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Holiday decorating can increase stress, hospital visits

Christmastime is a season of giving often delivered in a big box of stress.

While I’d like to stamp that package “return to sender,” I’m afraid the U.S. Postal Service has its own problems — I mean the term, “going postal” didn’t come from a delivery option.

Holiday decorating comes with a unique set of hazards and stressors. What should be moments filled with merriment often turn into meltdowns — with us unraveling instead of the knotted ball of 100-count lights. Even worse, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission website, last year “about 18,100 people were treated in emergency rooms due to holiday decorating-related injuries.”

The challenge with seasonal decorations is they need to stay up longer than for a night (like party streamers), without damaging surfaces, yet be easily removed.

With these factors and safety in mind, I’ve created a list of decorating tips to help make Christmas decorating a pain-free process.

Safety first: Nothing takes the fun out of the holidays, like a 911 call. Ladder falls are a major injury risk. The Consumer Product Safety Commission states, “On average, there are about 200 decorating-related injuries each day during the holiday season, with the majority of the incidents involving falls.”

It’s worth checking out ladder safety tips from the OSHA.gov. It features advice like, “Always maintain a three-point (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) contact on the ladder when climbing.”

Fire prevention: Boulder City’s firefighter/paramedic and public education liaison, Brian Shea, explains that a major danger with live trees is forgetting to water them. “A dry tree can catch fire from things like a hot bulb, frayed electric wire, or glass ornament in the sun.” He recommends water be checked and refilled regularly. He also suggests plugging into a GFCI protected outlet or GFCI extension cord.

Regarding deep fryers, Shea warns, “Make sure the turkey is totally thawed … and only fry outdoors with a kitchen-rated fire extinguisher on hand.”

Light logic: Always test lights before hanging them. Check to see if there are any cracks or tears in the cord. Never connect different types of lights together on the same circuit or outlet (i.e. LEDs with incandescent). Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on how many strings may be safely connected.

Hang where already hung: Take down wall art, framed photos, mirrors, etc., and hang Christmas decorations in their place. The hooks are already there, secured and perfectly positioned. Temporarily store what you remove in the boxes where you keep your holiday decorations.

Adorn focal points: The dining room chandelier, the mirror over the fireplace, the center piece on your entry table — all are perfect places to hang bulbs, garland, holiday cards, pine cones, etc. They’re already focal points in the room, so decorating them automatically works in the space.

Command products: This brand makes a fleet of hangers that are designed for various objects and weight capacities, plus they’re easy to remove and damage-free. I especially love their gutter clips for lights and door hooks for wreaths.

Twist ties, zip ties and paper clips: I use these types of ties for things like wrangling loose cords together or strapping down garland to a wrought iron railing. As-is or unfolded, paper clips are a quick fix for hanging things like ornaments, lights and garland.

OOK hanging hardware: This hanging hardware uses small solid steel nails to secure into walls, but they leave a pin-size hole that can easily be filled in with a dab of paint.

Monochromatic decorating: Choose a space, pick one color scheme and have at it. It’s a fun project to get the whole family involved. With a can of paint and spray paint, color pine cones, tree branches, baskets, figurines, vases, etc., all the same color. All white works especially well for a frosted wintery theme. Of course, follow paint manufacturer safety instructions.

Wishing you and yours a happy and safe holiday season.

Norma Vally is a seasoned veteran of home improvement; her career includes four seasons as host of Discovery Home Channel’s Emmy-nominated series “Toolbelt Diva.” A columnist and author, Vally splits her time in Southern Nevada, Los Angeles and New York City. Follow her on Facebook at Norma Vally “Toolbelt Diva” and visit her at www.NormaVally.com. Email Norma@NormaVally.com.

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