Living Smart: Warming up to home-inspired holiday ideas

There's no place like home for holiday inspiration. Your house can be a both a source of gift ideas and a festive seasonal beacon.

Here are some home-focused holiday suggestions:

Tools of the do-it-yourself trade

If you or someone you know lacks essential home maintenance and repair supplies, this is a great time to ask for, or give, a toolbox stocked with handy items. Beyond the most obvious - screwdrivers, a hammer and a few wrenches and pliers - here are some ideas:

- Cordless drill: An 18-volt variable speed model is a good choice.

- Ladder: For versatility, ask for one that becomes an extension ladder or can collapse into a regular stepladder.

- Retractable measuring tape: This is so handy for so many uses. (Plus, it's fun to press the button so the tape rolls noisily back in place.)

- Superglue: It's great for fixing a broken mug handle and helping with many other sticky situations.

- WD-40: Provides a quick fix for a stubborn lock or a squeaky door hinge.

Holiday illumination inspiration

If you love holiday lights but loathe installing or storing them, consider hiring help. Some pros, including landscapers and handyman companies, offer decorating as one of their services. Some companies even make it their primary focus.

In many cases, you can pay to essentially lease lights and other display items, which lets you change designs each year. Expect to spend at least $500 for this service. Holiday decorating services may be hard to book this close to the holidays, so make sure to plan ahead for next year.

When buying your own lights, consider LED options. Though more expensive than incandescent lighting, LED versions generally use 75 percent less energy and can last as long as 20 years.

Photo tricks

Holidays at home provide plenty of photo opportunities. Here are some professional tips for better pictures:

- Lighting matters. Good options include daytime window light and outdoor light in the late afternoon or early morning.

- Go beyond the pose. Don't demand that kids stand or sit perfectly still. Find a safe place for them to jump, skip, run and roll, then try to keep up with your camera or smartphone.

- Try a different angle. Crouch low for some pictures. For others, get eye level with your subject or stand on a chair.

A tip about holiday tipping

This is the time of year when many of us wonder whether to tip the people who help keep our homes in order. A general rule of thumb is that tipping is not standard for contractors such as plumbers, roofers and electricians, but it is common for housecleaners and movers. No matter what the service, however, tipping is never required and always a matter of choice. Cash and gift cards make great tip options.

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