Adults just know these things, I guess
January 12, 2016 6:04 PM   Subscribe

What kinds of not-regular-but-important things for lifestyle maintenance should I, as a theoretically-responsible adult, be tracking? I'm talking about things like changing filters on air conditioners, getting dental checkups, cleaning gutters, and so forth. In theory I am an actual grown-up, but I keep getting blindsided by things I should have known about doing but utterly failed to do.

In the past month or so I've had several times where it's become apparent that we should have been doing some sort of standard or quasi-standard occasional maintenance type thing -- but this only became obvious in hindsight when something went wrong. In the future I would like to avoid the "something going wrong" part of the process. Some examples:

- Changing car batteries. Obvious in hindsight, but only discovered that this should be done (yes! they do get worse at holding charge) when the battery died completely. Would have been nice to have been tracking at what point we needed to look into getting a new one.

- Bringing the vacuum in for maintenance. I never would have guessed that vacuums required maintenance checkup, but when ours died and we brought it in for repairs, the guy told us that bringing it in every two years or so for a service would greatly enhance its long-term life. He serviced it and it works fine now. Who knew?!? An adult, that's for sure, but not us.

- Changing the filter on our air conditioners. The A/C has been not working well recently and my husband had the sudden brainwave that we have never cleaned our filters. He just did and lo and behold! it's like magic, it works great now.

I want to start trying to be proactive about this stuff, but it's a classic "you don't know what you don't know" sort of situation. As you can see we mainly fail with house-and-car maintenance things, but I think the same issue applies for gardening, health, and child maintenance stuff as well.

My question: What else should we be keeping track of? I'm specifically looking for suggestions of things that, like my examples, are pretty infrequent (twice a year or less) but that tracking them and doing something about them on that semi-regular basis can save a lot of time or money or problems in the long run.

I'm hoping to use this question to sit down and block out reminders to do things over my yearly calendar so the more comprehensive the answers are, the better. Thanks in advance.
posted by forza to Home & Garden (60 answers total) 392 users marked this as a favorite
Check your credit report.
posted by quaking fajita at 6:13 PM on January 12, 2016 [8 favorites]

Vacuum/brush the coils on your refrigerator. They might be on the back or they might be on the bottom. Found that one out when the . . . umm . . . something really expensive? died on my fancy built-in fridge because they were full of dog hair. How often should you do it? You'd think I'd know the answer to that.

(As to getting your vacuum serviced every two years: Bahahaha! Really?)
posted by HotToddy at 6:16 PM on January 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Change your oil in your car every 3,000 -5,000 miles or so depending on usage.

Vacuum off the cools on your refrigerator once a year. Runs better and more efficiently that way.
posted by AugustWest at 6:25 PM on January 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Car stuff
posted by mollymayhem at 6:26 PM on January 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm still figuring this stuff out too!

Get your chimney cleaned out regularly. Once a year or so, depending on how much you use the fireplace.

For car maintenance, it turns out that most manufacturers have a set maintenance schedule. My (trustworthy) mechanic knows the schedule for my car and tells me when I ask.

Gutters should be cleaned regularly (we do it yearly). Concrete driveways may need to be resealed. Wooden fences may need to be restained. Someone told me that dishwashers have filters that can be cleaned periodically; I haven't figured out how to do that yet, though.

Vents should be cleaned out periodically. HVAC unit inspected (it may need freon). Furnace inspected and filter changed.
posted by southern_sky at 6:29 PM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

FlyLady is good for this stuff.

Have a plumber check your outdoor pipes for roots; they'll tell you how often you should check after (we have to do it annually, but it varies based on local conditions.)

Periodically clean underneath the burners on your stove (my last few stoves let you pop the top off) and run the cleaning cycle on both your oven and your clothes washer. I do this maybe every six months, but I suspect it should be more like monthly.
posted by SMPA at 6:33 PM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Update your vaccinations/get boosters as necessary
Get your pets vaccinated
Prune plants in spring, if you're into that sort of thing
If you have a kitchen exhaust fan, those have filters, too. Wash or replace.
Spray that protector stuff on your shoes and boots
Clean your dishwasher
Clean the vent that comes out of your dryer (This is a fire hazard).
Some people will tell you to get your ducts cleaned, but apparently that's BS.

Maybe some vacuum cleaner expert might weight in, but that vacuum business sounds like bullshit to me.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:35 PM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and clean all the dust off the vents on your electronic devices (PC, DVD player, etc.) At least quarterly, more often if you actually see dust accumulated.

Really, dust everything about once a month. It improves air quality and reduces the need to change out filters.
posted by SMPA at 6:36 PM on January 12, 2016

Response by poster: This is all helpful, thank you. In addition to the things if you know how often it needs to be done, not just that it needs to be done, that would be even more super-helpful. (If you don't, I'm still interested in hearing it though!)
posted by forza at 6:45 PM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't know how old you are, but in my experience, getting blindsided by things and having no choice but to deal with them is how you learn to be an adult. It may actually be the definition of being an adult.

If you're a homeowner, I recommend picking up a copy of George Hoffman's short, dirt-cheap-used, indispensable How to Inspect a House. Read it, and then every six months or so give the house a good, thorough look over - go up in the attic, have a look at the roof, put a light on the dark corners of your basement. Paying attention and knowing the early warning signs of trouble can save you a lot of money and aggravation.

Make sure you have designated beneficiaries on your retirement and bank accounts, and that a complete list of all of these accounts is somewhere the beneficiary can find it in the event that something happens to you. Even if you have a will in place, this can great streamline them getting access to funds should you die suddenly. I keep this with information with our car and real estate titles and other related documents.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:21 PM on January 12, 2016 [25 favorites]

Yeah, I'm a grownup too, and all this stuff seems to assume you're a homeowner. Been there done that.

The things I don't do well as 'an adult' is make out a will, or some directions if I'm incapacitated. Insurance? Retirement??? That's the lifestyle I don't want be blindsided by. Hell I barely fill out my organ donor card right ...

Somebody fill us both in on that score!
posted by TDIpod at 7:22 PM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

if you have a garbage disposal on your kitchen sink, there's a little... cylinder thingy... that sits next to your faucet. You gotta open the cover on that thingy and clean the gunk out every so often or your disposal can back up.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:22 PM on January 12, 2016

Response by poster: Yeah, TDIpod, I'm also interested in non-homeowner-y stuff, like wills and health things and so forth.
posted by forza at 7:27 PM on January 12, 2016

if you have moles you should go to the dermatologist every year or so to get a full body check.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:31 PM on January 12, 2016 [7 favorites]

Test your smoke detector and change its batteries. (Often recommended to do it at spring forward / fall back...)
Every six months or year, it doesn't matter, so long as they work and they have the batteries IN THEM.
posted by stormyteal at 7:35 PM on January 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

A homeowner-y thing we somehow overlooked, until (minor) disaster: Termite protection.

She: "What are these thousands of black bits all over the back bedroom? Ew, bugs spewing out of the windowsill!"
Later, Termite Guy: "Yeah, our company has your address in our database; we did the initial work 5 years ago when this house was built. Why did you stop paying us?"
Us: "We just bought this house last year."
TG: "Man, they should've told you to call us."

posted by easement1 at 7:42 PM on January 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

It may be that your hot water system has a relief valve that should be fiddled with annually.
posted by pompomtom at 7:45 PM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just to be clear, regular vacuum servicing is not a thing adults do and I am confident that you will be throwing money away if you start doing it.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:03 PM on January 12, 2016 [57 favorites]

I recommend The Modern Man's Guide to Life.
posted by megatherium at 8:11 PM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Caulk around your windows, doors, counters, bathtubs, etc. User backer rod to fill in large cracks first to save caulk.

Air up the tires in your car when it gets cold (cold air takes up less space)

Seal the cracks in your driveway if you live in an area that gets below freezing.

Sealing your grout will make it easier to clean and protect it from stains.

Granite countertops need to be sealed once a year too.

Set up a file system for all of your owner's manuals for the various things in your house.

If you have hard-wired smoke detectors, change them out after they are 10 years old.

If you have battery-powered smoke detectors, change the batteries when daylight savings time starts.

Clear out the weep holes on your windows.

Wipe down your shower after using it to prevent mold, install an exhaust fan in your bathroom if you don't have one.

Pour water down little-used sinks or drains once in a while -- sometimes the water in the trap evaporates and you get the stinky gas backing up into your house. (This happened in our laundry room -- we had a drain underneath the washer in case it ever overflowed or something. We thought something had died up there.)

Oak trees need to be pruned in the middle of winter so they don't get oak virus. And there is a HUGE difference between pruning a tree and topping it. Also, "volcano mulching" will kill a tree slowly.

Never spray weed killer when it's above 90 (it vaporizes back into the air) or when it's windy.

If you spill oil on concrete, you can put kitty litter or dry concrete dust on top of it to soak up the oil.

One of the best resources for this kind of stuff that I've found is the Family Handyman magazine and website. They have an article up on 27 New Year's Resolutions for Your Home right now.
posted by Ostara at 8:33 PM on January 12, 2016 [6 favorites]

Rotate your mattress every few months.

If both surfaces are the same (not the fluffy pillow-top type) turn it completely over from side to side one time and from top to bottom the next time. We put a piece of tape on each surface of our mattress to show the direction it should be turned.

If you do have the pillow-top type, rotate it 90 degrees (so head end becomes foot end).

When you rotate your mattress, take off the mattress cover and wash it with your sheets. (You do have a mattress cover, right? You're not putting your sheets directly on the mattress?)

I think there was a recent question about this, but just in case you didn't see it, you should wash and change your sheets and pillow cases once a week.
posted by Joleta at 9:00 PM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is a long list, this thread above. I cope/prioritize by managing things that will kill me or be really expensive if ill maintained.

Will Kill me: Fire hazards such as smoke detectors, the dryer lint vents (check outside, make sure the exterior part of the vent isn't filled with lint, clean the whole thing out every few years, not just your lint trap).

Will be Expensive: oil changes on the car. Anything that causes water damage, anywhere, especially leaky windows or clogged gutters.

Everything else when I get to it or when it breaks or starts functioning poorly, except a special category of "is it gross? Eew! that is unsanitary!" Gets prioritized above the rest of the pile.
posted by slateyness at 9:16 PM on January 12, 2016 [15 favorites]

You know how when you get arrested you get to call your lawyer? Have one picked out so that if anything ever does come up, you can say that John Smith is my lawyer. Talk to him.

Always have a clean joke at the ready.

Always be prepared with your drink order. If it is alcohol, be prepared to order a simple drink.

I always keep jumper cables in my truck. And a blanket for when there is no one to be on the other end of my cables.

Have an emergency meetup spot with your spouse, family, significant other, etc.
posted by AugustWest at 10:06 PM on January 12, 2016 [17 favorites]

If you have hard-wired smoke detectors, change them out after they are 10 years old.

If you have a hard-wired smoke detectors, make sure they have a battery back-up or replace them with ones that do (and then change the batteries twice a year). My neighbours died in a fire because their hard-wired smoke detectors lost power right when the (electrical) fire started.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 4:52 AM on January 13, 2016 [10 favorites]

I think these are tasks that most of us learn the hard way. I've only now (in my 40's) started adding things like 'have windows cleaned' and 'time for a/c service' and 'do hurricane trim on trees' on my calendar.

On the vacuum front, if you have a vacuum that cost you more than a couple hundred bucks, then yes, having it serviced every couple of years will keep it in good shape and extend its longevity. If you have a $100 Hoover it might not be worth it for you.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:40 AM on January 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

What do they do when they service a vacuum? (Dyson, 12 years old, never serviced. Works great).
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:42 AM on January 13, 2016

Well, your Dyson probably isn't picking up all you hope that it is (though your older one is better made than the newer ones). They will replace the seals, lubricate what needs lubricating and clean dust out of where it shouldn't be. I used to have a Dyson, but now have a Riccar that I love. Never going back.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:55 AM on January 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

If you have a de-humidifier in the basement, that also needs to have it's filter cleaned every so often—it gets covered with lint and stuff, and can kill the motor if not cleaned.
posted by blueberry at 5:58 AM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you have anything clothes or blankets made of wool, store them properly! Be suspicious if your wool things start developing holes for no reason. My stuff had been inexplicably developing holes for years but it took carpet beetles destroying a nice suit for me to wise up.
posted by ropeladder at 6:02 AM on January 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Have the right things ready for replacement: vaccuum bags and belts, filters for appliances, phone or other batteries, funky light bulbs ("Wait, is it standard base or candelabra base?"), and so on. Make a note on your phone as to types and sizes.

The book Home Comforts is a great resource for this sort of thing.
posted by jgirl at 6:11 AM on January 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

Seconding Home Comforts
posted by suprenant at 6:27 AM on January 13, 2016

Regular medical appointment type things - this is a decent list.
posted by loolie at 7:50 AM on January 13, 2016

I time rotating my tires to every other oil change. For example, I change my oil every 4,000 miles and rotate my tires every 8,000 miles. So every time I get my oil changed and they put that little sticker on my windshield, I'll write on the sticker whether I need to rotate my tires at the next oil change or not.
posted by megancita at 9:30 AM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Tires have come up a couple of times - when you check the air pressure, include the spare tire.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:06 PM on January 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

Purchase a Carbon Monoxide detector.

I lived in my home for years before I knew you were supposed to change the furnace filter.
posted by haunted_pomegranate at 7:31 PM on January 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone!
posted by forza at 1:50 AM on January 14, 2016

> I cope/prioritize by managing things that will kill me or be really expensive if ill maintained.

This, exactly. I am definitely an adult (sigh), but I didn't grow up with stuff maintenance and don't know how to keep track of it, even though we're on our second house now. But I do know this much:

1. Make sure your smoke alarms work, and replace the batteries as needed. (Ours are now supposed to last 5 years at a time - I guess we'll find out at 2AM on a cold night when they begin to chirp.)

2. Have a fire extinguisher, and make sure you know how it works!

3. Cleaning your range hood might significantly reduce the need for 1 and 2. I found out the hard way, but thanks to 1 and 2 it was just a modest disaster.

4. Pay attention to your health. Especially your teeth - regular check and cleaning every 6-ish months can head off some really expensive stuff. (Again, I know this the hard way, after dealing with three wisdom teeth and two root canals within 3 months.) You are probably covered for preventative annual medical check-ups. Get one, at least once every couple of years. Catching stuff early is so much better.

5. Get your car oil changed, but only as often as your car manufacturer (not dealer) recommends. Modern cars don't need maintenance every 3 or 4,000 miles. Do check your tires regularly, at least a quick visual inspection.

6. Keep track of your bills! Balance your checkbook, or do whatever is your equivalent. Paying bank overdraft fees is worse than lighting money on fire - it also damages your credit report.
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:59 AM on January 15, 2016

I found this list helpful. One of my favorite suggestions is to keep birthday cards, get well soon cards, etc. on backup. I would add to that that you should have family and friend birthdays and a few other random holidays (like Bosses' Day or Secretary's Day) on repeat on a calendar like google calendar. You can have it send you reminders a week in advance. Being that one person in the office who gets a card for Bosses' Day will make you seem like, well, a boss.

Having gift wrap on hand is also handy for these occassions.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:55 AM on January 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

First of the month: BILLS AND PILLS

I keep a list in my phone of monthly stuff. On the first of every month I pay bills, give my dogs heartworm and flea & tick meds, change my furnace filter, check the oil in both cars and do a Serious Housecleaning. On the first of every even-numbered month, I also get new contact lenses and eye makeup (I have a horror of eye infections.) Having a date assigned to these tasks makes them much easier to keep track of, and I feel a sense of accomplishment as I tick off the checkboxes on my to-do list.
posted by workerant at 9:50 AM on January 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Regularly dampen kitchen sponges and put them in the microwave for a minute or so to kill accumulated bacteria.

Get a car outlet to 120 volt power inverter so that if you're ever caught in a power outage, you'll be able to run one appliance if you really need to.

At the same time you rotate your mattress you might want to rotate/flip couch and chair cushions to try to keep them symmetrical.
posted by XMLicious at 10:05 AM on January 16, 2016

Save for retirement, monthly. That can sure be a disaster in 20 years if you forget or didn't know to do it ;-)
posted by Dashy at 10:50 AM on January 16, 2016

Complete an Advance Healthcare Directive to make your wishes known should you find yourself unable to make medical decisions for yourself. (Check your state; California require two people who are not family or friend to sign/witness the document.) Make sure your emergency people have copies. Your GP might keep them on file, too.

funky light bulbs

Including 15w appliance bulbs (fridge and stove use them)
posted by Room 641-A at 2:05 PM on January 16, 2016

If you own a washing machine, clean the drain filter from time to time, every few months or so - depends on what and how often you wash. The drain pump will last much longer.
posted by hat_eater at 6:22 PM on January 16, 2016

Clean your dishwasher. The filter, the smaller stuff filter, and down to the pump intake. Easy. Took about an hour watching a youtube video as I went. And dishwasher, that I had written off as useless, now works like new. Every 5 years is too long....I'd suggest maybe yearly, or first sign of poor washing.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 6:43 PM on January 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here's the set of things I have on longish repeat on my todo list

Autumn things:
Make sure all hedges and bushes are trimmed and lawn mowed (before it suddenly gets too wet and cold)
Paint the fences and shed (only every fiveish years)
Clean out the pond
Fix any gaping holes in the lawn caused by aforementioned bushes growing over the top.
Put washer fluid in the car
Make sure the winter kit is in the car (blanket/sleeping bag, shovel, cat litter, de-icer, scraper, torch)
Stow away a bunch of garden stuff that doesn't need to be out through the winter - washing whirligig, table umbrella thing, etc.

Other yearly things:
Remove clothes that don't get worn and take to charity shop or pitch them if they are unwearable.
Reassess providers of all bills, bank accounts, pensions, insurance, etc etc.
Check the emergency torch in the house still works (since batteries go off over time)
Review the adult education course list for the upcoming year at the local college in case items of interest appear there.
In spring time, do a huge internet search for ALL the interesting events coming up in my city and get them on my calendar. I have a huge bookmark list of URLs where such events might be found.
List off everything I did of interest at work and update my master CV.
Big picture checkup/reassessment of career goals, finances/budgets, life plans, that kind of thing.

More often than that things:
File all the huge pile of paperwork that got put in the "to file" in-tray.
Go down a specific list of friends/family and check we've been keeping in touch, send happy message if not
posted by emilyw at 8:22 AM on January 17, 2016 [10 favorites]

Dust the inside of your PC as well- open up the case, take it outside, and spray a can of compressed air in all the nooks and crannies. Probably varies wildly on how dusty your environment is, but yearly seems about right.
posted by BungaDunga at 6:02 PM on January 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Be very vigilant about your teeth. I have a mechanical toothbrush, a water flosser, and dental brushpicks. Rinse your mouth after eating, especially when drinking tea and coffee. Dental checkups can be reduced to once a year with this type of care.

Make sure to use a microfiber cloth to dust your walls and wall trim, not just the objects and furniture. Have folders and binders labeled for your bills and important insurance and financial information, and keep them updated every month for paper records. Take inventory of all of your stuff at least once a year, and note any excessive duplicates.
posted by yueliang at 9:04 PM on January 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Every six months use the camera on your cell phone to take a picture of the inside of every single drawer inside your house and garage, every shelf and closet, along with any art you may have hanging on the well. Also take a few pics of your vehicles along with close ups of the auto tag, serial number registration and insurance card. Take a pic or two of people and pets living with you. Once a year take a pic of the summary page of insurance policies, health, home and life. Save all these pics in an album on your phone AND two separate USB drives, store one in a safe deposit box, the other one send to a relative or friend who lives in a different geographic location. If you ever suffer a flood, fire, hurricane or tornado, these pics will jog your memory (and serve as proof of belongings) when dealing with officials and adjusters when your world is falling apart.
posted by HappyHippo at 10:51 AM on January 18, 2016 [14 favorites]

If you're a homeowner (or even if you are renting a house) check the age of the water heater. I changed mine out this year as it was about 14 years old - turns out the average lifespan these days is around 10 years. Older models were designed to be serviceable, newer ones not so much. Assess the area around it if/when it fails and causes a minor flood. Is it in a garage? Is there anything nearby at floor level that you remotely care about? Mine is in an interior utility closet in my single story house - so if it floods, every single living space is impacted. I decided it was much cheaper to replace it proactively.
Having a kid has forced me to practice fire escape actions with the whole family; this has pointed out that while it is great to have a plan for any natural disaster, it is just as important to actually test your plan - act it out, even try it at night a few times. You'll find out which things are really important (is there a flashlight / headlamp near your bed? etc.)
posted by WacoKid at 11:55 AM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Always be chucking/donating/recycling things. The "miscellany" drawer in your kitchen? Take a good long hard look at it. Do you need the left-handed duck egg masher? When was the last time a left-handed person was over and wanted to mash duck eggs? Bin it. Bin everything you haven't used for 6 months.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:12 PM on January 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Excellent suggestions above. The problem with trying to maintain everything is that there's, well, everything. One could drive oneself bananas trying to keep track of all that we should keep track of, in an effort to a) be efficient, b) be timely, and c) not forget. As you can read above, there are many, many suggestions, and if you're not organized about it you'll likely end up giving up. I speak from experience.

And so I share my secret with you. It will require the use of a calendar that you have easy and frequent access to. I use Google Calendar and an Android phone, which allows me to enter events/reminders on a desktop/laptop as well as the phone itself. Specific recommendations in regards to apps will be at the end of this reply. I will try to keep this simple and consolidate recommendations.

You wanna make things simple for certain tasks? Be prepared. If you want to, say, make it a habit to change your HVAC air filter regularly, buy a whole bunch of the appropriate-sized air filters at once. Be sure you have the right size air filter, and a step ladder if you need one to access the air intake. Be sure you point the filter in the right direction (many have arrows indicating which way air is to flow). If you've got, say, a six-pack of the right sized air filter, you're set for anywhere from one to 18 months if you've got only one zone or filter to change!

If you go out and buy 96 rolls of toilet paper, you've effectively gotten rid of one Life Concern for a long time (as I've written about here), and that's one less thing to maintain. Please note: I've upgraded toilet paper quality, though I still obsessively look at the numbers, eg: numbers of sheet per roll, total square footage, etc.

Same goes for toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, shampoo, soap, etc. Buy them in bulk. With time, you'll find yourself in the very comfortable position of not having to worry about running out of basic goods, and when you do end up going to Costco or similar stores, you have the added benefit of having a mission and purpose, and will avoid being tempted to buy a whole bunch of random crap you don't need.

Take note of your lightbulbs, too: your exterior home lights, your interior lights, non-standard "special" bulbs for "special" lamps. Buy or order extras online. Bam. Easy fix.

Printer toner/ink, extra batteries (9 volts for smoke alarms, flashlight batteries, etc.)? Same deal applies here.

Yeah, yeah, ok. You get the point. Where does this all lead to?

It's tough to change our habits. Even more so when we find ourselves resolving to lead a more organized life: there are just so many things to keep track of, and it's easy to be discouraged when one forgets to do something, or falls behind on things. This is where you should try to take things slow and easy.

The sundry items I listed above as examples don't really count in this instance: they're just there to save time, and possibly money. Let us start with something simple, and necessary: changing the HVAC air filter.

With the Google calendar, I've created an event that repeats every three months to change my filter. It's easy enough to do, and I have a bunch already. Having the filter on hand gets rid of the excuse of being too busy to drive out to the store to get one. Every three months, it's changed like clockwork. It's not difficult nor time consuming. Very quickly I'd incorporated one Thing To Do, had found that it was easy, and experienced a tiny victory in establishing order in my life.

Where to go from here? Well, ideally you'll want to try to add to your list of Things To Do that are easy, beneficial, and rewarding. Rewarding not simply because "hey, I did this!" But also, possibly, financially rewarding.

Bills. Everyone has bills. Let's hold off on trying to manage paying the bills themselves for now, and focus on what you can do to save money in a way similar to replacing your HVAC filter.

Every eight months, I call all my services to see if I can get a discount or promo. Things like: cell phone companies, cable TV companies, internet providers, etc. I call them, ask for retention, and tell them the truth: I've been happy or disappointed with their service, would like to continue to be a customer as I've been for x number of years, but am trying to save money. Sometimes I'll find a competitor that offers similar or better/faster/cheaper/more reliable service, but I've been, for the most part, satisfied with being their customer for x years and would like to remain a loyal customer. Is there a discount or promotion or lower price they could offer?

Sometimes there's not. But many, many times I'm given something in return for staying with their company. Eg: a permanent corporate discount applied to my cell phone bill that they've managed to find, a permanent increase in internet speeds, supercheap XM Radio for months (I've since cancelled, and they keep sending me offers for free months to try them again), promotions with lower monthly costs for cable TV for periods of six months to a year, lower APR for credit cards back when I didn't pay my bills in full, etc.

I'm not sure why I chose every eight months. But it's a recurring event on my calendar.

Congratulations, you've just added another Thing To Do to your list that takes up one afternoon, isn't frequent enough to be irritating, and could save you money. Score!

I'm not sure what your day-to-day is, what your occupation is, or if you work. Do you have a particular day of the week that's easier than the rest to take time off for yourself? A day that isn't typically slammed with work or catch-up on things (like Monday), or a day that isn't used to maximize the transition to slack (Friday)? Let us suppose that Thursdays are typically easier for you: schedule all your more important Things To Do for Thursdays. Make Thursdays the appointment and appointment reminder day.

With your next visit to your doctor, dentist, pediatrician or mechanic, schedule your follow-up appointments for a Thursday. If there's no definite reason or threshold for a follow-up appointment (eg: your car's 20k mile checkup, where you're not certain when you'll reach 20k miles), make an event in your calendar for a Thursday in the future to remind yourself, something like: "4pm Car Check." When that day comes, and you're only at 17k miles, make another event for another Thursday in the future.

If you've got a definite follow-up appointment, don't just leave with a card from your dentist's office with the date and time: enter the event then and there, in the office, and double-check for accuracy. Keep the card, triple-check at home.

Now you've got the swing of things! By now you should be comfortable with using the calendar to keep track of things and remind yourself of Things To Do. And now you can add the more mundane or annoying things to do that are easy to find excuses for to put off. Like cleaning your gutters, or similar one-a-year-or-less-often Things To Do: flu shots, tetanus boosters, mulching and fertilization, blowing out dryer lint, flashlight function checks, fire extinguisher checks, etc.

The beauty in all of this is that with Google Calendar, you can add phone numbers, addresses, and other notes indicating what was done or what needs to be done (eg: address and phone number of your doctor's office, reason: flu shot. Or location of mechanic with notes for a Technical Service Bulletin for your car, so they don't waste time and your money claiming they can't find anything wrong with your vehicle). You can set reminders from minutes to days to weeks in advance. Heck, you can set up multiple reminders. You can color code entries, and for really important things you can set it to be "All Day" events so it shows up as a big bar on the day in question instead of just a time and some text.

Start of small and with a handful of Things To Do, get the hang of using the calendar and its reminders, and you'll get the swing of things pretty quickly. Hope this helps!

I have no idea how to do this with the iPhone, but I'm sure it's possible. I use an Android phone, and use an app called Pure Grid Calendar. It's a couple bucks, but so worth it! Lets you put widgets for month-view and week-view. Click on a date, and you can easily enter an event, as well as color code things. In Google Calendar, on the left side, you can hit the drop-down arrow to create a new category (eg: Medical, Travel, Gardening). Then by hitting the drop-down arrow next to the newly created calendar, you can select a color.

The only other recommendations I have with the Pure Grid Calendar widget is to go to Settings/Timelines and check on "Show events timeline," and under Settings/General select the Week to start on Sunday.

posted by herrdoktor at 3:36 AM on January 21, 2016 [19 favorites]

AHRQ's preventive health checklist for men and checklist for women.
posted by cadge at 2:52 PM on January 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Back up the data on your computer. I do it every 3 months. You can use a cloud service like Backblaze, or you can do it the old fashioned way and back up to portable drives. I do both. I keep the portable drives in a safe location that's not in my house.
posted by cleverevans at 8:33 AM on January 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you own your house, rent your house, or live in an apartment, you need to know how to turn off the utilities. If there is a leak or a short, or some other issue, how will you deal with it? Or if there was a flood and you needed to turn off the electric service to your unit.

Find the water shut-off valve and understand how it works. For instance, if it is a gate value you will have to turn the handle around several times to get it fully closed. Or, perhaps, it requires a wrench that you need to own. Find the electric panel and look for the main shut-off. If you have gas you should find your gas meter and see how the valve next to it is closed. That may need a wrench, too.

Your spouse and children should know how to turn off the utilities, too.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 9:42 AM on January 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

If I was hit with something unexpected, I would want to have checked everything off this Get Your Shit Done list.
posted by olopua at 11:45 AM on January 25, 2016

Maintain a list of your auto-pay bills so that when your credit card expires you can just go down the list and update the information with each company.
posted by carsonb at 11:54 AM on January 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Once a year you should check and clean the extractor above your stove and replace the grease filter.
posted by biffa at 12:48 PM on February 8, 2016

I did not know that it was important to regularly air out the apartment, especially after high humidity events like taking a shower or running a load of laundry.

I also did not realize that the black grungy stuff that started accumulating on the walls was not dirt, but mold.

That... was a pretty expensive lack of knowledge.
posted by Cozybee at 10:58 PM on February 8, 2016

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