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With the big-ticket holidays on the horizon, and a few more weeks before the truly cold temperatures fall over most of the country, now is an excellent time to take stock of your home and plan for the season.

ORGANIZING FOR THE HOLIDAYS

As you’re pulling out decorations, take stock of what you own. Then, take the opportunity to give away what you’re not using before it gets put away for another season. It’s also a good time to go through and donate clothes, coats, toys and books. If you have kids, get them involved in the process to show them the importance of staying organized and supporting those in need. And if you feel overwhelmed, consider hiring an organizer at an hourly rate to help you sort through things.

If you don’t have much time to clean your house, but want to be ready for guests, focus on the most important elements. You can accomplish quite a bit in a few hours if you apply some focus.

Walk through your house and look at it through a newcomer’s eyes. What stands out? What needs aren’t being met? Focus on the main areas guests will occupy, such as the living room, bathroom, kitchen and guest bedroom. Pay attention to floors and clear the surfaces of tabletops and dressers. Make sure you have enough seating and put out fresh towels for overnight guests. Take a quick inventory in any bathroom your guest might use, and clear out any items you don’t want rummaged through.

PLAN AHEAD FOR HOLIDAY EMERGENCIES

It’s Murphy’s Law in action: The biggest things will go wrong during the holidays, when you have events underway and guests at the house — and when service providers are hard to find. But you can head off holiday headaches now by taking some steps in advance.

If you don’t already know where your water and gas shut-off valves are placed, and how to access your electrical panel, it’s a good idea to learn. Shutting down gas is sometimes a critical step in an emergency, and closing the water main can stop any rushing leak in your home.

Establish a good relationship with your service providers. This requires some foresight, but the best way to get service in a holiday emergency is to cultivate a pre-existing relationship with a reliable plumber, electrician, HVAC provider or other professional. You’ll have an easier time getting your phone calls returned at odd hours if they already know you. A good professional will be able to talk you through some steps to stem the problem.

Ask about rates ahead of time. A reliable provider will have no problem telling you in November what you can expect to pay for an after-hours call on Christmas Eve. Knowing this will help you avoid unpleasant surprises.

In case of emergency, make sure you know where to find flashlights, fire extinguishers and even phone numbers for your local utility companies (especially the “after-hours” hotlines) in case they need to be notified.

Paul F. P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.

 

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