For most people the home is a refuge, a place to escape from the stresses of everyday life. However if not cared for properly, your home can turn into one of the biggest of all. From unexpected repairs to shady contractors to honey-do lists that never seem to get any shorter, dealing with the basic maintenance and upkeep of your home can weigh heavily on your mind.
Fortunately, there are some basic things that even the least handy homeowner can do to take control of their home, because after all, the feeling that we are not in control can be one of the biggest sources of stress in our lives. So without further ado…
- Get organized – A good place to start is to organize your home information so that when emergencies arise you have what you need readily at hand. I have customers who have assembled three-ring binders with their appliance manuals catalogued and alphabetized. While you don’t need to be quite so formal about it, keeping all of that information in one handy place will save you significant headaches when you do have issues. Also, take the time to write down the model number and serial number of each appliance on the cover of the manual since you will need that information for almost any repair.
- Schedule an appointment – Treat your home as if it is a client and schedule a quarterly appointment to touch base and see how everything is going. During this quarterly appointment you should address basic maintenance items such as changing furnace filters, testing smoke detectors, checking under sinks for signs of water problems and inspecting the exterior of your home for roof/siding/window/door issues. If these basic tasks exceed your home maintenance comfort level, then find a trustworthy handyman to conduct the quarterly appointment for you. The nice thing about this approach is that it means the other 361 days of the year you don’t need to stress about your home.
- Outsource as much as possible – As the old saying goes, nobody lies on their deathbed and regrets not spending more time at work. The same can be said for housework. While some people find mowing the lawn or cleaning the home cathartic, the majority of us find these activities to be huge time commitments that constantly hang over our heads. If you fit in the latter category then take a close look at whether you can afford to have someone else handle these tasks for you. You might find these services are less expensive than you expected, and after all, how much is your free time really worth?
- Rely on the experts – Nothing can cause more stress, or more potential harm, than losing your heat during a bitter winter stretch. For that reason, I recommend contracting with a licensed HVAC company to maintain your systems. Not only will they help to identify issues before they lead to outages, but they will also give you preferred service in the event that your systems fail. The one caution here is to ask around for referrals because not all HVAC contractors are created equal.
- Budget for the future – Would you be surprised, and financially unprepared, if your twenty year old water heater failed and needed to be replaced? If so, this recommendation is for you. While you cannot predict exactly when things will fail, you can put together a reasonable home budget based on the normal life expectancy of its major components. While you are getting organized (remember step 1?) just jot down the age of your major home components, including roof, appliances, furnace, water heater, etc. There are schedules available on the internet that give you the standard life expectancy of each of these things as well as projected repair costs. If properly maintained, many of these components will live long past their projected demise, but isn’t it better to be prepared in the event they do not?
There is no such thing as a stress-free home (especially if there are kids involved), but these tips should help to contain and hopefully minimize the sources of stress in your sanctuary. So start with step one and start enjoying your home.