Rest easy: 4 ways to streamline home life

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | February 5, 2015

For all of our technologically advanced home improvements -- from appliances we can operate from our smartphones to robots that do the work for you -- life seems to get busier all the time. You come home hoping to relax and leave the day's stress behind, but there is always something else to do. It's no wonder in 2013 Gallup reported more than 40 percent of American adults get less than seven hours of sleep per night -- an hour less than in 1942 when the average home wasn't as well-equipped as today.

If science can't figure out how to squeeze more hours out of a day, how can you ever stay caught up and still get a full night's rest? You may rightfully expect the whole family to help with chores, but even the kids aren't getting their recommended ten hours or more of sleep. What can you do? Put your home to work doing more to lighten your load. Here are four ways to streamline your home life.

4 strategies to make living in your home easier

1. Smart apps. Appliances that you set with a timer like your slow cooker, oven, the DVR, and your coffee maker are helpful, but current technology takes timers a step further. You can now operate many appliances and home components such as lighting, window blinds, and surveillance systems remotely via your smartphone or tablet. For example, motorized window treatments by Hunter Douglas coupled with their Platinum app for your phone or tablet allow you to raise or lower blinds remotely by time of day for the whole house, several rooms at a time, or individual rooms to ensure the right amount of daylight or privacy. Your device doesn't have to be in the house. Home security systems such as those from ADT can include additional remote features for your smart device such as camera feed, as well as the ability to adjust lighting and temperature when you're away from home. If you forget to set something before leaving, such as your alarm system, you can arm (or disarm) it with your smartphone.

2. "Learning" technology. Nest's learning thermostat anticipates your heating and cooling needs, making it unnecessary to go through the hassle of complicated programming. As you turn the Nest thermostat up or down, it begins learning your preferred comfort levels and adjusts itself accordingly. It also senses when you're home or away. Nest's smoke and carbon monoxide alarms notify you what's wrong and where by smartphone when you're remote, or by voice when you're in the house. According to a recent report from CNN, a robotic "head of household" that manages your home's entire operation by learning your preferences is not far off for the ultimate home of the future. Nest already offers Works with Nest™ that pairs your Nest Learning Thermostat with partner products such as Mercedes and Whirlpool. When you are on your way home in your Mercedes, for example, your Nest can estimate your arrival time, take into account traffic delays, and have your house warmed or cooled to your customary liking not a moment too soon so you don't waste energy. Likewise, your Nest thermostat knows when you're away and can switch your Whirlpool to "refresh" mode when the cycle ends, so your clothes won't be wrinkled when you return.

3. Robots. If you have pets, nothing takes up more time than cleaning up after them -- the hair, the litter box feet, the muddy paws. It hardly leaves you any time to enjoy playing with them. With three filters, a larger brush and blade and laser-tracking system for navigation, Neato's Botvac 85 specializes in sucking pet hair out of carpets. IRobot offers their Roomba™ 880 robotic vacuum that comes with a HEPA filter, two "Lighthouses" to guide it and a remote control with pre-programmed settings that you can change mid-cycle. The company also offers several other robotic devices for floor-scrubbing and mopping and for outdoor chores such as pool- and gutter-cleaning. The Dyson 360 Eye, Dyson's entry into robotic vacuums, was announced in fall of 2014. Its "eye" gives the device a panoramic view of the room, and it's programmable for setting cleaning schedules via Android or iOS.

4. Re-organize your living space. If you're not impressed by technology -- and after all, in 1942 they seem to have gotten more hours of rest without it -- decide what functions are performed in every room or area of each room in your house and locate everything you need to perform that function within easy reach. Entirely eliminate anything you don't need there so you are not stressed out and distracted by useless clutter or wasting time looking for lost items. There are countless storage solutions on the market for every room of your house and every type of activity, so once you get rid of anything you don't need, you can seek out the right type and size of storage furniture or containers.

Finally, if you want to get the most relaxation out of your home, focus on the bedroom and rid it of everything that has nothing to do with its primary functions -- romance, sleep, and getting ready for your day. Tech may be the key to the house of the future, but leave it outside your bedroom door if you really want a good night's sleep.

Photo credit to Myryah Shea

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.