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Turning Mantels Into Seasonal Showcases

Do you get itching to decorate your mantel every year for the holidays - be it Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years? Well, if so, you're not alone. I'll go for a long time leaving my mantel alone, and then it seems like every fall I get the urge to do something different. So here are some tips you might want to consider for your holiday decorating efforts.


  • Pull out your candleholders and place an assortment of candles on the mantel. Or a few good floral picks placed here and there can make a big difference.
  • Add a large vase with greenery.
  • For each holiday, change out the floral picks to different colors.
  • Holly is a great choice for Christmas. Maple leaves are great choices for Thanksgiving.


  • Look for a seasonal piece of artwork.
  • Lean it against the wall on the mantel.
  • Overlap one end with other accessories.
  • Vary the different heights.
  • Add an ivy topiary or potted fern on the other side for balance.
  • Or try a jar with faux fruit or vegetables or berries.


  • Adding layers is always interesting.
  • Put taller pieces at the back and overlap when necessary.
  • Lean a decorative tray against the wall.
  • Add creative pots with berries or fruit or greenery or decorative balls.
  • Add some elegant candlesticks with tall tapered candles.
  • Be sure to use different heights and arrange in odd numbers.


  • Add rustic items or refined, exquisite items - but go one direction or the other.
  • Add cherubs or other garden statues.
  • Add an aged pot with patina.
  • Add a silver tray at the back to reflect what's in front.
  • Add small tree branches and a string of lights.
  • Add Christmas tree decorations or crafts your children have made.

Organize Sideboards for the Holidays

Organizing your sideboard (buffet) for the holidays is another good idea and easy to do. A sideboard is usually a piece of furniture with shallow drawers over cupboards with a flat surface on top. Often located in a dining room, it can be used for assembly of food dishes when entertaining. But it's also a great place to feature your holiday decorations. Here are some quick tips to help you get ready.

  • Remove everything from on top.
  • Give away what you no longer want.
  • Replace any items missing or damaged.
  • Vacuum and wipe down interior.
  • Categorize items to be stored.
  • Reinforce wobbly shelves with brackets.
  • Line inside of drawers and shelves in cupboards.
  • Measure inside before going shopping.
  • Clean and polish items before storing again.
  • Keep stacks of china short. Use risers to separate and lift items at the back.
  • Use quilted storage cases for fine china.
  • Use plate carriers for frequently used dinnerware.
  • Place felt dividers between plates for extra protection.
  • Store sterling and silver-plate flatware in anti-tarnish cloth. You can buy by the bag, sleeve or yard.
  • Use stackable utensil trays if short on space.
  • Wrap flatware in anti-tarnish cloth before storing.
  • For best flatware, place in shallow drawers lined with anti-tarnish cloth. Add box of chalk to absorb moisture.
  • Store glasses upright in widely spaced rows on nonskid liner.
  • Use overhead stemware rack for wine glasses.
  • Place trays, platters or other flat items on shelves.
  • Place cocktail napkins and napkin rings together, neatly folded.
  • Roll tablecloths around cardboard tubing (from empty wrapping paper). Fold lengthwise first.
  • Roll table runners on paper towel tubes. This reduces wrinkling.
  • Use lazy Susans to store infrequently used items (pitchers, teapots, etc.)
  • Use plate stands for large trays and platters and store at back of shelves.
  • Install expandable cafe curtain tension rods (at top and bottom) to keep plates from falling forward (if too big for stands).
  • Use plate stands for smaller items stored in front of platters.
  • Keep one drawer reserved for miscellaneous items: bottle openers, floral frogs and coasters. Use adjustable drawer organizers.
  • Keep another drawer reserved for candles, matches, candle holders.
  • Store loose tapers in paper towel tubes wrapped in decorative paper.

Clearing Out Your Closets

Wouldn't you just love a closet like this? With a little time and effort you can dramatically improve on the looks and organization of your closets. It's not as hard as you might think. One of the tricks is to take advantage of every bit of space, both horizontally and vertically. You can even purchase do-it-yourself organizers as shown here that maximize space. With a little effort, you'd be amazed at the results you can get. NOTE:

  • We tend to wear only 10-20% of the clothes we own. So remove all pieces you haven't worn in the last 6 months to a year.
  • Pack away all spring and summer clothes.
  • Ask yourself, "Do I actually wear this?" If not, don't put in your closet.
  • Put all unused clothes in large boxes. Sell in a garage or yard sale. Donate what doesn't sell to charity.
  • Plan your sale around the 1st and 15th when most people get paid. Weekends are best.
  • List start and end hours in your ad, but be prepared for early visitors. People will show up as much as 2 hours early.
  • If you don't want the labor, sell your items online at eBay or Craig's list or other websites. Add extra for shipping and insurance.
  • Sell as individual items or group like kinds together in a bundle.
  • Partner with other dwellers on your street. Get their feedback on pricing.
  • Create a YUNK (you never know) box for items you're not ready to let go of yet.
  • Donate items to a school, club or church yard sale as a fund raiser. Take a tax deduction for what you donate.

De-Stinking Your Refrigerator

There are few household jobs that I dislike as much as cleaning out the refrigerator. I guess it's because it takes such a long time to do or that I don't look forward to seeing messes left by spilled food, leaky containers or forgotten stored food in containers way in the back. Yuck. But it's one of those chores that has to be done eventually. So the sooner the better.

If you've ever had your fridge off for some time during a power outage, then you know all about refrigerator stink (odor). The smell from spoiled food can remain after the items are removed. So here are some tips that could be very useful as you tackle this problem.

  • Unplug refrigerator.
  • Remove all food and removable parts.
  • Wash interior with 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda in 1 quart warm water. Rinse and wipe dry.
  • Leave door open and let refrigerator air out. Direct a fan toward the inside.
  • Wash removable shelves and other parts in warm detergent solution.
  • Don't put glass or plastic parts in hot water.
  • Clean freezer compartment using appliance manual instructions.
  • If you've misplaced manual, you can usually download one from manufacturer's website.
  • If odor persists, place baking soda in shallow pans to absorb odors. Leave door open and refrigerator unplugged.
  • Spread activated carbon (activated charcoal) in shallow pans. Turn refrigerator on low and operate for a few days until odor is absorbed.
  • Activated carbon is available at aquarium stores or pet stores.
  • Or try it with clean cat litter.
  • As a last resort, buy a commercial odor remover and follow its instructions.
  • If odor still exists, it has probably penetrated the insulation. Retire the fridge and buy a new one.
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