An essential list for keeping your home in great shape

Congratulations, you're a homeowner! Whether it's your first time buying or you're a seasoned real estate expert, the process of relocating and setting up in a new home is always complicated. It's quite easy to lose track of projects and priorities, and before long one could easily find themselves overwhelmed and intimidated by the sheer enormity of responsibility. After all, a house is likely the largest purchase of your life! But rather than give in to the chaos and resulting stress, a methodical plan of action can help smoothen your transition to a new home.

For any homeowner, there are a few rules, reminders and schedules to remember in order to keep your home in good condition. In this piece, we'll walk you through the essentials, reminders and key bits of information to remember when caring for a new home. To make things convenient, we'll break out the tasks into monthly, seasonally and yearly needs, which you'll want to keep in mind when taking care of your house.

First, organization is key.

1. Make a Homeowner's Binder

The mountain of paperwork and documents involved in a home purchase is nearly comical, a seemingly endless flow of contracts, warranties, expenses and so on. To avoid losing important papers, be sure to decide on one location for it all; a binder or folder will do just fine. This will also be particularly helpful when collecting important local contacts or information on contractors in the area who you may need to hire for paint, carpeting, construction or other work at the house.

2. Pace Your Projects

If you're moving into a new home, you should avoid beginning any large or unnecessary projects until you've lived in the house for a few months. Granted, if there are safety issues or other pressing problems to contend with, you'll want to have essential work done as soon as possible. But kicking off a major home improvement project before you've had a chance to get accustomed to the house could prove regrettable. Perspectives will undoubtedly shift on certain elements of your home once you've lived in it for a certain length of time, and that must-have addition or bathroom tile may not seem so appealing once you've spent some time in the place. You could save a great deal of money, time and complication by putting off any major changes until you've settled in for a few months.

3. Create a Cleaning Schedule

With all there is to do in a new home, simply maintaining a routine cleaning and upkeep schedule can work wonders for your peace of mind. In the first few months after you relocate, you'll likely be tempted to take on little tasks as you move through each room, in order to make it as lovely as you always envisioned. But you can easily burn yourself out and spend the majority of any given day on an endless array of small cleaning and maintenance jobs.

Below, you'll find a collection of home cleaning and home maintenance jobs you should focus on as a new homeowner, broken down by importance of frequency. This is broken down by essentials, and could easily include hundreds of other cleaning jobs!

MONTHLY

Kitchen Sink and Garbage Disposal - Pipes under your kitchen sink endure a daily barrage of greasy, fatty and oily bits of food on a daily basis, which tend to solidify when cooled. Homes with newer plumbing containing PVC or copper pipes are better suited to handle these sticky, grimy materials, but older homes with more narrow iron plumbing can easily clog if not properly maintained, with backups and all the gross drain smells that come with them. Here's how to clean a garbage disposal.

Range Hood Filters - The range hood is a large fan suspended over the stove, designed to filter out airborne grease, oil, fumes, smoke and more while you're frying, searing and sautéing your family meals. The grease filter is your hood's first line of defense against all that your stove dishes out, but without regular cleaning, it can become clogged with greasy, grimy residue and build-up, diminishing performance and air quality. Here's how to clean a range hood filter.

Toilets- Cleaning the toilet stinks - for how often we use it, we sure hate the thought of having to clean it. But not only will a dirty toilet look bad, it could stink up your entire bathroom. The toilet is everyone's least favorite household cleaning job. But whether you have potty training children, someone in your family that's been sick with the flu or food poisoning, or your toilet is due for a cleaning, disinfecting is key to preventing the spread of harmful bacteria and illness-causing pathogens in your household. Here's how to clean and disinfect a toilet.

Ceiling Fans - The more your fans run, the more dust they collect, and that build-up can lead to noisy operation and, eventually, motor damage. A dirty ceiling fan can also house dust mites, especially if you've avoided dusting it. When a fan is on, it blows dust and mites all over the room. Dust mites are the most common household allergen, and their droppings can cause coughing, sneezing, stuffy nose, congestion, and eye irritation. Here's how to clean a ceiling fan.

Baseboards - Your carpets, furniture, and even walls get the bulk of weekly cleaning attention, but baseboards can accumulate unsightly dirt, grime, stains, and scuff marks, which can subtly diminish the visual appeal of your home. Here's how to clean baseboards.

Blinds - Cleaning your window blinds is an often overlooked task, but fairly simple routine cleaning can keep them looking great for years to come, and help keep your home free of dust. Most blinds are made from either wood or plastic, though fabric blinds are also a popular material. However, blinds of any material can become downright unsightly when neglected, as dust, dirt, dead skin cells, pet fur and more develop into a sticky residue that can be troublesome to remove. Even worse, improper cleaning materials or technique can result in an unpleasant mess. Here's how to clean blinds.

Bathtub - A long, hot bath? Relaxing. A long, hot bath in a bathtub coated in soap scum, hard water spots, stains, and everyday residue? Gross. Since you use your bathtub to get clean, it makes sense that it should be squeaky clean too, and ignoring a dirty tub only makes it harder to clean. Here's how to clean a bathtub.

Painted Walls - Tire marks, scuffs and other marks on your walls are unappealing, and can ruin the look of even the cleanest garage. Maintain the look of your walls by keeping them clean and free of dust, fingerprints, stains and smudges with a non-abrasive cleaning solution that won't discolor or diminish your paint. Here's how to clean painted walls.

QUARTERLY

Carpets - Sometimes, kids don't see the difference between the carpet and a napkin. Other times, the dog thinks he's entertaining you by running through the house after he just finished burying a toy in the backyard. All the time, consistent foot traffic can leave behind dirt that eventually builds up and leaves your carpet looking a little dingy. Sometimes a spot clean is all you need. Other times, a more through cleaning may be necessary to bring your carpet back up to speed. Here's how to clean carpets.

Garbage Can - Your outdoor garbage can doesn't take up space or stink up the inside of your home, but that doesn't mean it doesn't require attention from time to time. If you find yourself holding your breath, tossing your full trash bag into the can, and running away, it may be time for a deep cleaning. Here's how to clean a garbage can.

Smoke/Carbon Dioxide Detectors - Look for the ‘test' button on your household smoke detectors, and make a habit of checking them about once per season. Replace any batteries, and clean out the battery containment terminal if there's any corrosion visible.

Refrigerator - Because your refrigerator is always working hard to keep your food and drinks cold, it's bound to get a little disorganized and grubby. The inside gets lined with spills, odors and overcrowding, while the exterior falls victim to sticky smudges and fingerprints. Granted, the inside of the fridge isn't always showing, so you may neglect cleaning it as often as you clean the rest of your kitchen. But since you store your food and drinks in this environment, it's important that it's kept clean to help prevent you and your family from getting sick. Here's how to clean a refrigerator.

Dishwasher - Over time, soap scum and long-forgotten food particles build up in these hard-working appliances. The dirty environment not only provides a breeding ground for germs, it also reduces your dishwasher's efficiency. Here's how to clean a dishwasher.

HVAC Filters - Every 2-3 months, you should inspect and, if necessary, replace the HVAC filter in your home.

Water Heater Pressure Relief Valve - To aid in prevention of mineral and corrosion buildup, be sure to test the pressure relief valve on your water heater at least once a quarter. This will help prevent leaks and assist your water heater in running more efficiently.

A/C Coils - For comfort creatures, warmer weather and air conditioning have gone hand in hand since Willis Carrier invented the modern air conditioner in 1902. But it's definitely not cool when the air conditioner stops working unexpectedly, leaving the entire household in a sweltering scenario. Like any machine, basic cleaning and air conditioner maintenance is necessary for appliance longevity. If you live in warmer climates, add this to your must-clean list. Here's how to clean A/C coils.

Tile Grout - If you're looking to clean your bathroom or kitchen tile grout, you'll need a few good tips to get the job done without damaging your tile or the grout itself – making the entire situation worse! When cleaning, keep in mind that grout is pretty delicate. Using harsh chemicals, like vinegar, bleach or ammonia can do more damage than good. Even a hard-bristled brush, or metal brush, can work against you by scratching tiles and removing the grout altogether. Grout is also porous, so it has a greater likelihood of absorbing surface liquids, which can cause dinginess, discoloration, or worse. Here's how to clean grout.

YEARLY

Spring

Garage Door - Cleaning the exterior of your home, including your garage doors, at least once a year will keep it looking better, extend its lifespan and prevent costly replacement needs. And with a bit of preventative maintenance, your garage door could potentially be trouble free for many years to come. Garage doors tend to accumulate dirt, grime and stains due to a variety of factors including pollen, bird and insect droppings, spider webs and more. Here's how to clean garage doors.

Roofing/Shingles - Inspect your roof for any loose or damaged shingles, and replace accordingly.

Gutters - Rain gutters are critical in keeping water away from your house, but to do their job properly, they need to be free of clogging leaves and debris. The fuller your gutters get with wet debris and standing water, the more potential water damage to your roofing and fascia boards. This can lead to leakage into your home's foundation, basement and crawl space. Here's how to clean gutters.

Deck - No matter their material, decks are susceptible to a wide variety of outdoor elements like mold and mildew, black spots, sap, grease, oil, food spills, pet stains, hard water and ground-in dirt. It's best to use an oxygenated cleaner that will sink deep into the material to clean the lower layers as well as on the surface. Here's how to clean a deck.

Summer

Inspect plumbing - You can save yourself a great deal of frustration and potentially costly fixes by identifying any leaks, cracks or other issues before they become a real problem.

Inspect crawlspace - If there's any rot damage, mold growth or standing water, you could have a problem. At this point its best to have a professional get involved for a full assessment.

Insect Inspection - Check for any signs of termites, carpenter ants or any other destructive bugs that could wreak havoc on your home.

Fall

Check weather sealing and weatherstripping on all doors and windows - Fix or replace accordingly.

Gutters - To keep your gutters clear and help your home look its best, clear them out before the year ends – and more frequently if there are a lot of trees around your house. It's also a good idea to clean them after big storms, as well as before a storm hits to prevent buildup before it's too late. Here's how to clean gutters.

Winterize air conditioning systems – Remove power connectors, clean thoroughly and, if removal isn't an option, cover with a tarp for the season.

Winter

Flush water heater and remove sediment – This way, buildup won't block or clog the pressure and relief valve (which helps keep your water heater from exploding).

Check caulking around showers and bathtubs

Shut off interior valves to outdoor water pipes – This will help prevent your pipes from freezing and costly damage as a result.

Good luck in your new home!