Leaving town for a holiday celebration? Make this list (and check it twice!) to guarantee a stress-free return.
Home Tips: Get Organized Before You Go
Leaving town for a holiday celebration? Make this list (and check it twice!) to guarantee a stress-free return.
| Credit: Laurey W. Glenn / Styling Leigh Anne Montgomery

In the rush to pack bags for a road trip, don't forget to take care of things at home. If you don't have a house sitter, here is a handy checklist of things to leave on, turn off, turn on, clean out, and unplug.

  • Clean out the refrigerator. Throw out anything that will go bad, such as dairy products and produce.
  • Take out the trash. There's nothing worse than coming home to a smelly trash can. Empty it right before you head out.
  • Set light timers. Plug-in timers can be found at home-improvement stores. Install them on a few lamps throughout the house, and set each to go on and off at a different time.
  • Adjust the thermostat. Turn it to about 65 degrees in winter.
  • Unplug appliances. Unplug computers, televisions, radios, and other appliances. Green thought: Do this when you are home as well. Many appliances draw energy even when they are turned off.
  • Give keys to a neighbor. Have a trusted friend or neighbor keep an eye on your house. Ask him or her to walk through the house every couple of days so plumbing or other emergencies don't go unnoticed.

Avoid Loads of Mail
A pile of newspapers by the front door and an overflowing mailbox send a clear message that the house is empty. If you don't have anyone to collect mail and newspapers while you are gone, suspend delivery of these items. Go online to www.usps.com to suspend mail delivery. They will hold mail for up to 30 days. (Online mail suspension is limited to certain zip codes so you may have to visit your local post office in person.)

Create a Clever Key Chain
Turn a luggage tag into a handy and informative key chain for a house sitter or neighbor. Print a list of essential emergency contacts, and slip it into the tag. Put cap covers on your keys before sliding them onto the luggage tag ring. Use different colors to identify keys for the front door, back door, or elsewhere. Include the color code on the emergency contact list.

Hire a House Sitter
If you will be gone more than a few days, consider hiring a house sitter. Ask friends or coworkers for references. What you pay will depend on where you live and how much you ask the sitter to do. Expect to pay $20 to $30 a day. You'll owe a bit more if you have pets.