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Decorated christmas tree in the apartment, with santa bag under it

In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, little acts of carelessness often snowball into bigger blunders that can sour the sweetness of the season. And with extended family and friends, opportunities abound for mishaps caused by mischief-makers. Looking for ways to avoid holiday disasters? We’ve asked experts for their top holiday hacks for a smoother celebration this season.

Porch Pilferers

Brown paper packages tied up with string sitting forgotten on a porch could be a thief’s favorite thing. Sage Singleton, a safety specialist from SafeWise.com, recommends asking a neighbor to pick up any packages that are delivered to your home while you’re away. Another option is to mail presents to your work address.

Candle Catastrophe

If you find yourself burning the candle on both ends in preparation for family festivities, it may be easy to forget to blow out your real wicks. Keep burning candles in sight and remember to extinguish all flames before going to bed, advises Jeffrey Weldler, interior decorating expert at Vänt Wall Panels.

Consider using batteries to avoid melting wax entirely. “Replace flame burning candles with battery powered candles for safe holiday decorating and worry-free entertaining,” recommends Dale Martin, co-vice president of claims at Franklin Mutual Insurance.

Parched Pine

A dried-out tree not only litters your floor with needles but also presents a serious fire hazard. Make sure your stand fits the size of your tree to ensure an adequate reservoir of water, and refill regularly. Additionally, you can feed your tree with plant food or even aspirin. Elliot Storey of Storey’s Christmas Trees in Westbrook, Maine, mixes one or two crushed aspirins in the tree’s water to lower the pH level of the water and clear the tree’s vascular system. “You can test the tree’s dryness by giving the branch a gentle tug and see if any needles break,” says Tori Toth, lifestyle expert and founder of Stylish Stagers, Inc.

Singed Fingers

Sustaining a burn can ruin your day. “When food and family are crowding your space, make sure you turn all of the handles of the pots on your stove inward so people don’t bump into them,” suggests Sarah Brown, a home safety expert from SafeWise.com. Keep children away from the stove in general when there are hot dishes and cooks in the kitchen.

Housebreaker Hazards

The holidays are a popular time to travel, which can leave your home more vulnerable to burglary. Before you leave, don’t forget to lock your doors and windows. You may want to consider an Internet-serviced home security system. “Stop your mail service,” Weldler recommends. “An overflowing mailbox says one thing to a criminal: no one is home and the place is a good target for a robbery.” Contact your local post office as well as any regular magazine or newspaper subscriptions to put a hold on mail delivery to your home while you’re away for the holidays.

Cookie Combustion

With dishes full of food everywhere, counter space is often limited during the holidays, and it may be tempting to store extra items on the stove. However, Brown recommends setting any flammable items a safe distance away from the stove, especially when cooking. A fire extinguisher is a quick solution for stopping small kitchen fires. “But most importantly, never walk away from the kitchen while you are cooking,” says Chris Roberts, president of OmniShield, a home safety network

Kitchen Sink Clog

Like most of us, kitchen sinks often “overeat” over the holidays. If you’re not careful, clogs can form from all of the excess leftovers and cooking oils. Toth suggests choosing the garbage can over the garbage disposal to get rid of food waste after meals. A plumbing snake is also a great tool to keep on hand in case of congested pipes

Burning Tree

Once you’ve seen it, it’s pretty hard to forget the tree explosion disaster from the movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” According to Paramount Builders, Inc., a Virginia home improvement contractor, over 200 fires are caused by holiday trees each year. To avoid potential flames, be sure to position your tree a fair distance from the fireplace. Another option is to invest in a fire resistant artificial tree.

Brown recommends examining each strand of holiday lights before hanging them. Check for broken bulbs and frayed wire. “You can replace broken bulbs, but if you notice a frayed wire, buy a new strand of lights rather than risk losing your home,” says Brown. Be sure to turn off holiday lights on your tree and in your home before leaving the house. Smart lights allow you to set a timed schedule for your lights as well as operate them from your smartphone.

Smoky Hearth

“Don’t smoke out your guests when starting your fireplace,” advises Toth. A cozy fire calls for a clean chimney. Don’t sob over old soot. Call your chimney sweep in advance to charm your family and friends with a hearth that burns bright.

Don’t let holiday snafus stress you out. Stay safe this season by implementing a few of these smart solutions so you can focus on celebrating what really matters. Have you found a holiday hack that works for you? Share with your fellow Zing Blog readers in the comments section below!

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