For many people, ushering in the New Year also signifies a fresh start in the home, whether it means cleaning out the closet or giving away well-intentioned but unwanted gifts from Christmas. But sometimes, the smallest of household tasks are overlooked... even those that are literally right under our noses. The New Year is the perfect time to check them all off your list until the next year rolls around.
Here are 10 simple but essential housekeeping chores you might not have remembered to do:
#1 Rotate the mattress. Standard mattress guidelines usually tell you to rotate your mattress once every three months (some even sooner), but just doing it once a year is better than not at all. To promote even wear on your mattress and extend its usable life, simply spin it 180 degrees so that your head is now at your feet. These days, most mattresses (with or without pillow-top) come standard as single-sided mattresses — meaning no flipping is involved. If you still have an older, double-sided mattress that requires flipping it over, it's definitely time to replace it!
#2 Wash your pillows. Feather, down, and synthetic pillows should be washed at least once a year to eliminate oils, residue, dead skin, and dust that inevitably settle in the pillows and make them sag. Unless the care tag says otherwise, most pillows can be machine-washed on gentle cycle with regular detergent and warm water; they also benefit from an extra rinse cycle and spin cycle to ensure they're fully clean. Dry them on a moderate heat setting with tennis balls to help fluff them up; a complete dry may require repeated cycles and you should never put pillows back on the bed while they're damp, as it can lead to mold and mildew. To keep your pillows fresher longer, use pillow protectors under pillowcases, and occasionally air them out in the sun (sans covers) to refresh them and remove any odors.
#3 Replace your toothbrushes. If you don't remember changing your toothbrush or toothbrush head within the last six months, change them all, including any toothbrushes you regularly travel with.
#4 Replace worn towels, bedding, or linens. Now is a good time to take stock of your inventory and replace, repurpose, or give away any linens that are worn, ripped, stained, or otherwise unused, collecting dust in the closet. Threadbare bath towels can be reallocated as beach towels or doggie bath towels, and old sheets (including mismatched sets you're always too embarrassed to lay out) can be cut up and turned into cleaning rags, dish cloths, or reusable napkins. While you're at it, this is also a good time to reorganize your linen closet, whether by room, color, size, or season.
#5 Refresh closet sachets, or make new ones. Cedar, lavender, and all other closet or drawer sachets lose their scent (and thus their effectiveness) within three to four months, so it's always a good idea to refresh or replace them regularly. If you use activated charcoal pads or filters to absorb odors in your house, put them out in the sun for a few hours to reactivate the carbon.
#6 Air out your rugs. UV rays are an excellent (and green and free) source of disinfectant. You can't exactly throw a rug into the washer, but you can easily haul it outside, fling it over a railing (or on a clean surface), and give it a few hours in direct sun to air it out and kill any bacteria in the fibers. This is also a good time of year to air your rugs, as cold winter air helps eliminate odors. If you live at an elevation that gets snow, take this tip from New Englanders who swear by snow to clean their rugs.
#7 Spin rugs near windows and doors so they get even sun fade. Rugs placed near windows and doors will eventually fade from the bright, hot rays streaming in (even if it's indirect light), so it's important to spin them around 180 degrees (after you air them out, of course!) and expose the other side to sun for even fading. Rug rotation also evens out the wear and tear on the textile, as it subjects the rug to different traffic patterns.
#8 Clean and oil your wooden cutting boards and wooden implements. Now that the season of gluttony is past us and your meals might be returning to a more manageable and normal serving size, give your cutting boards a good scrub using our all-natural solution, then oil them up to ensure they'll last through the next holiday season.
#9 Donate unwanted household goods. Gather up your unused canned goods, ill-fitting clothes, outgrown toys, obsolete electronics, and recent gifts you have a feeling you'll never use, and drop them off at the appropriate food banks, charities, thrift stores, or electronic recycling centers. To make this task easier for next year, designate a bin in your closet or garage for collecting the goods, and throw them in there throughout the year. If you don't find yourself rifling in the bin again for that item, you'll know it's no longer needed — and that bin is ready for its trip to Goodwill next New Year.
#10 Clean out your receipt drawer. To start preparing for tax time (and maybe give yourself a little motivation), clean out your receipt drawer to make room for new receipts. Toss out any that don't apply to your tax deductions, and digitize the ones for major purchases (such as computers) for insurance purposes. If you haven't already, look into software or apps that let you instantly snap a photo of the receipt with your smartphone and file it away virtually, making your receipt drawer much less intimidating next year. There are plenty of specialized receipt apps for iPhone and Android that will even track mileage, apply Schedule C categories, and output expense reports, but if all the options boggle you, Evernote is a good place to start and also makes an excellent filing cabinet for manuals, warranties, and other papers that tend to clutter up your desk.