12 Days of Safe Holiday Decorating: How to Avoid Decor Disasters This Season

Would any holiday comedy be complete without at least one decorating mishap? Whether it’s a scene showing Dad falling off the roof while hanging lights or Mom plugging too many lights into one electrical socket causing sparks to fly, safety isn’t exactly a staple in these films.

Accidents might be funny on-screen, but the last thing you need to add to your holiday to-do list is a trip to the emergency room or a call to the fire department. In order to survive this holiday season without any scrapes or bruises on you or your home, follow these 12 tips to get into the holiday spirit, safely.

  1. A partridge in a well-watered tree: If you love the smell of a live tree in your home, keeping your tree watered is a must. A healthy, hydrated tree will be less flammable in the case of a string light breaking. Also be sure to keep any greenery away from heat sources, such as fireplaces or radiators.
  2. Fake it ‘til you make it: Maybe a live tree isn’t the best option for you, and you prefer to buy artificial. Although you won’t have to worry about keeping it hydrated, do be sure that it’s labeled “fire resistant,” just to be safe.
  3. Three is not a crowd: Your decorating team should include you, your ladder and someone securing the ladder for you. When you’re hanging decor out of reach, make sure the ladder is sturdily grounded and your partner has a good grip.
  4. Check your cords: Not your caroling chords, but your extension cords. Use heavy-duty extension cords, and only use outdoor-use cords outside the home. When setting up your lights, don’t plug in more than three sets of standard cords to one extension to avoid overloading.
  5. Not just the stockings should be hung with care: Prevent electrical damage by avoiding nails or tacks when hanging lights. Instead, opt for hooks or insulated staples indoors, and clips to safely attach lights to the house outdoors.
  6. Rearrange those lights: Indoor lights should be kept away from curtains, furniture and carpeting.
  7. Turn it off before you turn in: Power down any lights indoors before you go to bed or leave your home, and use a timer for outdoor lights.
  8. Careful with those candles: Provide candles with a sturdy base to prevent tipping, and never leave a lit candle unattended.
  9. Reduce, reuse and recycle that paper: Instead of burning wrapping paper in the fireplace, which can cause a chimney fire or give off toxic fumes, either recycle or reuse it. Of course, if you do choose to reuse it, that means no ripping that paper to shreds come present-opening time!
  10. Arrange ornaments the smart way: Place fragile ornaments higher up and unbreakable ornaments closer to the ground. For any ornaments that plug into a bulb to light up or spin, use no more than two per strand, or check the manufacturer’s directions.
  11. Purge poisonous plants: Although poinsettias are beautiful and festive, they are also toxic when consumed, so keep them out of reach of pets and children. Another option is to go artificial and skip the real ones altogether.
  12. Speaking of kids and pets: Try to avoid any decorations that look like candy or food, since these can be easily mistaken for the real thing. You don’t want to end up with a glass ornament in a little one’s mouth because it looked like a tasty snack. (We are speaking from experience here.)

You’ll find more holiday safety tips at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Whether this season fills you with holiday cheer or holiday fear, at least home safety will be something you can check off your list. Maybe check it twice, just in case though.

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