Does Your Home ‘Flow’? Eight ways to a healthier home
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The papers are signed. Keys are in hand. Furniture and boxes have been delivered. The hard part of homeownership is over, right?
Unfortunately, a new home doesn’t come with a “full” owner’s manual, leaving most first-time homeowners on their own when it comes to maintenance, repairs, improvements and figuring out how to communicate about these issues.
And it’s not just the home’s physical structure that needs consistent care, according to a University of Florida housing expert.
“Successful homes typically are ones in which the needs of the physical dwelling and the relationships between the home’s occupants are given equal attention,” said Randy Cantrell, assistant professor of family, youth and community sciences in UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Cantrell co-developed a program called Homeflow to teach new homeowners how to achieve this balance. Homeflow is the curriculum used for first-time homeowners in Jacksonville’s Habitat for Humanity program (HabiJax), the largest Habitat affiliate in the country as well as Habitat of Lee County, Florida, which is the second largest affiliate in the state. The curriculum covers home maintenance, energy efficiency and upgrades, financial management and healthy relationships.
“June is National Healthy Homes Month, so this is an opportunity to evaluate how your home is flowing and make changes if necessary,” Cantrell said.
Written responsibilities everyone can see
Every household can use a to-do list. Use a white board to keep track of what needs to get done during the week and who is responsible for what, Cantrell said. This will not only help make sure all the chores get done, but also gives everyone a part to play in the upkeep of the home.
Prep for busy schedules
“Each weekend, my family and I get into the kitchen to cook and prep our meals for the week. This ensures that we aren’t resorting to take out or processed food during the week, when there is less time for cooking. That time in the kitchen is also an opportunity for us to bond and strengthen our relationships,” Cantrell said.
Limit meal time distractions
“Meals together are a time to catch up on each other’s lives and connect emotionally. But if you’re distracted by ring tones, text messages, the television or video games, you can’t make those connections, so turn off your devices when it’s time to sit down at the table,” Cantrell said.
Set a bedtime
Kids and adults alike benefit from a set bedtime. “If everyone in the house is well rested, chances are you’ll have a more positive, healthier day ahead of you,” he said.
Here “avoid” doesn’t mean remembering to step over that stack of magazines you’ve been meaning to recycle.
“Make sure everything in your home has a designated place. This will help everyone in the home move around more easily and safely while not getting frustrated trying to find what they need,” Cantrell said.
Let your home breathe
Air needs to circulate in and out of your home to prevent mold growth and reduce indoor allergens, Cantrell said. Make sure your ventilation is working properly and that excess moisture has a way to leave your home.
Use positive communication
Conflict is a normal part of living under one roof. However, you can make sure that conflict is productive by using these communication strategies:
- If emotions are high, take time to calm down
- Speak non-defensively and use “I” statements
- Deal with one issue at a time
- Validate each other’s feelings
Talk about money
When couples get divorced, money is often a culprit, Cantrell said. But money doesn’t have to take a toll on a relationship. “Set aside time to talk about how you are spending your money and what your financial goals are. These ‘money dates’ help build trust in families and couples.”
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.