Don't Let the Kids Decorate the House

"Both of our boys took some money and over-decorated our beautiful Victorian house in downtown Portsmouth, N.H. The house is only 22 feet wide, and I think they covered the front with at least 10 strands of lights, plus an assortment of stand-up decorations.

There were these ridiculous 3-foot-tall candy canes haphazardly placed in the front yard; at least 2 deer in the garden; hanging along the porch roof were the icicle lights, which were still fairly new, but they weren't hung nicely -- they dipped and bunched as if the person putting them up was drunk; more lights scattered along the railings going down to the sidewalk, with probably two entirely different styles.

I was totally embarrassed by the mess. We were new in the area, had bought this beautiful old Victorian, and instead of honoring the splendor of the house and its architecture, it was now decorated like a tacky row house. We didn't know our neighbors well yet, and I had no idea if I should try to explain how the house got decorated."

Tina Gleisner, Portsmouth, N.H.

Don't Let This Happen to You

Aside from the fact that this sounds horrifying, all these decorations could pose a big hazard. Even the best of us get a little, er, enthusiastic with Christmas decorations, but keep these tips from the experts at Underwriters Laboratories in mind as you string those lights:

Too many holiday decorations and lights could overload outlets, extension cords or power strips. Always pay attention to the acceptable wattage.

Remember to remove the plug by reaching up and pulling it out of the socket rather than yanking on the cord. Cords should also not be placed underneath anything that is heavy nor should they be tacked to a wall to get them out of the way.

Inspect all of your electric lights and decorations for damage or wear. Cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires and loose connections may pose a fire or shock hazard.