique in Belle Hall will purchase items in excellent condition. Once the unused items are removed and the clutter is organized, your home will feel fresh and light, and so will your inner alchemy.

2. Change your air filters.
Because you want your home not to just feel fresh but to be fresh, change your air filters. January is an excellent month to replace all filters and initiate a consistent schedule for the year. A clogged air filter can cause the entire system to fail, so most HVAC companies recommend changing air filters every other month. Since Charleston typically has higher levels of pollen in the spring, filters may need to be replaced monthly during this season. Similarly, if you or your family members have allergies or pets, then you may need to change your filters more frequently. Charlestowne Heating and Air representative Paul Peeples also recommends an annual service checkup which includes draining the condensate line, cleaning coils, and inspecting duct work. “I especially caution homeowners whose systems are in the attic to drain the condensate line because a clogged line can cause significant damage to a home,” says Paul. Joe and Kaye Wren of Summerville could not agree more. “Recently, a clogged condensate line flooded the interior walls of our townhome, causing a tremendous amount of water damage and mold. In order to remediate the mold, we had to tear down the walls, rip up the carpet, and chemically treat our furniture,” says Joe. By being proactive with your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, you not only extend the life of the unit but also ensure that your family breathes clean, toxic-free air.

3. Fire up your fireplace.
Charleston’s pleasant year round climate means that fireplaces are not regularly lit. When a furnace sits idle for six months or longer, it can collect dust, erode valves, and lend to chimney blockage. Be sure to test out the gas furnace several weeks before you think you might use it so that you can identify any problems. For a minimal fee, Lahazza Hearth Stone in Summerville will service your fireplace so you can enjoy the ambiance and warmth of a fire on blistery winter nights without worry. Generally, fireplace tune-ups include testing the unit for blocks or leakage; examining the combustion gases and blower wheel; inspecting the intake grills, valves, heat exchanger, blower access door, and burners; and ensuring the unit is clean and ready to use. Though homeowners can certainly service themselves, because of the infrequent use and warranty specifications, paying a professional is probably worth the investment.

4. Replace the batteries in smoke detectors.
Many new construction homes in Mt. Pleasant and Charleston have smoke detectors that signal when the battery is low. For older homes, or as a precaution to keep all smoke detectors on the same battery life cycle, change the batteries in January and then change again in June. The U.S. Fire Association (USFA) advises homeowners or tenants to change batteries in smoke detectors twice a year and to test the detectors each month. Another idea is to change the smoke detector batteries when you reset clocks for daylight savings time. For 2017, these dates will be Sunday, March 12th  and Sunday, November 5th at 2 a.m.  Along with the smoke detectors, check the functionality of your household fire extinguishers as well. Though fire extinguishers technically do not expire, you want to be sure the pressure gauge is accurate. The needle should be in the green zone; if it is not, then the extinguisher may not operate appropriately and should be replaced immediately. Other indications of a faulty device include an eroded or cracked hose, unsealed locking pin, or unhinged handle. If unsure whether or not the extinguisher functions properly, you can have it examined at VSC Fire and Security located off Clements Ferry Road, Liberty Fire Protection in Charleston, or  Hiller Systems in North Charleston.

5. Clean the kitchen oven and hood filters.
After baking all those delicious Christmas cookies and comfort casseroles, your kitchen oven and hood filters deserve a deep clean.  With the self-clean feature on most ovens, this process is easy enough. Simply remove the racks from inside the oven and set the “self clean” cycle. The process takes approximately three hours, and you will need to be home during this time as the oven gets extremely hot. The excess heat from the oven will warm the home, so doing this task in the winter months is preferable. After the cycle is finished, use a damp cloth to gently wipe away the ash and residue from the bottom of the oven, side walls, and door. Often, folks forget to peek under their stove tops and look at the filters. The primary purpose of stove hood filters is to collect grease, so if you have not washed these filters in a while, then get ready to perform your best John Travolta “grease lightning” dance. First, fill your sink with very hot (or boiling) water and add ¼ cup of baking soda and one teaspoon (or squirt) of liquid dish soap. Mix ingredients together with a spatula and then place the hood filters into the sink. Allow the filters to soak for at least ten minutes and then use a bristle brush or sponge to gently remove the grit and grime. Rinse with warm water and dry with a clean cloth. Make sure the filters air dry completely before putting them back in place. Though you may only need to clean your oven every few months, your oven filters should be cleaned every month.  

6. Purify the indoor air.
Charleston’s climate is mild and humid. If not careful, homes can carry an eclectic smell of mildew, pluff mud, and dirty socks. To combat musty smells, place indoor plants in open living spaces. Indoor plants such as Snake Plants, Golden Pathos, Peace Lilies, Aloe Vera, and Areca Palms work as a natural air purifiers and oxygen producers. Even if you do not have a green thumb, several of the aforementioned plants only require minimal care and water. Another natural way to purify the air inside is with activated charcoal. Open bags or bottles of this compound absorb moisture, thus eliminating the “musty” smell of some homes. If you have screen windows or doors, open these panes and panels for a few hours each week. The indoor-outdoor air exchange will combat Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and add instant freshness to stale, recycled air. For mood-enhancing scents, select your favorite essential oil fragrance and lightly diffuse the aroma in your home. Popular choices for the home include Bergamot, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Peppermint, and Lemon.

Once you have a healthy home that is toxic free and clutter free, you can safely sit back, breathe in the pure air, enjoy the crackling fire, and slowly sip your kale smoothie! Here is a comprehensive annual home checklist, courtesy of The Art of Manliness website.

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