Help Around the Home - December 2011

Ideas for December

Deck your halls, spruce up your yard and care for your winter garden with our simple tip-a-day calendar for December.

mulching your garden

Add Extra Mulch

If mulch wasn't applied in the fall or needs to be replenished now it's not too late, even if the ground is frozen. Just two to three inches will insulate up to 10 degrees, keeping roots alive and making the yard more appealing.
More: Perk Up a Winter Garden

dave barry quote


"The only really good place to buy lumber is at a store where the lumber has already been cut and attached together in the form of furniture, finished and put inside boxes." ~Dave Barry

mail your holiday cards

Mail Your Cards

Avoid a last-minute scramble by mailing holiday cards now. Use a boxed set or go online to order custom photo cards. Some websites will even mail them for you directly. Ship gifts now too and you'll save big on express shipping later on.

clean out your freezer

Clean the Freezer

Most freezers need a good cleaning twice a year, and you'll likely need space this month. Throw away food older than six months and store everything else in a cooler. Defrost if needed and use a gentle cleaning solution to wipe the walls and door.
More: Tips for Decluttering Your Freezer

decorating for the holidays

Coordinate Decorations

Repeat decorative holiday elements to pull a room together. For example, sprinkle red throughout the room, from the tree to the table to the pillows on your sofa. Decorate with the same greens and themes (glass ornaments, reindeer, a plaid pattern) as well.
More: Personalized Holiday Decorations

Christmas at the White House


The first United States President to decorate the White House Christmas tree was Franklin Pierce.

unique Christmas decorations

Unexpected Colors

Who said holiday décor has to be red and green? For an updated look, try a fresh color combination like earthy green and gold, kid-friendly pink and turquoise, or crisp tones of silver and blue.
More: 8 Special Handmade Gift-Toppers

donating to charities

Making Donations

Support your favorite charity or give a thoughtfully chosen donation in a friend's name. Habitat for Humanity for example, which builds homes for needy families, is perfect for the party host or decorator on your list. Don't forget receipt and you'll benefit too.
More: Donating Dos and Don'ts

holiday decorating

Holiday Decorating

If you haven't yet chosen a look for your holiday décor, check out these festive ideas from Rate My Space. From vibrant color combinations to natural materials, your holiday help is on the way.
More: Can't-Miss Christmas Decor

speed cleaning your house


Spend 90 minutes cleaning today and your house will feel great all week. Vacuum and dust all surfaces, clean the sinks, counters, toilets and tubs. Replace kitchen towels and sponges. Put on fresh bedding, replace bath towels and finish with a bit of air freshener.
More: High-Speed Cleaning

color themes for the holidays

Uniform Decor

The simplest way to achieve a professional look with your holiday décor, says HGTV host Sandra Lee, sticks with just two or three colors. Decide on a palette before you shop for a quick and easy selection process.
More: Make a Green Apple Wreath

have your dog groomed

Have Dog Groomed

To counteract winter's dirt, mud, salt and snow, have the dog groomed and be sure to include a shedding treatment to remove as much excess hair as possible. Your holiday party guests (and your sofa) will thank you.
More: Protecting Pets From Winter Weather

christmas red roses

Go Red With Roses

Add an extra special splash of color to a red-themed Christmas tree by using fresh red roses. Water tubes available at flower shops will keep the blooms fresh for about a week. Simply tuck a single rose into each tube then nestle among tree branches.
More: Luxurious Flower Arrangements

get ready for guests

Guest Room Prep

Dust the guest room, remove clutter and set out extra blankets. If time permits, arrange a welcome basket full of snacks, bottled water, cozy slippers, a night light, reading material and information about your area.
More: Clean Your House in Under an Hour

inspect your basement

Basement Inspection

Check the basement for signs of water such as dampness or stains. Build up the grading around your house to help keep water out but to fix a serious basement moisture issue, consult a contractor or landscaper before the holidays.
More: 10 Inspiring Basement Spaces


"At Christmas, all roads lead home." -- Marjorie Holmes

busiest mail day of the year

Avoid the Post Office

This is typically the busiest day of the year for the US Postal Service. Instead of shipping gifts in person, consider doing any remaining shopping online. Expedited shipping will cost extra but you'll save in time and stress.

protect against frozen pipes

Prevent Frozen Pipes

If you turn down the thermostat during a holiday trip for more than a few days, leave the cabinet doors open under the sink. Increased air circulation will help prevent the pipes from freezing.

miniature christmas trees

Tiny Trees

Create a miniature Christmas tree in minutes by clipping a boxwood branch to about five inches and placing it vertically into a teacup filled with floral foam and water. Use a hot glue gun to attach silver dragees (usually for cookie decorating) as ornaments.
More: How to Plant Evergreen Containers

Hanukkah Centerpiece

To celebrate the start of Hanukkah, try this easy centerpiece idea from Melissa Michaels: Set a wreath on your table and fill the center with fresh fruit and vegetables such as apples, artichokes or oranges. Pile it high and finish with sparkly garland.
More: Hanukkah Decorating Ideas

vacuum upholstery


Vacuum upholstered furniture. Use vacuum attachments to clean all pillows, underneath cushions and even the sides and back of couches and chairs. Look for stains and clean according to the care labels.
More: Is It Clean Enough?

cranberry garland

Last-Minute Decor

Add a vintage element, such as homemade gingerbread men, hand-strung popcorn or a cranberry garland suggests HGTV host Sandra Lee. It's an instant way to create a sentimental, old-fashioned feel with your holiday decor.
More: 6 Vintage Christmas Ideas

dusting plants

Dust Houseplants

Built-up dust on houseplants can make it hard for them to take in the oxygen they need to thrive. Wipe leaves routinely with a damp cloth to keep them "breathing" easy.
More: Best Houseplants for Decorating

table decorations


To dress up a dining table or hearth in no time, start with a decorative tray. Set a white pillar candle in a hurricane glass in the middle then surround it with glass ornaments in colors that match your holiday decor. Add a few inside the hurricane too.
More: Green-on-Green Centerpiece

christmas town

Merry Christmas!

"Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do…but how much love we put in that action." -Mother Teresa of Calcutta

escaping heat from the roof

Watch the Snow

If snow is melting rapidly from your roof, or icicles are forming quickly without a thaw, it could mean that heat is escaping through the roof. Consider installing or adding another layer of insulation to the attic.
More: Attic Insulation Tips

replacing your furnace filter


Replace furnace filter. Every month, whether you're running air conditioning or heat, it's important to check and replace filters for your furnace to ensure proper air circulation.
More: Furnace Maintenance

brick patio


Introduced 7,000 years ago in Egypt, bricks are the oldest manufactured building material still in use.

inspect sink pipes

Peek Under the Sink

Make the rounds through your house, inspecting the pipes under each sink. Look for signs of leaks (which often go undetected due to their location) and schedule an appointment with a plumber if needed.
More: Gorgeous Bathroom Vanities and Sinks

inspect your attic

Attic Inspection

While you're putting away holiday decorations, make sure the soffit vents in your attic aren't blocked. Clear vents allow air to flow, which prevents moisture and mildew buildup in the winter (and also cools your home in summer).

remodeling ideas for your house

Plan for the Future

Dreaming of a remodel? With more time spent indoors, winter is the perfect time to think about changes. Walk around your house and consider what would work; collect decorating ideas from websites and magazines and start to prepare a budget.
More: Before and After Remodeling Projects