DIY Cleaning & Organizing

20 Chores You Only Have to Tackle Once This Year

Once you cross off these household tasks from your to-do list, you can forget about them until next year.

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One and Done

We all aspire to a tidy home, but sticking to a regular cleaning routine can be challenging. While some areas demand constant attention—think kitchen counters—others will be fine with just an occasional brush with a vacuum or dust cloth. Here are once-a-year chores that can be scheduled ahead, tackled once, and forgotten again until 2021.

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Get Behind the Appliances

Moving the fridge, stove, and laundry machines away from the wall takes muscle, but annual maintenance pays off in longer lives for these household workhorses. To do a thorough cleaning, vacuum the fridge coils, clean the dryer vents, and wipe all the rear surfaces with a lightly dampened dust cloth. Then bust year-old dust by giving the floor a good sweep. Remember: when moving the appliances, be extremely careful not to disconnect any water or gas lines.

Related: This Is How Long Each of Your Major Appliances Should Last

Shampoo Upholstery

Refresh your sofas and chairs with a yearly scrubbing. Search the supermarket for steam cleaners or spray bottles with a brush attachment; they’ll help to gently lift dirt from the upholstery. Before you use a new cleanser, first test it in an inconspicuous spot. If the fabric’s color and texture looks good once the cleanser has dried, you’ll know it’s safe to use on the remainder of the surface. When cleaning, pay special attention to areas where hands and heads tend to rest—those are the places that need the most elbow grease.

Related: 7 Ways You May Be Ruining All Your Furniture

Refresh the Bathroom Storage

Here’s a good rainy day chore: open up all the medicine cabinets and discard any expired medications (the FDA provides guidelines on the safest ways to do this), old cosmetics, and almost-empty toothpaste tubes. Clean all the surfaces and restock the shelves. Then give the other bathroom cabinets a quick decluttering session, wiping down doors and interior shelves as you go.

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Deep Clean the Oven

If you use your oven constantly, you may need to do this job several times in a year, but if you’re only an occasional baker, an annual washing should be fine. Run the self-cleaning cycle if your cooker has one, or arm yourself with rubber gloves and oven cleaner to make the interior sparkle.

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Wash Walls and Touch Up Paint

Give your walls a new look—without the hassle of a full paint job—when you give them a once-a-year cleaning. To start, run the vacuum cleaner’s brush attachment over the walls, paying special attention to moulding and baseboards. Next, use a cloth and gentle cleaning spray to remove any smudges or fingerprints. If you notice any chips or scratches, cover them with a dab of paint leftover from your last remodel.

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Sweep and Organize the Garage

Pick a temperate time of year to clear out and clean up your garage or tool shed. Sell, donate, or trash the clutter, then organize all the tools and toys you plan to keep. You may choose to invest in new shelves and hooks—or else finally start using the ones you already have. Once your gadgets and gear are properly stowed away, give the floor a good going over with a heavy-duty broom and mop.

Related: 12 Things to Toss ASAP When You Clean Out Your Garage

Brighten Up Those Windows

Plan to do this chore in the spring, before you throw the windows open for a bit of fresh air. Pick a cloudy day to clean (sunlight can cause your cleanser to streak), then take a crumpled newspaper and a vinegar-based cleaning solution to the panes to make them sparkle.

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Tend to Curtains and Blinds

Once your window panes are crystal-clear, take some time to freshen your window treatments too. When you remove your curtains from their rods, check the care labels, then either wash or dry-clean them according to their needs. While your window treatments are being washed, dust rods and finials, and wipe rolling or venetian blinds, using a cloth lightly dampened with cleaning spray.

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Deep Clean Carpets

This job is a great one for late fall, when the family retreats to the indoors for the season. Keep the household healthy by removing dirt, pet dander, pollen and other nasties from rugs and carpets. You can rent a cleaning machine at your local home center, or have a service conquer the task for you.

Related: How To: Make Your Own Carpet Cleaner

Dust Light Fixtures

Polishing your fixtures allows more light to shine through, brightening your whole home. Wipe down shades, bulbs, and metalwork with a microfiber cloth sprayed with a gentle cleaning spray. If you can’t reach the light fixture with a ladder, try the hose attachment of your vacuum cleaner or use an extendable dusting brush.

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Clean the Sump Pump

You might never think about it, but you do have to clean your sump pump to keep it working properly. Put it in a bucket and take it outside so you can wipe the gunk and grime off of it. Then, use a shop vac to get the remaining water out of the pit. A clean sump pump is a happy sump pump!

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Dust the Ceiling Fans

Dusting the ceiling fans is a dirty job, but you can make it less so by using a pillow case to accomplish the chore. Dampen the inside of the pillow case by spritzing the inside of it with a water-filled spray bottle. One at a time slip it over the fan blades, pulling the dust and dirt off into it as you remove it. Turn the pillow case inside-out and shake it outside before washing it.

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Lubricate the Locks

To keep the locks on your doors in good working order, lubricate them once a year. Graphite powder is preferred, and can be purchased at any hardware store in a squeeze bottle, for easy application.

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Wipe Down the Patio Furniture

Before you put the patio furniture away for the season, give it a good wipe down, and wash if necessary. Store it covered with a tarp or sheet, and it will be ready to go when you bring it out in the spring.

Related: The Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning Patio Furniture

Touch Up the Front Door

Maintain your curb appeal by making sure to touch up the paint on your front door once a year. It’s a quick and easy job, and will keep the front of your home looking spiffy.

Related: Instant Curb Appeal: 15 Fast Facade Fix-Ups

Clean Out the Junk Drawer

Every modern household needs a junk drawer. But it should be cleaned out once a year. Empty it completely and take inventory, being honest about each item’s value. Purge what is no longer useful. Then, reorganize. Rinse and repeat next year.

Related: 10 Things Always to Keep in Your Junk Drawer

Check the Chimney

Your chimney should be inspected once a year to make sure it’s safe and to head off any maintenance issues before they cause a real problem. Do a visual inspection from the outside to check for any cracks or crumbling mortar, and then check the firebox inside for the same. Open and close the dampers. If anything gives you pause, call a professional to take a closer look.

Related: 5 Important Reasons to Schedule a Chimney Inspection ASAP

Clean the Dishwasher

You wouldn’t think an appliance that cleans your dishes would actually need to be cleaned itself. But it does. Over time, grease, detergent and bits of food get caught and stuck in your dishwasher, and in order to do a good job, it needs to be cleaned. Give it a deep clean once a year to keep it in good working order.

Related: How To: Clean a Dishwasher

Vacuum the Air Ducts

The air ducts in your home collect all sorts of dust, dirt and pollen as they move air through your home. Your HVAC system will work more efficiently, and your home’s air quality will be better if you clean them once a year. After turning the power off to your HVAC unit, remove the vent covers and thoroughly clean them. Then, vacuum the ducts as best as you’re able. You may need to rent a heavy duty vacuum for this task, but it will be worth it.

Deep Clean Your Dryer

Cleaning your lint trap each time you do a load of clothes is not enough to keep your dryer working efficiently—and safely. Wipe it down on the outside, and clean the drum on the inside. Pull the lint trap out and wash it. Then, remove the vent tubing and vacuum it out thoroughly. Pull any chunks of lint you can find inside the vent, and then inspect the vent cover outside. Be sure it’s clear of any debris, and trim back any landscaping that may be encroaching. Put everything back together and put the task on your calendar for next year.

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