Habit stacking is the idea that new habits can be better kept when they are tied to existing habits. If as soon as you wake up you exercise, take a shower and then brush your teeth, then you can gradually add other tasks onto the routine and make them daily habits.
SJ Scott is an author and content creator. He developed the idea of habit stacking in the book Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less. On his website DevelopGoodHabits.com he writes, “The key to consistency is to treat a habit stack like a single action instead of a series of individual tasks.”
While habit stacking helps me remember to apply sunscreen and floss, non-daily habits throw me off. Monthly heartworm pills for dogs and air return filter changes for example. Between calendar reminders and keeping things like filters near the return air vents, I attempt keeping up with the monthly habits, too. There are limits, though. Once my heating and air guy told me it would be great if I could pour a little vinegar down my condensation lines once a month. Imagine taking small amounts of vinegar up into your attic and around your house without spilling it once a month–it hasn’t happened.
This might be more about me than I intended, but the marketing message “Change Your Clocks, Change Your Batteries” created by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is helpful to me. With hard-wired smoke detectors and longer life batteries it’s not the same as when this campaign started, but it stuck with me. In my mind I think of fire safety tasks twice a year.
Daylight Savings Time gives the perfect reminder because it’s a big enough change to get my attention and then I’m like, oh yeah, time to check the smoke detectors. More than smoke detectors, it’s like twice a year, do these things that aren’t monthly and aren’t daily but that need to be done. It ties one random thing to something that will happen without my initiating it.
Typically, everyone eventually wakes up every day. If as soon as you wake up you have primed yourself to drink a full glass of water, put on your shoes, and walk your dog, then you don’t have to choose if or when to do each of those things individually. If you have tied the habits together, then as soon as you wake up you start the sequence. In a similar way, this reminder to check smoke detectors is set up to be a response to the time change. It’s not like Daylight Savings is any individual’s choice. So even though it is newsworthy when it happens because it’s so infrequent, it can be a trigger for all sorts of chores you want to remember.
Below are some of the things I attempt to stack into this week of the year, a leaf blower is not required or recommended but can be fun. There may be more here than you’re comfortable doing yourself. Finding good qualified professionals is a great way to get these things taken care of, and scheduling them out in advance is a good way to make sure it all gets done.
Fall Fire Safety Reminders
- Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Change the batteries if needed. Remember, “Change Your Clocks, Change Your Batteries.” If your smoke detector is connected to your security system, check that too.
- If you have removed a smoke detector because it kept going off while you cooked or chirping at you–it’s time to return it or replace it.
- Check fire extinguishers for expiration date and pressure. If you don’t have one in your kitchen it’s time to get one.
- Check fireplaces and clean fireplace flues.
- Clean out dryer vents all the way to the exterior of your home. This is probably not recommended, but I like to disconnect my dryer vent at the wall and blow it out with a leaf blower. I also have taken apart sections of my dryer to clean out the lint but you may not want to go that far. And people who work on appliances can do it for you.
- Clean the filter on your kitchen exhaust fan if you have one above your stovetop. Again, not recommended, but I like to blow mine out with a leaf blower.
- Schedule a service for your heating and air system. If you have gas heat you want the tech to verify that your heat exchange is not cracked–that would let not so great gases into your house.
- Related to that, if your smoke detectors (mounted on ceilings) are also your carbon monoxide detectors, it would be really great if you had carbon monoxide detectors at floor level. An easy way to add them is to get plug-in detectors with battery back-ups that you keep at outlets that are closer to the floor. Carbon monoxide sinks while smoke rises so you need detection at opposite levels.
- If you have any lights, switches, or outlets that no longer work, investigate. It could be as simple as replacing bulbs. It could be a Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor “GFCI” (those outlets with buttons you often have in bathrooms and kitchens) in an awkward spot has tripped–like maybe in your crawl space or a random bathroom. If you can’t find a quick explanation/solution call an electrician.
- Not everything can be done by everyone–so call for help when something is not for you. And if you don’t know who to call feel free to ask me who I call.
Fall Home Maintenance Reminders
- Clean your bathroom exhaust fans–vacuum/dust/wash–whatever works for you. Again, if you already have a leaf blower handy…
- Clean your gutters and downspouts. Call for help if ladders aren’t your thing. And again, what better time to have a leaf blower!
- Peek into your attic. Check the pan of your air handler if it’s up there and make sure it’s not holding water. Glance at the underside of your roof for unexpected daylight and water stains. Check for small animals making themselves at home. Call your hvac company or a roofer if you see anything suspicious.
- Peek into your crawl space and sniff. Look for hints of water like reflections and sediment. Look for anything that suggests something has moved in, leaked, or stopped working. I’m not much for water or animals, so call someone to investigate whatever you find.
- Disconnect and winterize water hoses and garden irrigation–unless this unseasonably warm weather and flash drought have you still using them. Set a reminder if it’s not quite time yet.
- If you haven’t changed your air return filters in the last month or quarter–it’s time. Set a reminder to pop up once month or once a quarter.
- Run a wash cycle on dishwashers and front-loading washing machines. Hardware and appliance stores can tell you which products are right for your machines.
Not to do: I used to run my oven through a cleaning cycle at this time of year, getting ready for Thanksgiving and all. I don’t do that anymore since my oven overheated and blew an internal fuse. I don’t recommend it, especially with Thanksgiving around the corner!