Resolutions to make home life happier in 2020

The new year is a time to refresh and recommit to our goals. We commonly make resolutions for ourselves, but why not for our homes, too? Perhaps you’ve had a home renovation on your to-do list for a while, or you’ve been wanting to adopt a more minimalist lifestyle. Local professionals have gathered their best advice to inspire you to tackle your 2020 home goals, with easy solutions to complete each resolution.

Resolution: Create systems for areas of clutter

We all have them – those areas where clutter seems to collect and thrive. Jenny Welhouse, owner of JM Organizing Solutions in Kaukauna, says the first step in controlling clutter is to avoid bringing it in the house in the first place.

“Be intentional about what you bring home,” she says. “When you do bring something into the house, make sure every item has a home. Make sure the ‘home’ for the item is easy to access if it is commonly used. Humans tend to take the path of least resistance and if it’s easier to just put it on the bench, that’s what we’re going to do.”

Once you have a handle on the clutter, start to tackle the organization of your home with a few drawers or a closet, and continue to chip away from there. Once the decluttering has been accomplished, it makes implementing your greater organizational system much easier. 

“Once you have a system set up, label as much as you can and use dividers and baskets wherever you can,” Welhouse advises. “When you label shelves, baskets, bins, etc., you’re most likely to put the correct item back in its place. For toys, I suggest printing out pictures of the toys and using the pictures to label the bins or shelves where toys are stored. This allows non-readers to also assist in maintaining organization. You can also make organizing fun and effective for you and the family by setting a timer each night for five or 10 minutes and during that time you put away as many things as possible. When the timer goes off, you can stop.”

Resolution: Tackle that remodeling project you’ve put off

It can be overwhelming to begin a remodeling project – no doubt that’s why so many live in infamy on our to-do lists. Make 2020 the year that project gets marked off your list. Whether you are financing the project on your own, or through a bank, start with a budget.

“With a remodeling project, they should pick a max budget; say it’s $100,000,” explains Brian Calmes, co-owner of Calmes/Rohm Construction and former president of the Home Builders Association of the Fox Cities (HBA Fox Cities). “They should only be getting estimates, then, to $80,000 to complete the project. With remodeling there are so many unknowns, you can have overruns really quick. A lot of times that can put stress on that project because you don’t have the finances.”

From there, establish your list of must-haves. Calmes has observed that nearly everyone today is maxing out their budget, so creating a list of the top-end items of everything you want included – and a separate list of what to cut if the price comes in too high – is crucial to keeping the project in budget.

“It’s easier to deduct out, than it is to add in,” Calmes says. 

If you’re hoping to complete the project around the end of 2020, you need to start contacting contractors now. Ideally, Calmes explains, if you want a project to be completed in July, for example, you should have had the contractor lined up the previous fall. A homeowner should also realize their role in the project. You need to be your own advocate and keep your contractor accountable to the timeline, he states.

“Make sure they stay in constant contact to know what’s going on, to be informed,” Calmes furthers. “Demand the things that are unknown to you from the contractor; they should be providing that. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore that. Don’t just assume that it’s going to be taken care of. The contractor has to be the right fit for the consumer; that’s a big thing before you sign a contract.”

HBA Fox Cities has an extensive list of contractors on their website,, to help start your research process.

“When it comes to contractors or remodeling contractors, it’s a long relationship that you have to build and both parties have to maintain it,” Calmes adds.

Resolution: Make your home more energy efficient

One way to improve the energy efficiency in your home is through new windows and doors. Tom Miller, owner of Window and Door Central in Appleton, says there are a couple benefits to making that one of your resolutions for 2020. 

“Obviously you’re going to save money on energy, whether it be natural gas or oil, or less wood burned or electric energy used – whatever source you’re using,” he says. “You’re more comfortable within the home. You’re going to see less temperature fluctuations with better windows and doors, or more insulated windows and doors. You’re not going to see as dramatic of a heat drop.”

With doors, a homeowner should replace them if the seal of the door or the performance of the door has been compromised. Windows are a more involved process; Miller says current products on the market now have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years. However, he does caution homeowners to do research ahead of purchase, because there are products sold as replacement products that only have a five to 10-year lifespan.

“There are a lot of misconceptions right now about replacing windows and it’s not one size fits all or one method fits every application,” he furthers. “There are products that are designed as insert-type products; your existing window basically stays intact and the insert or the operating portion of the windows is replaced. And the other method would be a full frame replacement, where you’re taking it right down to the studs opening, and changing everything within the opening.

“There are different applications and every situation is different; that’s why it’s best to have a professional come out and assess what is the best approach,” Miller adds.

Resolution: Expand your outdoor living space

Living in Wisconsin like we do, winter is not going away. Make 2020 the year you resolve to expand your outdoor living space in some way for the several months a year when we do have manageable weather.

“We build quite a few outdoor living spaces,” Calmes says. “The covered porches are obviously a huge trend right now, and I think that they are something that every home needs. You should have some space on the back of your home that’s covered, no matter what.”

Three-season rooms have also grown in popularity over the last several years. They allow homeowners to have more space in the home and enjoy the outdoors longer – and without the bugs.

Calmes says another trend he’s noticed with outdoor living spaces is outdoor fireplaces and kitchens, some with grills built into them. 

“They can use the outdoor patio for the mainstay of their cooking and their house stays clean,” he says. “That’s the feedback I hear that they like so much.”

Resolution: Take your decluttering one step further

Once you complete the decluttering and reorganization of your home, you can take it a step further to ensure success throughout the year. Sit down and make an informed assessment of your online and bulk shopping habits. As Welhouse explains, those habits can be one of the biggest contributors to clutter. Set limits for yourself and shop within your own home first.

“Make it a challenge to see how many days you can go without grocery shopping or household goods shopping,” she says. “Even if you see an item on sale, but you have multiple of that item already, avoid buying it. It will go on sale again. You will not only keep your home free of excess products, you’ll also save money by not tying up money into products that are just going to sit in your house for months or years before they get used, or worse, forgotten about.”

And, if you’re willing to make an even larger leap, consider adopting a more minimalist lifestyle. 

“A minimalist lifestyle is where you live with only the items you need and provides freedom from the desire to accumulate stuff,” she explains. “This allows you to focus on relationships and experiences, rather than material things.”

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