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How to Keep Your Home and Valuables Safe When You Are Away

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Whether you are away for a few hours, days or weeks, there are some basic steps you can take to safeguard your home. Burglars often watch homes to see when people are or aren’t there and plan to make their moves accordingly. It doesn’t take much, or long, for someone to enter your home and grab your most prized possessions.

It’s amazing how many people have home security systems and yet never seem to use them. It is essential that you turn yours on even if you’re just running to the store to pick up a container of milk. Keep all your doors and windows locked when you are not there as well.

According to safeguardtheworld.com: “There are over 2,000,000 home burglaries are reported each year in the United States, and 30 % of these happen through an open or unlocked window or door. Nearly 66 % of all burglaries are residential break-ins. Renters are just as likely to be the victims of property crime as homeowners. It is important to note that the highest percentage of burglaries occur during the summer months. Homes without security systems are up to 300% more likely to be broken into. According to the FBI a home burglary happens every 13 seconds and most of these break-ins take place during the day when people are at work.”

Every 13 seconds a home intrusion is committed and 1 out of 3 residential assaults are a result of a burglary. 85 % of these burglaries are performed by “non professionals” who are usually males under the age of 25 seeking to feed a drug habit and these perpetrators are the most dangerous.  These thieves look for easy access, through unlocked doors or windows and the type of tools used to break in are usually simple; a screwdriver, pliers, pries bars, and small hammers. These thieves are looking for small and expensive items that can quickly be sold for cash. Their favorite items to steal include, but are not limited to:  cash, jewelry, laptops, guns, digital cameras, and small electronics such as iPods and iPhones.

Thieves will select a home based on a very simple selection process. They want unoccupied homes with easy access; this can be a window or an unlocked door or a door that is easily broken into. Thieves also want the greatest amount of cover and the simplest best escape routes.  Homeowners often make this selection process easy for thieves by failing to take simplest precautions.  If you have an alarm system, use it. If not, you might want to consider purchasing one.

It is crucial not to let others think your house is sitting vacant for any significant amount of time. If you don’t already have timers for your lights, purchase a few. You do not want to leave the house and leave all your lights on. First, this is a terrible waste of natural energy but thieves will notice if the lights do not go on and off. Place various lamps on timers set for different times so that the lights will go on and off at various intervals.  You may want to have a radio or television on a timer as well. Noise coming from a home is a good thing. On the same note, turn down your telephone’s ringer so that no one will hear the phone go unanswered. And while we are on the subject of telephones never leave a message on your machine indicating that you are on vacation. You may want to have your calls forwarded to a cell number that you can access.

More steps to help keep your home looking lived-in is to have hold your mail. A quick visit to the post office is all it takes. You can also have your mail held on-line, providing you give the post office enough advanced warning. Hold all newspaper deliveries as well as dry cleaning if you have that delivered as well.

If you use a local service do not stop them from coming to take care of your property. Trimmed hedges keep windows in plain view and are less tempting to a potential thief. Manicured lawns make it seem as though you are home maintaining your own property. If you are away and do not have a landscaping service, you may want to employ a local teenager to come and mow your lawn for you. Likewise if it is wintertime and you are away and aware that a large snow storm is headed your way, you will want to make sure that someone will be able to plow your driveway. Install outside lighting with motion sensors that will automatically turn on when someone approaches the property and keep the outside of your home lit as much as you possibly can.

Do a last minute check to ensure that all of your doors and windows are locked and dead bolted. Do not forget about screened-in porches, basement and garage points of entry. Check the batteries on your smoke detectors and unplug all non-essential items. Walk around your home and unplug everything you will not use including clocks, toaster ovens, printers, stereo systems, video and gaming units, and most especially any and all computers, laptops, televisions and cable boxes. Loss of power and electrical surges can irreparably damage these expensive items.

If it is wintertime, do turn the heat down, but do not turn it off as doing so may result in burst pipes which are both a major inconvenience as well as a major expense.

You should really try to get in the habit of always keeping your car in your garage. Many of us use our garages for extra storage space and many of these garages are quite full leaving no room for your car. It would be worth it to clear out your garage space for your car. A potential thief may notice that a car that is almost always in the driveway is suddenly gone for a few days. It is also imperative that you lock your garage door. You garage door should have a locking mechanism at the bottom. There are universal remotes that a thief could use to open yours.

If you have pets you may want to hire a house sitter instead of putting them in a kennel. And even homeowners that do not have pets may feel safer with a house sitter.

If you do not have or want a house sitter, notify a trusting neighbor and friend that you will be away and ask them kindly to check in on your home from time to time. You may also want to notify the police who may also drive by your home from time to time during your absence. You may also want to notify your alarm company as well.

As tempting as it may be to tell others that you are luxuriating in the lap of paradise, stay off of social media. Keep your travel plans quiet and away from any public arena. While it is fun to post pictures of crystal blue waters, pink sandy beaches and colorful cocktails being sipped in the sunset, save these photos to be uploaded after your return. This applies to all avenues of social media including but not limited to blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Finally, keep your valuables tucked away and hidden from view. You don’t want a potential thief to glance in a window and see televisions, gaming devices and laptops that can quickly be taken from your home. You may want to invest in a home safe. (Read my article on home safes here.)

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Companies such as West Elm and CB2 have developed a whole range of apartment-size sofas and seating for small-space dwellers, and for good reason: The sofa is usually the most space-consuming furniture piece in a home. Opt for sofas that have a shallower depth, 37 inches or less. Skip oversized, rolled arms — which can waste a foot or more of floor space — and pick a modern, streamlined style with thinner arms. Less arm space also means more seating; in fact, an armless sofa or a one-armed chaise is the ultimate space-saving seating solution.

Now you’re ready to give your small living space a personal touch. Adding some color, texture and interest to your basics will keep your apartment from looking like a furniture showroom. Layer textiles such as pillows and throws on your seating. Choose 20- or 22-inch-square pillows that can double as floor cushions. Add wall canvases and decor in bold tones. Finally, the right area rug will warm up your space while adding color and pattern. Below are some of our favorite accent pieces.

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