This is no time for major updates, so stick with simple tasks to make for a festive celebration.
Hosting a holiday gathering can be a lot of fun, but perhaps a bit intimidating, too. You want your house to look its best, but now isn’t the time to undertake any major updates.
Chances are, you’re busy enough get ready for the event. So, focus on just the areas of your house where your guests will spend time.
Whether you’re a first-time party host with a few jitters or an old pro looking for some new ideas, these tips will help you ensure that your home is ready for any gathering.
Light the way
The sun sets early this time of year, so it’s important to make sure the entrance to your home is clean and well-lit.
If you have a large front yard, focus on the entryway and the path leading up to it. Install porch lights or replace the bulbs if needed. Cut back any shrubbery that is obstructing the walkway.
On the day of your party, open the blinds on the front windows so your guests can see into your warm, festive-looking home as they approach. It’s a great way to create a sense of welcoming anticipation.
Pro tip: The easiest way to create instant lighting for walkways and paths is with the solar lights that you just stick into the ground. The sun does the rest of the work!
Take care of the bottom line
Our mothers used to say this, and it’s true: If your floors are spotless, they make your whole house look cleaner.
Even if you’re unable to do an in-depth house cleaning before your gathering, make sure your floors have been cleaned before that first guest steps over the threshold.
Pro tip: If you have carpeting, clean the carpets a minimum of three days ahead of your affair so they have time to dry fully.
Brighten up your bathroom
If you’re bothered by grimy-looking grout in your bathroom, try this easy, inexpensive, and non-toxic method to get rid of it nearly instantly: Just spray on some full-strength hydrogen peroxide, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then wipe clean. That’s it!
Next, add some flowers, holiday decorations or pictures on the wall to further spiff up your powder room, and it will be ready for your guests.
Pro tip: Get the buildup out of a slow-moving sink drain with a Zip-It. This inexpensive tool looks like a giant zip-tie. You just work it down into the drain to pull up hair clogs — all the other gunky stuff will come up with it.
Tune up kitchen appliances
Your kitchen appliances will be the workhorses of your holiday party, whether you’re hosting a big family dinner or a cocktail party. You want them to be fully functioning and ready for action.
Make sure all stove burners are working. Now’s the time to clean the oven if you haven’t done that for a while.
Clean out the refrigerator, and check to see that the fridge and freezer are running at their optimal temperatures.
Make sure your dishwasher is in good working order. You can clean it easily with a dishwasher cleaner that you run through a cycle.
Pro tip: Sharp knives will make easy work of preparing the big meal. Make sure all your kitchen knives are newly sharpened, and also check the batteries in your electric carving knife, if you have one.
Make your space kid-friendly
If you make your home welcoming for children, you’ll ensure their parents have a great time as well.
If you happen to have kids that are the same ages as your young guests, you’re in luck. But if not, think about adding some considerate touches that will make parents more comfortable and alleviate kid boredom.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Turn a spare room or an upstairs bedroom into a private nursing/changing area for a new mom.
Toddlers and younger children will want to be near their parents, so a good idea for them is to set up a corner of your living or dining room with toys, books, a tablet for watching cartoons and some comfy pillows or throws.
One of our favorite strategies for older kids is to turn the dessert course into an activity. For instance, you could bake a huge batch of sugar cookies in holiday shapes, and then put out different colors of icing to let kids (and adults) go to town with decorating their own cookies.
Pro tip: If you don’t have children, or if yours are older, don’t forget to kid-proof your space. Put away anything expensive, breakable or unstable. Do some baby-proofing, if necessary. This way you and the parents can relax and not have to worry about safety hazards.
Want more DIY tips? Watch more of See Jane Drill’s home improvement videos.
Originally published November 2016.… Read More
This guide to common household creepers will help you send pests packing — for good.
Pests are everywhere, and having a few in your home is pretty much inevitable. But knowledge is power when it comes to critters, says Dr. Nancy Troyano, director of technical education and training at Rentokil Pest Control.
When you know how to recognize and prevent an infestation, you can keep unwanted visitors at bay. The first step is learning which pests might become an issue for you.
Here are the top pests to watch out for, according to Troyano.
Termites and carpenter ants eat away at the foundation, and you have to call a professional to remove them. They’re usually hard to see, but you can still find evidence that they’re around.
In the Northeast, subterranean termites build mud tubes that you can usually spot. Look for brown staining around the house, both inside and out, and pay special attention to baseboards in the basement.
Other hints are blistering paint, loose siding, piles of droppings or a substance that looks like sawdust.
Homeowners in the Southwest and California should look out for drywood termites. They create colonies in the wood instead of the ground, and they need very little moisture. Watch for piles of droppings or swarms of termites flying out of the wood.
Cockroaches are a big problem in crowded cities and apartment buildings. While they don’t actually cause damage to a home, they do require professional extermination — and they’re just gross.
Cockroaches are attracted to food and garbage, and they’re usually brought in from the outside. Secondhand or rented furniture is a big culprit of cockroach infestations.
The one “upside” to roaches is that they’re big, so you will definitely know when you have a problem.
Most unwanted critters are pretty harmless — just annoying.
After the Zika outbreaks, mosquitoes are generating more concern than in the past. Standing water creates a breeding ground for these pests, so try to minimize the water that collects around your home.
Bed bugs are a big issue in cities, where it’s easy for them to be brought in by furniture, clothes or people — and they’re notoriously hard to get rid of. Homeowners with pets should also be wary of ticks and fleas.
Bugs aren’t the only unwelcome guests you may encounter — keep your eye out for rodents, too.
Bird feeders are a “mouse buffet,” says Troyano, so keep an eye on those. Mice are also drawn inside to escape the cold, so homeowners in colder climates should make sure their homes are tightly sealed.
Then there are our flying friends: bats. Bats are usually found in homes with attics or chimneys, because they like to hang out in dark, cavernous areas.
You can easily lure out one or two bats, but if you have a big problem, you’ll want to call a professional. A word of warning about these winged creatures: They can carry rabies, so be careful with any DIY measures you undertake.
What to look for where you live
The types of pests you encounter largely depend on where you live.
Tropical, humid places like Florida are breeding grounds for water-loving pests like mosquitoes.
In wooded areas, you will find spiders, ants and beetles.
In the desert, you’ll have to worry about snakes and scorpions.
The type of home will also determine what kinds of pests you get. Log cabins are the most pest-prone homes, Troyano reports, and can attract beetles, termites and bees. Houses with vinyl siding or brick tend to be safer bets.
Older homes are also a concern, because they are full of cracks and crevices where pests can enter or take up residence. Spiders and silverfish love these nooks.
New construction homes come with their own issues. When wooden beams are exposed to the elements during construction, they gather moisture, which attracts fungus beetles. These tiny beetles are very common and will go away on their own once the material dries — but that could take up to a year. The fungus beetle has been nicknamed the “new-house pest,” says Troyano.
How to prevent pests
The good news is that most pests are easily lured out of the home.
Troyano trains people on the biology and behavior of pests. Rather than putting down a pesticide, she says, you can “outsmart” the bugs. “If I have an ant problem, and I know what they like to eat, I will take away their food source.”
Don’t forget to think about how the critters are getting inside. Plants and trees can act as a superhighway for pests. “I’ve watched ants walk along tree limbs into a home,” Troyano says.
Here are Troyano’s top tips for keeping your home free of unwelcome intruders:
Don’t let them inside. Keep your house sealed up nice and tight. Use window screens, seal window and door frames, and plug up other exterior entry points.
Keep your home’s exterior tidy. Mow grass regularly, trim shrubbery and trees to prevent branches from touching your home, and keep mulched beds away from the house.
Watch for water pools and drainage issues. You don’t want water pooling up by your home’s foundation. Make sure your gutters direct water away from the house. Similarly, you don’t want hills sloping toward your house. You’ll also want to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in your yard by keeping an eye on stagnant pools of water, like birdbaths.
Inspect your house inside and out. Regularly check for signs of pests.
Originally published August 2016.… Read More