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Holiday Houseguest Prep Checklist: Prepare Your Home for Overnight Guests

Before family and friends descend on your home for the holidays, make sure you're prepared. With these fix-ups, decorating ideas and safety tips, you'll be ready for anything when the doorbell rings!

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Dry Doormat

Dry Doormat

Is your doormat squishy and virtually useless after a rainstorm? With a fine-tooth handsaw or a jigsaw, cut a piece of 2 x 4-ft. suspended ceiling plastic grid (about $10 at a home center) to fit under your mat. Air will circulate better under the elevated mat and help it dry faster and prevent mold from growing in the fabric. The plastic grid is sturdy and won't break under the heftiest footstep in your neighborhood. To keep mud from getting in your house, consider installing this mud-busting boot scrape.

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Squeaky-Clean Vases

Squeaky-Clean Vases

It's difficult to clean out the cloudy residue left in slim flower vases. You can make any vase sparkle by adding warm water and denture cleaning tablets. Let it fizz for a few minutes and rinse well.

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Zip-Tie Your Decorations

Zip-Tie Your Decorations

Zip ties are a simple way to string holiday lights on banisters and fences without marring the railing with nail marks. Zip ties are sold at home centers. You'll find them in the electrical supplies aisle. After the holidays, snip the ties off with scissors.

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Temporary Valet RodFamily Handyman

Temporary Valet Rod

When you need temporary clothes-hanging space around the house, keep an extra shower tension bar handy. Put it between the jambs in the laundry room door on heavy laundry days. Or, use it in the bedroom closet to pack for trips or stick it in the closet opening in the guest room/den so overnight guests can hang up their clothes. It's a quick and easy way to gain an extra closet! Want more ways to expand your closet space? Who doesn't! Check out these 16 tips.

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Clean Out Dryer Lint

Clean Out Dryer Lint

If you notice that it takes longer than normal for loads to dry in your clothes dryer, it may be time to clean out the vent. First detach the duct from behind the unit and then push a plumbing snake through your dryer vent from outside. Tie a rag securely to the snake end. Pull the cloth and snake through a couple of times and your clean vent will not only save energy but possibly prevent a fire as well.
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Carbon Monoxide SeasonFamily Handyman

Carbon Monoxide Season

You've got a house full of guests, so the oven and stove are working overtime, the water heater is struggling to keep up with demand, the fireplace is burning and the furnace is fighting the cold. It's the perfect setting for carbon monoxide buildup. So if you don't already have a UL-listed carbon monoxide detector, put it at the top of your shopping list. Detectors are available at home centers and discount stores. Get more information about carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms and keep your family and friends safe all year.
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Hang a Wreath on a DoorFamily Handyman

Hang a Wreath on a Door

To hang a wreath on a door—without leaving an ugly nail hole—drive a small screw into the top of the door, leaving the head protruding slightly. Tie a piece of fishing line to the screw, tie the other end to your wreath and then drive the screw in completely. Need help hanging decorations on your walls? These tips make it easy.

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Better Holiday Light ClipsFamily Handyman

Better Holiday Light Clips

Make inexpensive, long-lasting holiday light clips from common electrical cable wiring staples. Snip the staple in half and fasten it to your fascia or trim with the remaining nail. These clips hold the wire securely, but it's still easy to slip the wire behind the clip. If you have metal fascia, use stainless steel screws so they won't rust. Got some light strings that aren't working? Here's how to repair them.

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Touch up Nicks and Scratches

Touch up Nicks and Scratches

If you have shallow scratches or nicks, hide them with a stain-filled touch-up marker. Dab on the stain and wipe off the excess with a rag. But beware: Scratches can absorb lots of stain and turn darker than the surrounding finish. So start with a marker that's lighter than your cabinet finish and then switch to a darker shade if needed. For deeper scratches, use a filler pencil, which fills and colors the scratch. If the cabinet finish is dingy overall and has lots of scratches, consider a wipe-on product like Old English Scratch Coat. These products can darken the finish slightly, so you have to apply them to all your cabinets. Bigger than a scratch? Use polyester filler.

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Tighten the Tree Stand With a DrillFamily Handyman

Tighten the Tree Stand With a Drill

Tightening tree stand nuts by hand is tiring and takes forever. Here's an alternative: Cut off the little Ls at the end of the tree stand bolts with a hacksaw. ( Be sure the hacksaw blade is installed correctly.) Chuck the ends of the bolts into a variable-speed drill to tighten them into the trunk. You'll be out from under that prickly tree in no time. P.S. It's a fact of Christmas: The tree stand gets overfilled and water stains the carpet or the hardwood floor. To prevent this, a reader suggests placing a plastic water heater tank catch basin between the stand and the floor. Or, you can use a snow saucer.
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Baking Soda Makes Odors Go AwayFamily Handyman

Baking Soda Makes Odors Go Away

The best thing available to make bad smells go away is baking soda. People think about it for their freezer or refrigerator, but it's good for much more than that. You can sprinkle it on carpet, work it in a bit and vacuum it up. For other items, like mattresses, cushions and clothing, dampen the fabric and gently rub with baking soda, then wipe off/rinse with cold water. Then you can stop asking why does my house smell. Plus: These Are the Best Household Cleaning Supplies & Products.
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Get a Water-Absorbent MatFamily Handyman

Get a Water-Absorbent Mat

To protect your carpet, place a water-absorbent mat inside your door for wet or snow-covered shoes and boots. Or you can make this attractive boot tray.

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Speed-Clean ChandeliersFamily Handyman

Speed-Clean Chandeliers

First spread a plastic tarp on the floor under the chandelier to catch the drips. Then turn off the light and spray the solution on the chandelier until liquid beads start to run (you'll use a lot of spray, but it beats wiping). The spray rinses off the dust. The solution that's left evaporates quickly and doesn't leave water spots. The spray works well on hanging crystals, but don't expect it to remove dust from crevices. Buy it from or If you're tired of cleaning you chandelier and would like to replace it, here's how you can do it yourself.

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A Showerhead Grab Bar is a Big Help

A Showerhead Grab Bar is a Big Help

For people with limited mobility or who prefer to shower while seated, a handheld showerhead is a terrific help. And even better is a handheld showerhead on a sliding rail that allows for individual adjustment. But because those rails are often flimsy, grabbing one could be a disaster. Look for an ADA-compliant grab bar with a sliding handheld showerhead. Here are 20 additional tips for creating a safe home for older family members and guests.

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Restore an Aluminum Snow ShovelFamily Handyman

Restore an Aluminum Snow Shovel

Aluminum shovels are perfect for snow shoveling, or as a substitute for a big dustpan in your shop. The only drawback is that the soft aluminum edge wears out and gets bent, making shoveling more difficult. Here's an easy fix. Make a straight line across the blade with a piece of masking tape. Then saw along the tape with a jigsaw and a metal-cutting blade to straighten the front edge of the shovel. If you want, you can polish and sharpen the edge slightly with a belt sander. If you use a snow blower instead of a shovel for snow removal, check out these nine tips for safer, more efficient snow blowing.

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Heat Up a Lukewarm DryerFamily Handyman

Heat Up a Lukewarm Dryer

If your clothes dryer isn't heating properly, first make sure the machine isn't set to 'fluff air' — a nonheat setting. If that's not it, the lint filter may be clogged. Even if the filter looks clean, it may be covered by a nearly invisible film caused by dryer sheets. Test your filter by pouring water into it. If the filter holds water, it's past time to clean it. This film reduces airflow and forces the thermostat to shut off the heat before the clothes are dry. Pull out the filter and scrub it in hot water with a little laundry detergent and a stiff kitchen brush. Also check the outside dryer vent for any lint that may have built up there.
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Icemaker Repair TipsFamily Handyman

Icemaker Repair Tips

First, locate the saddle valve that's clamped to the water supply and turn it off and on a few times to break up mineral buildup. Next, unplug the refrigerator and remove the icemaker to see if the water inlet at the back of the refrigerator is plugged with ice (heat it with a hair dryer if it is). If the water supply isn't blocked and the refrigerator is older, it's time to replace the icemaker. Locate the model number on the refrigerator wall just inside the door. Buy a new icemaker at an appliance store or online. Unplug the refrigerator and turn the water off. Remove the old icemaker and disconnect the wiring. Plug the new icemaker in, and screw it to the refrigerator wall. Pull the refrigerator out from the wall, disconnect the water supply at the bottom of the refrigerator. Replace the old inlet valve. Before you push the refrigerator back, turn the water on and check for leaks. Want to avoid other costly refrigerator repairs? These six maintenance steps are the secret.