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Home improvement resolutions you'll actually keep

With the hustle of the holidays (mostly) over, now's a good time to start tackling all those little chores you've been letting pile up. Instead of setting huge New Year's resolutions you'll never keep, why not start the year off right with a few simple -- but useful -- around-the-house tasks that will add value to your home, and make your life easier?

Little steps can not only make your living space lovelier, they might also save you time, and get rid of clutter. Here are a few suggestions.

Eliminate "that place": We all have a junk repository somewhere in our homes. That place where the mail piles up. That place where the kids always leave their coats. That place where you stash any and all odds and ends that just don't go anywhere else.

Instead of going through another year of piling that place high, consider coming up with an organizational structure that can help keep it neat. A mail sorter, a drawer separator, or a cute new shelving unit can all be gotten for a low price, but their usefulness is invaluable.

Spring for new hardware: Painting your cabinets may be a bit of an ambitious task if you're not planning on overhauling your entire kitchen or bathroom, but fortunately, there are easier ways to brighten up these areas.

New fixtures, like a kitchen faucet, or other hardware, like drawer handles and cupboard hinges, can make the entire room look more attractive, and are pretty easy and inexpensive to replace. Just make sure you head to a home improvement store with a good return policy, and you can try out a few different options.

Go energy-efficient: Still eating up electricity with that beastly garage freezer? It's time to stop throwing money away -- and get more eco-friendly -- with a new appliance or two. Yes, it's a little bit expensive up front, but some cities (like Seattle) offer credits and even free pick-up to get rid of clunky, inefficient old machines. You'll also save money on your bills every month, which will definitely add up over time.

Find storage solutions: Garages, attics, and storage units are like magnets for old stuff you never use. And, much like a magnet, they seem to pull things in indiscriminately and with no sense of organization. Take a day off and really assess what you need to keep -- and what the best way to keep it is. Maybe it's time to replace old cardboard boxes with clear, waterproof containers so you actually know what's in them.

Maybe it's time to take a trip to the local Goodwill and donate some of your unused items to someone in need. Maybe all it would take is some heavy-duty shelves to get the boxes off the floor and out of the way.

Get the carpets cleaned: This is probably one of the easiest ways to make your home more comfortable and clean-looking -- because you really don't have to do anything other than scoot the furniture around. Still, it's a task that often gets pushed off again and again.

Make a pact to call for a carpet cleaning (preferably with an eco-friendly green cleaner, which you can find by Googling) by the time you've sent your holiday thank-you cards, and then stick with it. Start 2013 off with fresh carpets and a clear conscious.