Invisible Things to Clean Before Houseguests Arrive

maidpro

Holiday season = houseguest season. Here’s a zone-by-zone checklist of all the invisible things you’ll want to clean so you can feel perfectly comfortable telling your guests to: “Make yourself at home!”

BATHROOMS

There’s one level of clean that’s good enough for your family. But, with guests coming, you need to go deeper than usual: attacking soap-scum buildup, neglected toilet tanks, partially clogged drains, and any signs of mold or mildew growth—all of which contribute to odors your guests are much more likely to notice than you are.

KITCHEN

Deep clean, defrost, and organize your fridge, making extra space for all the leftovers your entertaining will yield. Assuming at least one or two guests will offer to help with the washing up after meals, make sure your dishwasher is sparkling and that the insides of drawers and cupboards are spacious, well organized, and free of crumbs and other debris. Inspect ovens for burnt-on bits that could set off your smoke alarm at the worst possible times. And wow your overnight guests with great morning brews by deep cleaning and decalcifying your coffee maker.

BEDROOMS

Offering clean sheets to houseguests is a no-brainer, but, consider also cleaning heavy linens and even rugs, which may be harboring odors you don’t notice simply because you’re so used to them. Another nice touch is to declutter and clear closet and drawer space for guests to stow their possessions, thereby avoiding that unanticipated yard-sale effect that can wreck your perfect holiday décor.

LAUNDRY AREA

If you’ve got guests staying for more than a day or two, you’ll want to offer access to your laundry facilities. Sanitize your washer—newer machines have built-in cycles for this or just run an empty load with bleach followed by another water-only load to rinse thoroughly—and clean lint vents to ensure your dryer operates at max efficiency.

ALL OVER

Inviting people into your home creates many opportunities for germ transfer. Before and after entertaining guests, do everyone a favor and sanitize or disinfect all the things people touch frequently, including doorknobs, appliance handles, drawer and cabinet hardware, light switches and plates, TV clickers, and all kitchen and bathroom fixtures.

If you don’t think you’ll have time for all that cleaning, MaidPro’s got you covered! Our standard 49-Point Checklist tackles nearly everything above except for the decluttering, drain- and appliance deep-cleaning.

5 Ways to Invite Fall into Your Home

maidpro nj/de

Decorating your home for fall can be both fun and inexpensive. Free materials are abundant and collecting them is a great way to spend quality time out of doors with kids, pets, family, and friends.

There are countless DIY fall craft projects plus arrangement and presentation ideas just a Pinterest searchaway. Colorful, fallen leaves can be made into seasonal art, candle containers, and fairy-lit garlands. Other free fall decorating materials you might find outside include fallen pinecones; hydrangea blooms (which can be dried); bittersweet and grape vine; oak, crabapple, and other tree branches, to name just a few. Even everyday groceries can serve as great fall decorations—from a bowl of apples or pomegranates to the assortment of squashes and pumpkins that keep for a long time and can be made eventually into soups and pies.

The key to fall decorating is to create a feast for the senses plus a feeling of comfort and sanctuary from the stresses of busy fall schedules and pre-holiday workloads.

Sight. When it comes to color, think outside the classic autumn palette of oranges, yellows, browns, and reds. Adding greens, whites, and blues to the mix makes it easy to update your fall décor for the holidays and the winter beyond. Adding warm, low lighting—from candles and twinkling white lights—is another great trick for making fall visuals pop.

Touch. There are plenty of great reasons to keep your home at cooler-than-comfortable temperatures through fall and winter. Strategic placement of soft, cozy throws and blankets, slippers, and sweaters creates a perfect balance.

Smell. A fall-themed simmer pot starring apples, cinnamon, citrus, and cloves, or a crockpot warming flavored cider or mulled wine permeates your home with familiar and comforting scents. So too, will plenty of baking and cooking of fall favorites, which brings us to…

Taste. Fall is the time to enjoy a bounty of nutritious and fiber-rich seasonal fruits and vegetables. And, while some fall favorites—roasts, pies, cider donuts, and caramel apples—might not be the healthiest, trekking out to farms and harvesting your own food can provide at least a partial offset in terms of exercise. What’s more, basically every traditional fall recipe now has a lightened-up a version you can easily find and try.

Sound. Finally, for the sense of hearing in fall, enjoy the crackle of a wood fire or simply the sweet sound of silence that descends after summer’s cacophony of the lawn mowers and weed whackers. Trade-in your leaf blower for an old-fashioned rake and your neighbors will love you for it. Plus, you’ll burn enough calories to enjoy all those sinful fall favorites guilt free!

Got Stinky House Syndrome? Green Ways to Rid Your Home of Odors

maidpro

The first thing you need to know about household odors is that you’re probably the worst judge of whether or not you’ve got them. That’s because the human body has a self-protective mechanism that quickly desensitizes your nose to lingering odors. So, if you suspect stinky house syndrome, start by asking a trusted friend to perform a sniff test immediately upon entering your home.

If the news is bad, the second thing you need to know is that—be they commercial/chemical, natural, or ‘green’—deodorizing agents work in one of three ways: they mask bad smells (short-term solution requiring repetition), interfere with your sense of smell (yikes!), or they eliminate odors at the source either by bonding chemically to neutralize odor-causing molecules or killing organisms (bacteria, molds, and mildews) that cause odors in the first place. When you remove the sources of bad odors in your home, you create a fresh, clean palette for adding all the scents and fragrances you really love. Our best advice for lasting—and green—household odor removal is this:

Open your windows! Just a few minutes of fresh, clean air works wonders for dissipating and displacing airborne odor-causing molecules—all the better if it’s a windy day.

Clean regularly. Regular and thorough home cleaning is, hands down, the most effective and ultimately greenest means of removing odor sources from your home. The reason: When you clean frequently, you can use mild, environmentally friendly solutions and still be effective at preventing big odors from developing. But, when you allow odor-causing agents to dig into surfaces and textiles, you need much stronger, harsher chemicals to address the unpleasant smells that result.

Deep clean if it’s been a while. If you’ve been less-than-dedicated to regular house cleaning for some time, deep-cleaning might be necessary to address well-established odor sources before regular cleaning can be truly effective. Key odor-producing areas on which to focus include: toilet tanks, drains, refrigerators/freezers, trash receptacles, recycling bins, garbage disposals, oven spills, washing machine (sanitize), mattresses, heavy bed linens, curtains, carpets, furniture upholstery, and your dishwasher’s food grinder and filter.

Use your science. Baking soda (which is alkaline) works well as a so-called ‘green’ deodorizer because it bonds chemically to neutralize acid-based odor-causing agents. The reverse may be true for acidic substances such as white vinegar or used coffee grounds, which are also often recommended as ‘green’ odor removers. The key takeaway here is that you need to know the basic chemistry or biology of an odor you’re attacking in order to determine what substance will be effective at eliminating it. For serious odor sources such as black mold or pet urine, it’s best to call seasoned pros (like MaidPro’s PROs) who know how to remove both effectively and safely.

Once you’re done eliminating all the sources of foul odors in your home, try these DIY projects to make your home smell amazing!

Five Simple Projects to Minimize Back-to-School Stress

backtoschool maidpro

Last year around this time, we offered six tips to Get Organized for Back to School. This year, we’re highlighting five simple home projects that are guaranteed to make your family’s school-day routines flow better, faster, and with much less parental stress.

Make space. Clear out and donate old clothes, sporting equipment, outerwear, and so forth. When you do thisbefore school and fall sports really get rolling, it helps your kids to more easily and independently assess their wardrobe options, decide what to wear, and find what they need under the duress of morning rush. Dirty clothes are also more likely to end up in the laundry, and having sufficient space for clothes smooths laundry workflow overall—yes, things can actually be routinely cleaned, folded, and put away!

Purge and deep-clean the kitchen. When you’re done with closets and drawers move on to your kitchen, inspecting and tossing expired foods and deep-cleaning your fridge, freezer, and cabinets. This will give you space to stock up on nutritious, energizing snacks and fast, easy-to-prepare weeknight meals.

Make several weekday menu plans. Waiting until ‘day of’ to decide what’s for dinner is a recipe for overspending on food, increasing food spoilage and waste, adding to daily mental stress, and falling into food and nutrition ruts. Plan out a few weeks’ worth of rotating weeknight menus and shopping lists to keep things interesting, nutritious, and cost and time efficient.

Take inventory. As you are freeing up space in your home—and before hitting those big back-to-school sales—make an inventory of what you already have and exactly what you need in terms of clothing, athletic gear, school supplies, snack foods, and so forth. This enables you to shop with precision, saving time and avoiding impulse buys.

Make an easy checklist system for kids to manage on their own. A story went viral recently about a school principal in Arkansas who is turning away parents seeking to drop off forgotten items such as lunches and lunch money, gym clothes, and homework. The principal’s goal is to encourage kids to problem-solve on their own. But, some kids are just naturally disorganized. Even if you don’t have a chronic forgetter on your hands, try hanging a dry erase or similar board by your exit door. Encourage your kids to create their own daily checklists and take responsibility for collecting what they need before leaving the house. This has a triple benefit of relieving your personal mental workload, avoiding SOS calls and trips to school to deliver forgotten items, and teaching your kids skills that serve for a lifetime.

Free Estimate

Spring Cleaning Tips: Tackling the Bathroom

maidpro bathroom

Every room in your home needs a deeper-than-usual clean and refresh at least once or twice a year. With its fresh air and tone of rebirth and renewal, there is no time like spring for finding the inspiration to get it all done. Here are five tips for tackling the bathroom this spring:

Get into the nooks and crannies. Bathrooms have plenty of tiny, inconvenient-to-clean spaces that you might pass over on regular daily or weekly cleanings. For example, when is the last time you dusted out the narrow space between your toilet tank and the wall? Or, the last time you cleaned just under and around the lid of the tank? Both are great spaces for mildew and other germs to hang out and multiply. Other oft neglected spots include around the bases of faucets and fixtures where soap scum and grit builds up and hardens, often requiring scraping for a true clean. While you’re at it, take a good look at your grout, which can usually be brightened up with the right cleaner, a small sturdy brush, and a bit of elbow grease.

Inspect and discard all expired stuff. If you have unused prescription meds, bring them to your pharmacy for proper disposal or find out if your city or town offers a drug take-back program. Expired OTC meds can go right into the trash. Be sure to inspect all lotions, creams, and makeup items too, as many have surprisingly short shelf lives. Toothbrushes should be replaced about once every three months and be sure to store new ones in an upright position to enable complete air drying between uses, experts say.

Purge the excess. As bathrooms tend to have limited space, give careful consideration to everything you store there. Is there a curling wand that gets used only 2-3 times a year taking up precious real estate? Are there five hair brushes, where one might do? Are you storing large refill containers of shampoos and conditioners bought at wholesale clubs? Remove rarely-used items to a different location, such as a linen closet. The less you keep in your bathroom, the more functional it becomes and the easier it will be to keep clean and tidy all week long.

Do make room for critical supplies. No one wants to be the person using a bathroom when it runs out of toilet paper, hand soap, or towels. Nice baskets filled with unwrapped toilet paper rolls and a soap display add decorative elements to your bathroom, while also making family members and guests feel most comfortable. Pre-moistened wipes or a spray bottle and clean rag near to hand make it easy for you and family members to wipe up toothpaste gobs, stray hairs, and other small daily messes. If you ever entertain overnight guests, extra new toothbrushes are great extra items to keep on hand as well.

Get organized. If your bathroom often resembles a jumble sale, it might be worth investing in a few elegant, yet simple and inexpensive organizing solutions. Think wooden drawer organizers, canvas totes, shower caddies,and the like.

Refresh your look. Your bathroom is one of the easiest and least expensive rooms to completely re-style with a new look or color scheme, especially if floors, counters, and tile are white or neutral in tone. Consider changing up your shower curtain, bath mat, or towels and ‘shopping at home’ for things you might repurpose to add style and keep your bathroom organized. A china sugar bowl, for example, makes a great decorative container for cotton balls or tooth-floss picks, while a shallow serving tray can be a great way to corral lots of small items you want near to hand such as lotions, creams, and perfume bottles. There are also hundreds of chic, decorative paper designs available at low costs for lining shelves and adding visual pop to the insides of bathroom cabinets and drawers.

 

Spring Cleaning Tips: Turning over Closets

maispro-springclean

With spring busting out all over, the last thing you might want to be doing is turning over your wardrobe from winter to spring/summer. Use these eight steps to get the job done fast yet effectively:

Purge, purge, purge. Start by taking everything out and inspecting each item as you do. Haven’t worn it at least once or twice in the past season? Is it getting a little shabby? Does it fail to fit well and flatter your figure? Is it cheap, trendy, and unlikely to be in-style next season? If you answer yes to any of the above, consider donating or tossing.

Physically clean storage spaces. Thoroughly vacuum closets and drawers; dust and be prepared to re-line shelves and drawers if needed. While you’re at it, discard broken and bent hangers, empty dry-cleaning bags, shoe boxes, retail tags, and any other detritus that might have collected in clothing storage spaces over the past season.

Launder or dry clean all garments before storing. Even if it looks and smells clean, if it has been worn, you can be sure it’s harboring some form of human dander that will become food for dust mites, mold, and mildew.

Choose plastic. Cardboard and corrugated boxes are prone to bugginess and may also absorb moisture and odors. Invest in sturdy plastic containers that seal well as these will last virtually a lifetime. Protect wools with cedar chips or planks, but be aware that cedar may stain certain fabrics, so wrap accordingly.

Package with care. Fold neatly, wrapping delicate items in tissue paper, and stuffing boots and handbags to ensure they hold their shape and come out of storage ready to wear next year.

Pack with your next seasonal turnover in mind. For example, group heavier sweaters, winter outerwear, and so forth and place into the least accessible locations. Next, group long-sleeved shirts, lighter sweaters and slacks, and any other transitional clothing to be easily accessible and ready to pull out either for unseasonable or transitional weather days.

If possible, choose dark, dry places to store your containers. Even clothing packed in tightly-sealed plastic can take on permanent musty odors if stored in humid spaces such as basements. For high-value items, consider storing professionally; many dry cleaners will store for free or at very low cost.

Use the turnover of seasons as an opportunity to rethink how you organize your wardrobe. By color? Type of garment? Whole outfits? What has not worked well in the past? Might there be a different system that better suits your personality and lifestyle? While you’re at it, check out different folding techniques that can help you to better optimize your use of space, make it easier to put away laundry, and to see everything you have available when you are trying to to put together that perfect outfit.

The Big Key to Pet-Friendly Cleaning: Rinse Like a PRO

 

Pet Friendly Cleaning

When it comes to pets, house cleaning poses a serious conundrum.

On the one hand, families with pets need to clean more often and with greater rigor. Beyond all the shedding, fur, and dander, pets track in dirt and mud, their paws and claws can harbor pathogens, and sometimes they roll deliberately in yucky things you definitely don’t want on your furniture, floors, and other household surfaces.

On the other hand, harsh cleaning chemicals can be especially toxic to pets. Compared to their humans, household pets typically have faster metabolisms, smaller lungs, are into sniffing and licking things, and simply lack a consciousness of dangers they wouldn’t normally encounter in the wild.

Google the phrase ‘pet-friendly cleaning’ and you’ll find plenty of advice for do-it-yourself (DIY) cleaning solutions often revolving around such ingredients as vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda. A big problem is that many such solutions create only an appearance of clean, meaning they don’t properly disinfect (kill germs) or actually remove dirt and grime that builds up and damages your floors and household surfaces over time. What’s more, to create a fragrance of clean, many DIY recipes rely on essential oils, which pets can’t always metabolize, meaning they can build up rapidly to toxic levels, even causing organ failure.

So, how to ensure both a clean home and healthy pets?

Many articles on pet-friendly cleaning simply advise one to choose solutions that are scent-free, biodegradable, and/or derived exclusively from plants. That’s great starting advice, but we’d take it a few steps further. The key to choosing well is to understand that well-designed household cleaners are chemically engineered to bind with and suspend dirt and oils in water and to be rinsed away completely, leaving minimal residues. Cheap or poorly engineered cleaners (even if they claim to be green or pet-friendly), mops, cloths, and sponges with poor absorbency, and nonprofessional cleaning techniques pose the greatest threats to pets because they can cause toxic residues to be left behind on surfaces.

In choosing cleaning solutions, be sure to look past the pet-friendly labeling to the actual science that ensures a solution is designed chemically to clean effectively and to rinse away completely.

A thorough process for rinsing—something our own cleaning PROs are taught in their training—is one of the best ways to ensure home safety and protection from cleaning chemicals for pets and humans. Be sure to read and follow to the letter any usage instructions accompanying pet-friendly cleaners and use PRO tools and techniques for making sure your surfaces are simultaneously clean and free of chemical residues.

Here at MaidPro, our PROs always arrive equipped with solutions and tools that we have selected carefully for the balance they offer between safety and effectiveness. However, our PROs are always happy to use any alternative cleaning products that our clients leave out with instruction.

MaidPro’s Spring Cleaning Roadmap

Spring Cleaning

First step: Get your head in the game. The good news about spring cleaning is that it’s usually inspired by a combination of three things: stir craziness from being inside for much of the winter, that whole ‘new-growth’ feeling that spring brings, plus a desire to get a bunch of needed tasks out of the way before the high heat – and big fun – of summer come rolling along. You can add to the feeling of inspiration by focusing on the facts that: annual deep cleaning protects the value of your home and health of your family, is a great way to burn extra calories in advance of bathing-suit season, and yields a crisp palette for freshening up your home décor.

What to clean

  • Anything involving textiles – think curtains, drapes, rugs, carpets, bedding, mattresses, pillows, and furniture upholstery – which play host to tons of human and pet dander, dust and dust mites. When possible, expose textiles to fresh air, sunlight and wind.
  • Inside, under and behind all furniture and major appliances, including your refrigerator, oven, dishwasher (decalcify), washing machine (sanitize by running empty with super hot water and plenty of bleach) and clothes-dryer (clean lint venting system thoroughly to remove fire hazard).
  • Clean or replace filters on air conditioning units, water taps and/or inside refrigerators that dispense water and ice.
  • Closets, drawers, kitchen and bathroom cabinets – remove everything; purge unwanted and expired items; clean drawers, floors and shelves before replacing items.
  • Long-term storage areas – basement, attic, garage (take advantage of the numerous donation opportunities that arise in spring).
  • Windows – inside and out.
  • Floors – deep clean and protect or wax (if needed).
  • If you have young kids, spring is also the best time to clean and sanitize their toys.

Whew! That’s a long list, but with good planning and preparation, it can be managed quite easily.

Sequencing your spring clean

Start by making a list of the tasks you know you will never tackle yourself. Schedule appointments with contractors and service providers – for example, carpet and upholstery cleaners, gutter cleaners, landscapers – early before their schedules fill up. Tip: Schedule some of your own big cleaning jobs to coincide with times you know you will be home to host various cleaning contractors.

Purge. Purge. Purge. It’s a lot easier to clean when you’re not inundated with stuff. Figure out ahead of time when opportunities will arise for you to donate unwanted items. Collect boxes and make sure your junk is packed, labeled and ready to go well in advance of donation dates.
Unless you live in a climate that is warm year round, start with less-intensive inside cleaning jobs – closets, drawers, cabinets – that do not require extra ventilation for cleaning solutions.
Schedule the remaining fresh-air-and-sunshine jobs for those first blissful – throw-open-your-windows -weeks of real spring weather. Plan to work in half-day segments so you don’t squander all the good weather on cleaning. And set manageable goals for what you will accomplish in each segment so you don’t fall into the common trap of enthusiastically ripping everything apart, then running out of time or energy before you can get it put back together. Pay particular attention to long-term weather forecasts so you can match tasks to expected conditions. For example, warm, sunny and windy days are perfect for quickly drying damp upholstery, heavy bedding and area rugs outside.

Recruit a help crew

Unless you crave solitude after a winter spent cooped up inside with your family, be sure to enlist plenty of help for big spring cleaning jobs. Adult partners and teenagers should be recruited to haul junk, add extra elbow grease to extra grimy areas and push around larger pieces of furniture and moveable appliances. Younger children can be put to work with organizing and sorting (for example, re-uniting their game pieces, boards, cards, dice, etc.) and moving around lighter items such as pillows, curtains and bedding.
Make a detailed spring-cleaning plan and stick to it using the following MaidPro Spring Cleaning Survival Guide. Come summer you will be absolutely delighted that you did.

Shake Off Those Winter Blahs!

winter blues MaidPro

If you feel unusually tired, unmotivated to go out and exercise, or find you have developed an affinity for binge-watching TV and comfort foods, you might be suffering from a case of winter blues. Here are seven quick ideas to get you out of winter hibernation mode and ready for spring—which, according to Punxsutawney Phil, is right around the corner!

Stop blaming yourself. The shorter days of winter have been altering your circadian rhythms and the complex hormones that regulate sleep, hunger, and feelings of well-being. According to Psych Central, the best way to reset your internal body clock is to allow yourself to wake naturally (versus setting an alarm) at least on weekends and to get at least 20 minutes each day with some skin exposed to direct sunlight. That doesn’t have to be outside. On super cold days, try taking a long drive, sitting near a window, or joining your wise pet for a nap in the sunny spot on the floor.

Buddy up! Ask a person whose company you really enjoy to join you for a daily exercise routine. The social aspect will energize you, and on the days you really don’t feel doing it, your buddy can motivate you and vice versa.

Check your gear. If you shy away from exercising outside in winter, check the quality of your outdoor gear. You’ll be more likely to head outside if you’re confident you’ll be warm and dry the entire time. Is your attire warm enough for all temps? Does it allow for delayering as your body temp rises? Is it designed to wick away perspiration? Does it help you to feel safe from hazards such as snow or ice underfoot and passing vehicles? Having the the gear attire handy for all weathers is a great motivator.

Dress upon waking. When you sit around all morning in comfy slippers and jammies drinking coffee or tea, it’s much harder to persuade yourself to get up and go. Dress for exercise as soon as you rise in the morning and you’ll be far more likely to actually walk out the door.

Discover new winter activities. Skating, skiing, sledding—all are great fun, but have you ever tried snow shoeing? Ice fishing? Maple sugaring? Curling? Winter bird watching or amateur photography? Building a snowman or starting a snowball fight are other great ways to get your heart pumping while you soak up some sunshine in late winter months.

Focus on signs that spring is coming. Maybe it’s a web site that shows day lengths growing by two-and-half minutes each day, browsing seed catalogs for your garden, tuning into the drip, drip of icicles melting, or the gradual return of morning birdsong. Focus on the positive and your mind-body-spirit is bound to follow.

Plan a summer vacation. Maybe it’s a week at the beach, a series of fun day trips, or even a productive stay-cation where you take on a strenuous home project you’ve been meaning to get to for a while. The point is to give yourself something to look forward to and/or something to work toward in terms of optimizing your health and physical fitness.

7 Ideas for a Happy, Healthy Valentine’s Day

MaidPro Nj/DE

This year for Valentine’s Day, instead of focusing on heart-shaped things and material symbols of love, why not plan a day that makes your heart truly sing? Make it all about nurturing the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of your own heart, the ones you love, and even the hearts of pets and people you don’t know. The great thing about such an approach to Valentine’s is that it matters not if you are partnered, single, surrounded by friends and family, or feeling alone in the world just now. Here are a few ideas for making this February 14 a happy, healthy Valentine’s Day:

Renew vows for healthier, happier living. Perhaps you made a New Year’s resolution—to quit unhealthy habits, lose weight, exercise more, eat less sugar and refined carbs—that you have already let go. It’s never too late to get back on track, so make February 14 the day you forgive yourself for transgressions and renew the vows you made to honor and care for own physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Cook at home. One of the heart-healthiest things you can do for yourself and your family is to cook real foods from scratch at home where you control menu choices, ingredients, flavors, and portion sizes. If you’re not the greatest cook or need to lighten up your repertoire, make a Valentine’s date for yourself—and maybe a mate—for a heart-healthy cooking class. If you’re already handy in the kitchen, spend quality time with loved ones finding and experimenting with new heart-healthy recipes and finding different ways to add flavor to food with healthy spices and seasonings rather than excess fats and sodium.

Get active. Research shows that a moderate-intensity walk or hike can yield the same heart-healthy benefits as high-intensity running. It’s also a great way to escape distracting devices, chores, and other cares, and share quality time and conversation with the ones you love. If it’s too cold to go outside, find ways to get active inside: climbing stairs, dancing, or practicing yoga with an app or online video.

Go outside. Wintertime depression is closely tied to a lack of Vitamin D, which your body manufactures from exposure to natural sunlight. If your winter climate is cold, you might be especially susceptible to the February blues. Hiking, sledding, skating, skiing, and even ice fishing are all great ways to get outside, boost vitamin D stores, and tend to your heart happiness on Valentine’s Day.

Give compliments. How often have you thought of nice things to say to people, but, for some reason, just never said them? Resolve to spend Valentine’s Day looking for reasons to appreciate people in your life and then following through and verbalizing the compliments—or, if you are really shy, writing them. While you are at it, be sure to find a few compliments for yourself.

Do anonymous acts of kindness. While, for many, Valentine’s means grand romance, it can be a hugely painful day for anyone suffering loss, grief, or loneliness. The act of making others happy—without taking credit—always rebounds to the giver, so resolve to spend at least part of your Valentine’s Day doing random, anonymous acts of kindness for those who really need it.

Practice gratitude. One of the best ways to relieve stress, to make your heart sing, and improve heart health is to spend a few moments of each day in a state of pure appreciation and gratitude for all you have—be it your partner, family, friends, acquaintances, knowledge, talent, passions, possessions, and life itself. If you don’t do this regularly already, let Valentine’s be the day you start a new habit of daily gratitude and appreciation.