Holiday living made easy

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With so much on our plates between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the holiday season can be hectic. Fortunately, there are many ways to save time and make the holiday season more manageable.

· If you don’t have plastic clips to hang lights around windows and to the eaves of your home, inexpensive clothespins will work just as well. If you’re concerned about the color of the wooden clips, paint them holiday hues before stringing the lights.

· Put a bath mat, rug-side down and rubber-side up, beneath your Christmas tree stand. This allows you to spin the tree as you hang lights and ornaments without damaging the floor underneath. It also makes it simple to undress the tree once the season is over. Use a tree skirt to hide the mat.

· Squeeze artificial tree portions into concrete form tubes. First wrap the tree portions in twine and then slip them into the concrete sleeves. Each tube can be stowed in attic or garage rafters, freeing up precious space.

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· Use empty squirt bottles to make baking and cooking easier. Pancake and cookie batters can be squirted from the containers for less mess.

· Store one or two strings of lights in a plastic shopping bag to keep the strands from getting tangled. Hang the bags from a hook in a garage or stack them in a storage bin.

· Use plastic zip ties to attach garland and lights to bannisters. They’re easy to assemble and will not damage the bannisters.

· A paper towel holder can be screwed to the wall in a craft room to neatly hold spools of ribbon. Simply pull the length you need from the spool and cut for easy decorating.

· Mount a tree stand to a piece of wood with screws or glue. This prevents spills from reaching the floor while stabilizing the tree.

· Old maps make interesting gift wrap and are a nice change of pace from commercially produced paper or newsprint.

· Wrap duct tape or another type of sticky tape around your hand. Pat over fallen pine needles that accumulate around the tree. In hard-to-reach areas, wrap the tape around a broom or a floor sweeper.

· When traveling for the holidays, use a brightly colored suitcase or flashy tape to make your suitcase stand out from others at the airport.

· Place hardened brown sugar in a baking dish, cover it with a moist paper towel and either microwave it on high for 20-second intervals or place it in a 300 F oven for five minutes. This will soften the sugar, making it easier to use the sugar to prepare your favorite holiday cookie recipes.

· Save plastic bread ties, which can be used to make tags for the wires on certain devices. Such ties also can be used to organize decorating components and to keep your place on a roll of tape.

· Measure the inside of your picture window and construct a wooden frame to its dimensions. Staple holiday lights to the frame and then easily slip the frame in and out of place each year.

· Hang a live wreath or some boughs of evergreen in your home to give it that fresh pine scent if you have an artificial tree.

· Color-code storage containers so you can easily find holiday decorations in the attic or basement.

· Pack for a holiday excursion using a collapsible clothing storage hanger for closets. Fold clothes on each fabric shelf and then collapse it into your suitcase. When you get to your destination, unfold and hang it in a closet so all of your clothes will be at the ready.

Make the holidays even more enjoyable with a variety of timesavers and clever tips.

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