How to Holiday-Proof Your Home
We’ve all heard the common holiday-proofing suggestions: water your live tree regularly, unplug lights and electric decorations when you’re not home, and don’t drink and drive. But what about some of the less common tips?
Traveling During the Holidays
Are you traveling during the holidays? Don’t announce it on Facebook or social media or tell your friends and co-workers. You can gloat after you’re back home. Tell only the people who absolutely must know you’re gone. Too many opportunistic thieves are willing to break in and steal your Christmas. They watch for deserted homes, and social media posts announcing trips and travel that tell them no one’s home.
Consider investing in timers that can turn your house lights on and off while you’re away. They’re inexpensive and work well to create the illusion someone is home. Nanny cams, security cameras, and other devices can let you listen in, or watch what is happening in your home while you’re away. Don’t want to spend a lot of money? Youtube.com has dozens of videos on how to convert an old, unused cell phone to a home security camera you can watch from your new phone.
Storing Expensive Presents
Under the bed, in a closet, or behind furniture are good hiding places, but they’re the first place thieves look when they break in to steal. Why not consider an alternative storage option until Christmas eve – like a secure rental facility nearby, or a bank lockbox for jewelry and other small expensive items. If you’re going to exchange expensive gifts, bikes, motorcycles, electronics etc, a secure rental facility can keep the gifts from prying eyes. The 24/7 security, fences, and security cameras and the cheap (usually $10 a month) insurance fee gives you the security your home can’t provide. The cost of a rental unit varies around the country, but most facilities offer $25 to $75 monthly rates plus the cost of insurance ($10 to $20 per month depending on the amount of coverage). If that’s not an option, consider stashing gifts in a battered cardboard box and storing it in a basement, attic or garage. The average home burglar spends less than ten minutes in a home, and tends to only look in easily accessible spots like bedrooms, drawers, and closets for valuables.
One thing many homeowners worry about when they’re out of town is whether their guns will be safe home alone. The good news is, if you’re truly worried, pawn them at a legitimate pawn shop for the low cost of pawn fees – typically 5-10% of the value. Your guns will go into a locked vault at the pawn shop where they’re safe. You’ve essentially “rented” space to store your guns for a few dollars while you’re gone. You get your guns back by paying the fee and whatever you negotiated (a few dollars) when you placed them in the pawn shop. They won’t be displayed or available to the public unless you don’t pick them up in the typical 30-day hold period.
After the holidays
Don’t pile all your empty boxes, wrappings and bags by the curb for the garbage truck. Thieves often drive by these piles and make note of what new electronics and gifts are likely inside. Take your Christmas boxes to your local dump, or at least break them down and put them in trash bags that don’t advertise you got a 50-inch television and other expensive goodies.
Many pets love the holidays: all that food and attention and people excites them as much as it does their owners. But older dogs, puppies and some not-so social breeds are more at risk during the holidays than you’d think.
If you have pets, consider getting an artificial tree over a live tree. Live trees are mildly toxic. Tree oils can be irritating to the mouth and stomach, causing excessive drooling or vomiting. Tree needles and bark are not easily digested either; possibly causing GI irritation, vomiting, gastrointestinal obstruction or puncture. Here are a few tips to keep your pet healthy this holiday season:
- Holly and live mistletoe are poisonous to both cats and dogs.
- Guests and owners alike want to “treat” their pets at Christmas, but beware. A change in diet, like a few rich treats, can lead to constipation, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Tell guests what your “feeding” policy is. One little bite or nibble from one guest is one thing, but when your pet goes from guest to guest feeding from all of them, it adds up to one rumbly tummy.
- If you insist on treating your pets, consider healthy treats like fresh or canned pumpkin. Set out a bowl of treats for the evening or day and ask guests to use the treat from the bowl only. That way when the treats are gone you know your pet has had their safe daily allowance.
- Make extra time for runs, walks and bathroom breaks for your dog. With all the excitement of people, parties, and food, they’ll welcome a chance to walk or run off their anxiety.
- Remember Christmas tree lights, decorations, ribbon, bows, tape, boxes, and other things you put up can also be a hazard to your pets. Preservatives you use to keep your tree alive longer, even aspirin, can fatally hurt your pet if they drink out of the tree’s water.
- Remind your guests that xylitol, a popular sugar substitute, is deadly to dogs and cats. Before feeding any treat to your pet ask if it has been sweetened with sugar or xylitol.