Home in the New Year: 5 Steps to Less Angst

As we find time to bake, prep for guests or (hopefully) relax in front of the fire or TV, many of us experience a nagging sense that something's been left undone. Call it "house angst."
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All those commercials may be making me a household name, but that doesn't mean I've got my own house in perfect order. That's why I created the Angie's List Pledge and am inviting you to join me in better caring for our homes in the new year.

Just as I told Willie Geist of the Today Show, when he interviewed me for an upcoming feature on combining entrepreneurship and motherhood, there are no super humans. All of us get the same 24 hours each day, no matter how many roles and responsibilities we have. But we can take charge of setting our own priorities.

In the weeks just past, having juggled a wealth of family and holiday activities, along with busy day jobs, most of us probably didn't place routine home maintenance at the top of our to-do lists.

But during the holiday bustle, even as we found time to bake, prep for guests or (hopefully) relax in front of the fire or TV, many of us experienced a nagging sense of something left undone.

Call it "house angst." It descends during the late-year holiday season, as we go about decorating, entertaining and all the rest, dimming our festive mood with thoughts like: When was the last time this room was painted? How did that ceiling stain get there? Will using candles hide the kids' fingerprints? Why did I let another year pass without taking care of these things?

None of us can go back in time and do things differently, but all of us can resolve to make changes going forward. I'm here to help you fulfill your desire to get your house in order. And I promise to keep it manageable:

Step 1: Acknowledge the situation and know you're not alone. Not everyone experiences house angst, but most of us could do a better job of ensuring that our homes stay in good shape.

Step 2: Make a decision. Pledge that you will take action to get your house in order.

Step 3: Assess your home. For your first action, get a notebook and pen and take an hour or so to critically examine each room as if you were a potential buyer. Note whatever needs to be repaired, replaced or inspected.

Step 4: Make a plan. Prioritize a manageable number of projects to tackle in the coming months. Maybe do one a month or one per season. Health and safety issues should come first, but don't forget to add something fun, like painting the laundry room a lively color so it's a more tolerable place to spend your precious time.

Step 5: Relate and celebrate. Share your pledge and your plan with neighbors or social media friends. Decide on rewards. Did you finally replace that awful guest bathroom wallpaper? Invite friends over or post a picture on Facebook.

However you put your pledge into action, remember that the purpose is to give yourself the gift of a year free from the hassle and expense of a home emergency that could have been avoided through routine maintenance.

A little planning now will pay off all year long. If you and I take the Angie's List Pledge and follow through, then next holiday season we can trade house angst for pride of place.

Angie Hicks is founder and chief marketing officer of Angie's List.

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