It’s a new year, and that means fresh and exciting possibilities await. According to the Mayan calendar, we’ve entered the Golden Age, and in Chinese tradition, we’re about to embark on the Chinese New Year, or the Year of the Sheep (the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar), on Feb. 19, 2015.

The celebration lasts 15 days, but cleaning your home prior to this date is essential to “sweep away the bad luck” that has accumulated inside over the past year, according to tradition.[i] While this fair-skinned, Irish girl has no Chinese lineage, I do believe everything is energy. It only makes sense to designate the beginning of each year as a time to clear the air, so to speak.

Feature image courtesy of Nest Design Photography

Here are seven easy steps to help you start the New Year with a healthy home.

1. Change Your Furnace Filter

According to an American Lung Association survey, 9 percent of homeowners never change their furnace filter and 41 percent fail to replace them regularly. Are you one of these well-intended dwellers? Remember, this filter is the umbrella to your home’s indoor air (if you have an HVAC system). For under $20, you can upgrade to a high-performance filter and remove over 90 percent of the large particles and airborne allergens that pass through this filter.

I recommend choosing a high-performance filter with MERV ratings of 12 or higher. Alternatively, 3M developed their own Microparticle Performance Rating (MPR) system to demonstrate the filter’s ability to capture the smallest airborne particles — ranging from 0.3 to 1 micron in size. Look for an MPR rating between 1200-2200. These will capture large airborne allergens such as mold spores, pollen and dust mite debris from the air passing through the filter. And, don’t forget to change it every season. You can call upon your elephant animal totem or tie a string around your finger, but I personally prefer an email reminder. You can sign up for free reminders.

2. Replace Your Air and Water Filters

Many air purifiers and water filtration systems do not have an indicator light letting you know it’s time to change the filter(s). Most air purifiers have a pre-filter and a HEPA filter which need to be changed according the manufacturer’s instructions. Not changing these on a regular basis can cause more harm than good. For example, as water contaminants build up, your home’s water filter not only becomes less effective, but can begin to release harmful bacteria or chemicals back into your filtered water.

3. Make Nontoxic Cleaning Products

Save your and your family’s health (and a little extra cash) by making your own cleaning products. I’ve got loads of simple and quick recipes that require just a few natural ingredients: baking soda, natural dish soap, white distilled vinegar, lemon, olive oil, toothpaste and essential oils. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, watch below as I demonstrate how easy these are to make. Make larger batches and store them if desired.

4. Detox Your Bedding

According to Ohio State University, a typical used mattress may have 100,000 to 10 million dust mites inside. Ten percent of the weight of a 2-year-old pillow can be composed of dead mites and their droppings! Grossness aside, it is prudent to wash your bedding in HOT water (at least 120 degrees) to kill dust mites each week.

Additionally, when you strip your bed, let the sunlight hit the mattress to absorb moisture and kill dust mites. If winter weather won’t allow this, use a handheld vacuum and run across the top of your mattress (I personally prefer the Dyson DC58 because it’s the only vacuum to be certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America). Finally, throw your pillow in the dryer for at least 30 minutes to kill dust mites. Remember, you should replace your pillow every year; two years max. NOTE: If you have an allergy to dust mites like myself, then I advise adding an organic cotton barrier cover to both your pillow and your mattress.

5. Sweep Your Entryway

As Nikola Tesla once said, “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” It goes without saying that keeping the exterior of your home – your curb appeal – appealing. Not just for the neighborhood, but keeping your entryway clean and decluttered will help set the tone for entering and exiting your home and allow good energy, or chi, to flow.

6. Leave Your Shoes at the Door

After vacuuming your entire house with a HEPA vacuum, leave your shoes at the door. According to a study by the University of Arizona, 60 percent of dust containing lead, arsenic and DDT is tracked in from the bottom of our shoes. Carpets, in particular, harbor allergens and should be cleaned thoroughly with a HEPA vacuum and nontoxic cleaner. If you experience allergy-related symptoms, consider replacing the carpeting in the home with hard-surface flooring. Finally, designate a shoe drop-off location inside the front entrance of your home.

7. Take a Plastic Inventory

All plastics are made from petroleum – a nonrenewable resource (unless otherwise indicated as #7 other). Although some plastics are worse than others, studies reveal that all plastics possess some level of estrogenic activity. In other words, plastic chemicals wreak havoc on your hormonal system. Don’t be fooled by newer plastics labeled BPA-free, either. These newer plastics containing BPS can cause more harm than BPA and are just as dangerous for fetal brain development, according a new study from the University of Calgary. Look for glass, Pyrex or stainless steel storage that is free of BPA, PVC, lead and phthalates.

[i] Barnabas and Anabel Kindersley, Nos fêtes préférées dans le monde entire, Our favorite celebrations worldwide. (1997), ISBN 2-07-051310-6

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock

By Lisa Beres

Lisa Beres is a healthy home authority, Baubiologist, published author, professional speaker and Telly award-winning media personality who teaches busy people how to eliminate toxins from their home with simple, step-by-step solutions to improve their health. With her husband, Ron, she is the co-founder of The Healthy Home Dream Team and the 30-day online program Change Your Home. Change Your Health. She is the author of the children’s book My Body My House and co-author of Just Green It!: Simple Swaps to Save Your Health and the Planet, Learn to Create a Healthy Home! Green Nest Creating Healthy Homes and The 9 to 5 Greened: 10 Steps to a Healthy Office. Lisa’s TV appearances include "The Rachael Ray Show," "Nightly News with Brian Williams," "TODAY," "The Doctors," "Fox & Friends," "Chelsea Lately" and "The Suzanne Somers Show."