Tag Archives: household

Don’t Come Home to a Stench! 8 Ways to Prepare Your Home Before Your Vacation

Getting ready for your getaway? Good for you! But first, make sure your house is ready for you to be gone. We’ve talked before about preparing to be away, with a post on five ways to make your house look occupied while you’re gonein order to deter burglars. Those tips are:


  • Tip 1: Get a house sitter
  • Tip 2: Leave a car in the driveway
  • Tip 3: Hire someone to take care of your lawn and yard
  • Tip 4: Keep the electronics going
  • Tip 5: Keep your vacation to yourself

And of course there are the obvious tips like put your mail and newspaper subscription on hold so papers aren’t piling up and screaming “this house is empty!” to interested passers by.

But there are other precautions to take before you go to besides making it look lived in, steps you can take to make sure you’re not neglecting important tasks or leaving behind a potential mess you’ll have to contend with when you get home. Definitely follow our advice to make your house look occupiedwhile you’re on vacation, but also do the following so your homecoming can be as pleasant as can be:

1) Tell a trusted neighbor you’ll be gone. If you have a house sitter lined up, make sure your neighbor knows so they’re not wondering who the stranger is. It’s also nice for your house sitter to know there is a neighbor to reach out to should something happen. If you don’t have a house sitter, you’ll want that neighbor to keep an eye on your house while you’re gone. And if you’ve arranged for lawn care or something while you’re gone, make sure that neighbor knows it’s okay for those people to be on the property!

2) Make sure the bills are caught up. I get so caught up in getting ready to get away—like trying to get ahead of work or shopping for last minute items—that I sometimes forget to keep up with the regular household duties like paying the bills. Try to be mindful of anything that will be due while you’re gone and take care of it ahead of time.

3) Clean out the fridge. Now we’re moving into the territory that drives my husband crazy. He doesn’t understand why I have to clean out the fridge before we go away. But if I don’t, we risk coming home to stinky spoiled food that will have to be thrown out anyway—leaving behind a stench! Or produce that’s gone slimy that I won’t want to touch. Or milk that has soured. Ugh! It also helps to keep the grocery shopping to a minimum ahead of time or plan to eat up leftovers or have your own episode of “Chopped” in order to use up what you can before leaving. Even if we have a house sitter, I will toss food rather than assume they’ll eat it.

4) Wash all the dishes. There are two things that can be left in the sink when we leave: a water glass and a coffee cup. Even if it’s the last thing I do before walking out the door, I’m washing dishes. Otherwise I not only have stink to come home to, but the equivalent of cement to chisel out of that bowl or pot. Is that something I want to take on after a restful get away? No!

5) Take out the trash and the recycling. Like cleaning out the fridge, emptying all garbage cans and recycling bins will cut down on possible stench when you get back. Yes, recycling too, because that trace of milk in the carton or dogfood in the can will probably stink after a few days, even if you’ve rinsed it out. If the cans need to go to the curb while you’re gone for pickup, make sure to arrange for that.

6) Run the garbage disposal. Not having a garbage disposal, I’m not sure about this one, but I have read that you should pour ½ cup of vinegar and some water into your garbage disposal and run it—again, to avoid coming home to a stinky house.

7) Do the laundry. You’ll probably come home with lots of dirty laundry, so having those laundry baskets empty before you go will be much appreciated when you come home. But dirty laundry can also hide stench in the making, which is why you want it all clean ahead of time. We’ve had that happen with only a weekend getaway, coming home to a stinky house because of a kitchen towel used to clean up who knows what that was left sitting in the basket. Ugh!

8) This last one is optional: Clean! I don’t usually have time to clean the house before we leave, but I want to, because the last thing I want to do when I come home is to tackle housework! For me, it’s like giving myself a gift to clean the house before leaving so I can ease back into the daily grind rather than jump back into. But—it’s optional.

However you prepare for your time away this summer, stay safe, be smart, and enjoy your well-earned rest!

How Safe Will You Be in Your Home During an Earthquake?

From forest fires to hurricanes, there is no doubt that the natural disasters have been hitting the U.S. hard the last few months. And now Mexico has just suffered two devastating back-to-back earthquakes. The second was a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit that Central Mexico on September 19th, the anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake that killed 10,000 people.

Although many places in the U.S. have advance warnings of earthquakes, that warning is usually only in the seconds to minutes, leaving little time to prepare. That means the best time to prepare is before an earthquake hits.

Watch out for falling objects!
Most of the danger from earthquakes comes from objects in your home falling: furniture, decor or even your family members. Falling objects can hurt or potentially kill people. However, there are steps you can take to keep you and your family safe the next time you feel anything as small as a tremor.

As you look around your home, what furniture do you see? Make sure to lift your head a bit to look at the taller objects in the room because they pose the biggest threat. Bookshelves, TV cabinets, armoires, dressers, standing lamps, refrigerators and upright freezers are all at risk of toppling over during an earthquake. Anything heavy sitting up high on top of these can be risky too, so check for stereos, computers, sturdy books, or even your TV in the entertainment center.

Redecorate for safety
Now that you’ve identified those risky furniture pieces and objects, a little redecorating could save your home or your life. Especially in the bedrooms, where something could fall while you sleep, check to make sure nothing will fall on to someone if it topples over. Move bookshelves away from the bed, or your armoire away from the doorway, so you don’t get trapped in your room. Arrange your shelves so that heavy items go towards the bottom, and lighter, less risky items go on the top shelves.

What’s hanging on your walls can pose a threat as well. Although you might not have to move anything like with rearranging the furniture, ensure that paintings, mirrors and other hanging fixtures are securely fastened. Try to keep the ceiling space above your beds clear of anything, as that can pose another sleeping threat. Closed hooks are the best bet for keeping hanging objects where you want them, and if something might pose a risk if it does fall, then move the item to another wall. Better safe than sorry, even if it messes with your aesthetic!

Safety steps that won’t irritate your interior decorator
Other ways to keep your home and family safe are less about where items go, and more about keeping objects secure. You won’t have to redecorate to take these three precautions, but you will make your home safer:

  • Make sure the water heater is strapped to the wall.
  • Install latches on cabinets to keep them closed.
  • Use museum putty to attach smaller objects to shelves.

Although earthquakes may not come to mind as a common threat to your home, natural disasters seem to be occurring more often, preventive steps can help keep you and your family safe in the event of an emergency. You can also find what to do during and after an earthquake, plus find lots of great advice and resources, on the FEMA site. And, hey, redecorating your home may make even feel cozier, if not at least safer, and give you and your family some peace of mind.

Home Security Systems Then and Now–Is It Time for an Upgrade?

We humans have always protected our homes and families. It’s innate in us, this desire to defend our property and loved ones. How we have gone about it has changed, however, and in recent years, it has changed dramatically. If you haven’t looked into home security systems lately, or you’re thinking it’s time to upgrade yours, here’s a rundown of the dramatic changes we’ve seen in home security systems in recent years…

From one job to many
Home security systems used to have one job and one job only: sound the alarm when a break-in occurred. This alarm would be audible within the home and also notify the home security provider so they could dispatch police.

Today home security systems help to protect homes and families against intruders as well as other threats such as carbon monoxide poisoning, fires and flooding.

In addition to being able to recognize these other threats, home security systems have also evolved from home security systems to home automation systems. That means homeowners can use them to regulate lighting, heating and cooling, in addition to monitoring home security.

From one trigger to many
Home security systems used to be limited in scope, recognizing that a door or window was opened and triggering the alarm.

Today’s home security systems include motion sensors, video cameras and more to enable more thorough home security. Cameras can be placed outside the home and inside, enabling more security coverage. That means garages and other outbuildings can be monitored as well.

Features such as video cameras also allow for real-time monitoring. Someone shows up at the front door while you’re at work? You can see who it is via the camera.

From onsite to remote
And you can see who is at the front door while sitting at your desk at work because today’s home security systems can be monitored and managed remotely, requiring only an Internet connection to see what is happening. In addition to the video access, this remote monitoring lets homeowners lock and unlock doors, control lighting and heating, and more, all from a computer, tablet or smartphone that is Internet-enabled.

From hardwired to wireless
Finally, another huge evolution in home security is the the switch from hardwired—requiring hours of installation time to drill holes and run wires—to wireless. Sometimes hardwired is still the right setup for some homes. However, wireless has many advantages, not the list of which is the fast installation time (no drilling required) and the fact that you can take your home security system with you when you move. (See seven advantages of wireless home security systems.)

As with everything, it seems, technology drives significant changes in how we work, live and play—and that includes in how we protect our homes and loved ones. If your home security system is old and limited in scope compared to what’s on the market today, it might be time for an upgrade.

3 Ways to Cut Household Expenses With a Home Automation System

Among those resolutions we made this year, many of us probably had financial ones, like save more money or spend less money. (According to one website, two-thirds of us made a 2017 resolution related to finances!)

If you’re one of the majority, here’s a money-saving tip for you: home automation. In the U.S., between 5% and 22% of our after-tax income goes to pay our energy bills. That’s a chunk of change!

A home automation system can help you manage your home’s energy usage to reduce the energy used and the money you pay. Here’s how…

Heating the home
With the right home security or home automation system, you can automate your thermostat to adjust settings throughout the day based on the times someone is home or the house is empty—or someone will soon be home. Or you can control it remotely. Let’s say you’re getting off work late, or the kids will be home from school early (due to one of those notorious half days), and your pre-set settings won’t work. Simply adjust the thermostat remotely from wherever you are.

On all of the other days, however, your home automation system will be sure to turn the heat down when everyone is gone for the day then turn it back up when it’s needed. So everyone is comfortable, but you’re never wasting money (or energy) on an empty house.

Lighting the home
With a home automation system, you can set up lights to turn on and off automatically, just like you can set your thermostat. And just like your thermostat, you can also turn lights on and off remotely. Maybe the kids were the last to leave, and they left all the lights a-blazin’. You’ve got it. Or maybe someone will be coming home to a dark house unless you over-ride your settings. You’ve got that too.

The beauty of a home automation system is that you’re not stuck with whatever you program the home automation system to do. It’s more like the default that will manage your heat and lights for you, but you still have the final say…even when you’re not home.

And this way, you only have lights on when you need the energy (and cost). You can also set up your lights to turn on and off to look like someone is home, in order to deter potential burglars.

Running the appliances
Although this isn’t an option with all home automation systems, some “smart” devices can be synced up to your appliances with real-time energy information, to operate your home appliances when energy is cheapest. If the middle of the night is the cheapest time to run your washing machine, for example, that’s when it will start chugging and churning!

If you’re in the market for a home security system, consider which home automation features you might want in order to lower your energy usage. Then make sure you can make the home automation system work for you and your lifestyle by customizing it to fit your family’s needs and schedule.

“Achoo!” 3 Allergens in Your Home–and How to Beat Them Back

After some very cold weather followed by some very wet weather, our neck of the woods enjoyed a couple of glorious warm and sunny days that promise spring will come again. Yes, yes it will!

Spring means we’re transitioning out of the yuck of winter weather and into the joys of summer. But it also means we are headed into a peak allergy season. To help you get a jump on keeping allergic reactions to a minimum, we offer some tips for preparing your home before the spring season starts–because being safe includes being healthy.

Decreasing allergens in the home
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergies are on the rise. They already affect as many as 30% of adults and 40% of children, and allergies make up the fifth leading cause of chronic disease in the U.S.

Allergies can be triggered by substances both outside of your home such as pollen, as well as by substances inside of your home such as mold, dust mites, and pet dander. We call the triggers allergens. While you can’t control what is outside of your home, you can be proactive about decreasing the allergens that are inside of your home by paying attention to these three allergen bad guys.

Allergen Bad Guy #1: Mold spores
Mold spores trigger allergic reactions and need to be kept to a minimum. You can’t always see where mold has developed, so be extra diligent about tracking down sources and dealing with them.

Mold likes wet, and mold like humidity. Try to keep the humidity in your home at about 50%. Keep your bathroom and kitchen extra clean, since those are the rooms with the most moisture. Use your bathroom fan after bathing. And inspect all your plumbing to make sure you don’t have any leaks or mold buildup.

Allergen Bad Guy #2: Dust mites
To help decrease mold spores and dust mites both, keep your air filters clean, both those on your furnace and your air conditioning unit, if you have one. Also keep any other filters clean, as well as vents and fans like the one over your stove and the one in your bathroom, as well as any wall heaters. If your bathroom and/or kitchen fans don’t vent to the exterior, you might want to consider redoing those.

Also be willing to get rid of what’s causing the dust in the first place. De-clutter your home. Consider pulling up carpet and using washable area rugs instead. Rethink the frou frou curtains and pillows and the knickknacks. The less surface area for dust to cling to, the less dust you’ll have.

Pay close attention to your bedroom and how you can reduce dust there, because you spend a lot of time there compared to other rooms, and the bedding alone can be a dust magnet. You might even consider investing in hyperallergenic bedding.

When cleaning, damp mop your floors in addition to vacuuming, because vacumming alone won’t get at the dust.

Allergen Bad Guy #3: Pet dander
Notice we didn’t say the pets are the bad guys? Because they most definitely are not to blame. Pets add much value to our lives, but that doesn’t mean they don’t also shed hair and skin (and the skin is the dander that triggers the allergies).

Reducing the pet dander in your home requires the same steps as reducing the mold spores and dust mites: cleaning, de-cluttering, and keeping air filters clean. In addition, your pets will need some attention too. The Humane Society recommends weekly baths for dogs and cats (yes, cats) to get rid of the dander our pets naturally shed.

Spring will come and reward us for making it through yet another winter, but it will also hit many of us hard with sneezing, runny noses and even asthma. Be proactive against the pollens by doing what you can to decrease the allergens inside your home, and maybe the allergens outside won’t hit you so hard.

Winter Weather Keeping Little Ones Inside? Prevent Injuries With Some Extra Home Safety Checks

For many of us in the U.S., February is a time of doldrums due to yucky weather and shorter days. It’s an even bigger challenge when you have little ones at home who have as much energy now as they do in July! Although my two are all grown up now, I remember well the bouncing off of the furniture and walls when it was too wet/cold/muddy/windy/snowy/etc. to go outside and play.

And all of that extra time indoors means more opportunities for accidents to happen around the home!

If your little ones are going through some winter-induced cabin fever and they’re a bit more rambunctious than usual around the home, take a quick review of your home to ensure it’s as safe as you think it is for tripping toddlers and precocious preschoolers. To help, here’s a partial list of things to consider:

Falling objects
The curiosity of kids almost guarantees they will pull something over someday. Make sure anything that’s heavy and can hurt them (like a television or stereo) is either out of reach or in some way connected to a wall or stand. Also watch out for tablecloths and runners hanging over the edges of tables within reach of little hands, and keep those electric cords connected to lamps beyond their grasp too. Think of it this way: If gravity can have an effect on it, so can your kid.

Falling children
When little ones aren’t busy causing objects to fall, they’re likely falling themselves. Some of this falling can’t be helped. The toddler learning to walk and run is going to fall; it’s part of the process. But we can minimize the injuries! Make sure area rugs aren’t trip hazards (or slip hazards!). If a child could fall into a piece of furniture like the corner of a coffee table, take steps to prevent it. It might be the coffee table goes into the garage for a few weeks until the little legs get more stable!

Also remember to use baby gates at the tops and bottoms of stairs (and they are handy for keeping little ones out of the kitchen too when you’re cooking!). Keep windows shut and locked. And if they’re just about crawling out of that crib, you’re probably ready to move them to a toddler bed. Better to make that adjustment before they start taking tumbles out and on to the floor below!

You might also want to lay down some rules about playing on and jumping on furniture. As we said above, many kids are more energetic than winter weather allows, and getting rambunctious indoors is normal. But a fall from a sofa or bed is going to be a more serious one as they have farther to fall before hitting the floor.

Inquiring minds
Although we as parents want to encourage our kids’ curiosity, we have to balance that against the dangers inherent in our homes—and takes steps to prevent those inquiring minds from getting hurt, especially when bored kids with boundless energy are housebound. And to do this, you really have to think like a child, seeing things (a.k.a. temptations) from their points of view. Even the innocuous liquid laundry packet is a danger.

As your baby becomes more mobile, or your toddler taller, or your preschooler more inquisitive, you will have to stay one step ahead at all times, keeping anything even remotely dangerous out of reach, even if that means putting a lock on the cabinet where your cleaning supplies are stored. All of this is even more important when kids are stuck inside with plenty of time on their hands for getting into mischief.

Consider every little thing they could possibly get in to, assume they will, and take action to prevent it. Period.

At our household these days, the oldest is on his own and the youngest is a senior in high school (meaning the only time she’s bouncing off the walls is when she’s in a teen aged hormone-induced temper). The only one pestering me to go outside and play despite the winter weather is the 100-pound pooch who is actually very well mannered in the house (but as energetic as a toddler!). But well do I remember those days and the occasional bruised shin or bump on the head when I didn’t keep the home as safe as I could have. So put these tips to use to keep your own little ones safe, and let’s hope for an early spring.

The Latest in Lighting—and What It Means for Homeowners

Lighting is something we tend to take for granted (until the power goes out), and therefore we don’t think much about it. Sure, we always want it available. We want the lights on when we need them and off when we don’t. And we want a variety of light options. We want different kinds of light in different rooms and settings, such as bright task lighting in the kitchen vs. soft calming light in a bedroom, and floodlights outside for security. And all of this is all basic stuff we’ve grown up with and really don’t think about.

Yet there’s actually a whole lot of innovation going on in the world of lighting that’s exciting! Sure, you’ve got your LED lights that came on the scene a few years ago (and they are now mainstream enough to have lit last year’s Super Bowl). But technology is advancing so fast that your lighting options are quickly changing, especially in the area of home security.

The start of a new year is usually a good time to look ahead to what’s coming, so we offer you a quick look at the three lighting technologies we believe to be most relevant to homeowners, now and in the near future:

Connected lighting
Called “connected lighting” or “smart lighting,” control is where it’s at. And now you can tell your lights to do all kinds of things! Technology is growing in sophistication, meaning you’ll be able to change the color of your lights to suit your mood, use sensors or settings to control lighting, even using your location data to turn lights on when you arrive home. Although much of what is touted as “connected lighting” might be gimmicky in the eyes of many homeowners, the home security benefits of this kind of connectivity are obvious, when you realize you can make your home look quite occupied even when no one is home.

Lighting as network
If you’re like me, you’re hearing about the Internet of Things a lot—I mean a lot. Like. Every. Single. Day. If you’re anticipating the continued growth of the IoT and you want your refrigerator talking to your car via the Internet (I am admittedly being facetious here), you’ll be interested to learn that lighting might be the network upon which your “things” get connected, because it provides an existing wired framework upon which to build wireless connections…which makes the mind spin with possibilities.

Home automation
Of the most interest to most homeowners, however, since it’s the most practical application of advanced lighting technology, is home automation—specifically home automation as it applies to lighting and home security. Technology keeps advancing forward in this area, offering homeowners ever more ways to reduce energy usage while protecting their homes and families. Home automation helps you save energy and provide a welcoming home in the dark of winter, but it can also deter burglars as different lights come on at different times of the day, giving the appearance of activity inside the house when you’re not home.

With the home automation featured offered by your home security company, you can set it up so lights come on—inside and outside—before you (or your kids, if they’re first) get home, which makes for a welcoming homecoming. And you won’t be locked in to whatever you setting you used: If things change and you’ll be home earlier or later, you can use your smartphone or tablet to change the setting.

Plus there’s a safety benefit to this: Scheduling outside lights to turn on as well means lighting the pathways that lead to your door. Some home automation setups let you program lights to turn on automatically when you walk into a room, or to signal you if the doorbell or phone is ringing.

I’m sure as technology keeps evolving in every area of the lighting industry, there will be all kinds of perks for homeowners, from the gimmicky like making your lights turn blue if it’s raining to the practical like better protecting your home when you’re away at work. And to keep tabs on the latter, just keep checking back here!

Trees Fall for Fall! Tips for Keeping Your Home Safe From Falling Trees and Branches

Life without trees…can you imagine how bleak that might be? Trees have so much to offer us, from shade to beauty, from fruit to feed us to protection from the wind. However, for all they offer, they can also pose a threat to homes—a very serious threat.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have a lot of trees as well as a lot of rain (leading to saturated ground) plus the occasional rip roarin’ windstorm. All of these factors lead to falling trees. In fact, falling trees are so common that everyone living in this region has probably either had a tree or huge branch fall on their house or knows someone who has. And falling trees can do more than damage property: They can kill.

Not to imply those of us living in the Pacific Northwet (as I like to call it) have a monopoly on falling trees! They can happen almost anywhere in the U.S. And that’s why autumn is a good time to assess your tree situation to ensure it’s as safe as it can be. Fall weather can be nasty enough, and winter weather is fast approaching. Any trees already vulnerable or weak should be spotted and dealt with before the rains and winds arrive in full force.

Learn what to watch for
Once you’ve invested in your home security system, you’ve put into place all of the security and safety precautions we suggest in this blog, and you’re practicing commonsense safety, you certainly don’t want to think you’re still vulnerable by looking up at a huge hemlock and realizing it could crush the southwest corner of your home. But chopping down all the trees within range of your house is not the answer.

So what’s a smart, savvy homeowner to do? Take your trees to task! OK, not really, because you can’t; they’re inanimate. You can, however, inspect those trees for signs that they pose a threat. It’s easy to take our trees for granted, noticing only when they are leafing out or dropping needles. Taking a little time to take a closer look, however, can pay home safety dividends if you learn what to look for as a warning sign that a tree might be at risk.

You’ll find good advice from a certified arborist in this article titled “How to Spot a Dangerous Tree.” The author covers tips for inspecting your trees from the ground up, starting with the root system and up into the branches. It seems there is plenty we can watch for to know the health of our trees!

Hire a professional
If you’re unsure about doing the inspection and assessment yourself, hiring a certified arborist is another way to assess the health (and therefore risk) of your tall trees. Beware the “arborist” whose only advice is to cut down a tree, however. Find a professional whose first order of business is to see about saving the tree. The International Society of Arboriculture offers a tool to help you find an arborist in your area, and you have to love the name of their website: www.treesaregood.org!

Hiring a professional means getting an informed assessment of your tree’s health. However, it also means getting the correct maintenance done (if it’s needed), or at least guidance if you’re the one doing the maintenace. A certified arborist is trained in the care and maintenance of trees, not just the cutting down of.

Granted the only sure way to prevent a tree from falling on your house is to cut it down, because Mother Nature will have her way and there are no guarantees that you can prevent her from having her way during a major windstorm or downpour. You can, however, gain some peace of mind by assessing the state of your trees and spotting problematic ones before winter weather hits.

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Customer Reviews

I feel so much better knowing my family is protected! I spoke with SafeStreets USA in the evening and a technician was able to come install the system for me then for my parents first thing the next morning. Very impressed with his knowledge and care!


We had our ADT system installed by SafeStreets USA and were really impressed with the service we received from our technician. He was very friendly and answered all of our questions on the system and how it worked. He set everything up in a couple of hours and was a real pleasure to talk with []

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