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With winter officially beginning on December 21 and holiday festivities around the corner, there is a lot to prepare this month! For those in cold climates, it’s time to begin thinking about snow and ice removal, blocking drafts and getting cozy indoors … and we can all use a good dose of Zen as the busy holiday season gets rolling. Here are 13 home tasks to consider adding to your list this month. 

1. Put up holiday decorations. If you like to decorate for the holidays, now is the time! Dig out the Christmas lights and test them early in the month, so you have ample time to replace nonworking strands. Hang exterior lights, wreaths and swags, being sure to use only exterior-rated lights, and plug them in safely to an outside outlet if possible.

2. Plan for holiday home safety. With night falling earlier this month, and many people headed out of town, it pays to be extra safety-conscious — whether or not you are going anywhere. Always lock doors and windows, set your alarm system if you use one and keep the area around your house well-lit and your bushes trimmed back.
 

3. Simplify your holiday. Take a moment to sit down and really consider what you love — and don’t care for — about the holiday season. No one can do it all, and trying to accomplish too much only creates stress and disappointment. Pick your top three favorite holiday activities or traditions, and commit to doing them this month. Then list your threeleast favorite holiday activities and vow to skip them this year. 

If you are feeling pressure from friends or relatives to keep doing certain things (i.e., baking a dozen different kinds of cookies), tell them that you are simplifying your holiday this year, and are focusing on the things you love most. Then invite them to share in something youdo want to do, like going ice skating or drinking hot cocoa.
 

4. Add layers of warmth. Drape soft throws or thick sheepskins over chairs and sofas, and roll out plush rugs on your floors. Aside from being decorative, extra layers of textiles provide a wonderful boost of warmth in winter.

5. Add weather stripping and door sweeps as needed. Feel a draft? Don’t ignore it. Apply weatherstripping to the drafty area and your house will feel warmer right away. If the problem is cold air flowing in from under a door, what you need is a door sweep. Usually made from hard plastic, a door sweep attaches to the bottom of your door, closing the gap that lets cold air in.
 

6. Carve out your own space to get Zen. Boost energy and relieve stress during the holiday season by creating your own private space to meditate, do yoga or simply relax. Ideally, choose a sunny corner of your home where you can get a bit of morning sun. 

7. Consider a backup heat source. If you live in a cold climate with regular winter storms that sometimes knock out power, it may be beneficial to invest in a woodstove or generator— something to provide backup heat if your regular heat source is unavailable. If a woodstove is your backup, be sure to stock up on plenty of firewood. If you decide to go with a generator, enlist a pro to teach you how to set it up and use it safely — when used improperly, a generator can start a fire.

8. Update your emergency kit and store it with your camping supplies. If you already havea household emergency kit, check the expiration dates on food and medications in it, and replace as needed. If you do not yet have one, get one! You may find many of your camping supplies helpful in an emergency, so consider storing your emergency kit and camping gear in the same (easily accessible) place.
 

9. Beware of sneaky mice and rats (ugh!). Not so nice to think about, but if you see signs (i.e., droppings) that little critters have invaded your home, it’s best to take care of the problem as soon as possible. To prevent future problems, store all food in airtight containers, clean your pantry regularly and seal up any holes or cracks in your home that may lead outside.

 

10. Keep walkways clear of snow and ice. As we get further along in December, many folks living in cold climates will get their first snow. Be prepared by stocking up on snow shovels and ice melt, and store your tools where you can easily get to them during a storm. Just be aware that certain ice melting products can be harmful to pets and plants — read the labels carefully before buying, and try to keep products off of your lawn and garden beds.

11. Check your roof for ice dams. Ice dams are areas of built-up ice that can accumulate on your roof, potentially causing leaks when they melt. If you can safely reach them, break them up now to prevent future damage.

12. Knock snow from tree branches. Large amounts of snow can cause trees to lose branches, which can be especially dangerous if a large limb is positioned near your home. Use a long-handled broom or other tool to gently knock snow from branches.
 

13. Thinking about remodeling next year? Use downtime this month to begin creating ideabooksand scouting for pros, and have an initial discussion about the job.

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