Prep your home and yard for winter storms and get organized for the holidays.
With the winter holidays coming up (and all of the gift giving, decorating, cooking and planning that go along with them), and in some regions snow and ice to contend with, December is a busy month indeed. Keep your home running smoothly by focusing on a few necessary tasks (like readying for winter storms) and simplify holiday prep to make the most of the season.
Prepare for winter storms. Gather your snow shovels, winter gloves, pet- and plant-safe ice melt or sand, and ice scrapers, and store them where you can access them easily. A roof rake is a handy addition to the snow-removing arsenal — use it to gently remove snow from your roof to help prevent ice dams. If you expect a heavy snowfall, use reflective markers to flag the edges of your lawn and driveway.
Keep paths cleared of ice and snow. Remove snow and ice from paths and sidewalks after storms. If you plan to travel during the winter, hire a snow-removal service to keep the sidewalk in front of your home cleared while you are away. Your neighbors will appreciate it, and it will give your home a lived-in appearance, which can help deter crime.
Boost cheer outdoors. If you plan to decorate your home for the holidays, now is the time to start thinking about putting up the lights and greenery. If the process is leaving you feeling more overwhelmed than filled with holiday cheer, remember that less can definitely be more — a lovely wreath on the door and twinkle lights on the porch are festive and simple to pull off.
Seal drafts around windows and doors. Even if you put on weatherstripping in the fall, there may be places where cold air is still sneaking in. If you feel a draft, track it to its source and block it with weatherstripping or a draft snake to keep your home cozy and energy bills lower.
Have the chimney cleaned before its first use. If you haven’t done so yet, be sure to schedule an appointment with a licensed chimney sweep to clean your wood-burning fireplace or wood stove before building a fire this winter.
Check batteries in safety devices. Batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors should be checked monthly, but it’s more important than ever during winter, when we tend to keep windows closed (and the heat on) more often.
Get organized for holiday cooking and baking. Sort through cookware, baking pans, cooking tools and serving dishes, and make a list of anything you need to buy before hosting this holiday season. Take kitchen knives in to be sharpened.
Set up a simple gift-wrapping station. A few rolls each of paper, ribbon and tape, plus a small basket of pens and gift tags, are all you really need to make a functional gift-wrapping station. Use an umbrella holder or metal bucket to hold tall rolls of gift wrap, and a paper towel holder to wrangle unruly rolls of ribbon.
Don’t try to do it all. It’s easy to get overwhelmed during the holiday season. Make things a bit simpler by focusing on the projects and activities you know you will really enjoy, and cut out as many of the stress-inducing items on your list as possible. And there’s no need to throw out a tradition entirely just because you want to simplify. For instance, to simplify holiday cookies, you could bake just one type of cookie instead of six, or use store-bought cookie dough but bake and decorate them yourself.
Prepare to usher in the new year. If you have your heart set on going out to a special dinner or event on New Year’s Eve, make your reservations early to ensure you get a seat. Whether or not you are having a big celebration, keep an eye out for sales on bottles of bubbly — this can be a good time to stock up on a few bottles to keep for special occasions or give as gifts.
Do a post-holiday tidy-up. Take down holiday decor and store it until next year. Recycle packaging and used gift wrap, and re-roll ribbon if you want to use it again. If you have kids, after the holidays can be a good time to pare back by removing some less-often-used toys (that are still in good shape) and donating them to charity. The same goes for grown-ups, too — if you received a few new sweaters as gifts, check through your old sweaters and see if there are a few you can give away to make space for the new.