January 07, 1995|By Dolly Merritt

Around the house

* Label all boxes that contain holiday decorations before storing. This will avoid next year's hassle of opening several cartons in order to find lights, wreaths and ornaments.

* Recycle cardboard tubes from gift wrap. Cut cylinders in about 17 1/2 -inch lengths, then slit from end to end and place on hangers. The rolls will prevent creases when hanging up clothing or linens.

* Organize this year's tax files. Buy a box of 500 business-size envelopes and label them with name of accounts. When paying bills, place receipts in marked envelopes and file alphabetically. Your financial records will be in order for next year's taxes.

* Remove tea and coffee stains from tablecloths. Rinse cloth with cold water and rub salt into the stain until it disappears. Rinse and air dry.

* Use spring-clip clothespins to hold sewing pattern pieces together. When glued to a piece of wood and hung on the wall of your foyer, clothespins can also be used as holders for mittens, scarves and hats.

* Keep kitchen sponges, cloths and plastic scrubbers clean. Run through top of automatic dishwasher every time you wash the dishes.

* Use a cake-cooling rack to store clip earrings; attach jewelry to rungs of rack and hang on a nail or peg board for easy access.

* Try cooking meatloaf in muffin tins. The individual portions will cook faster and look like company fare when drizzled with tomato sauce or gravy.

* Keep a pair of kitchen shears nearby that can be used for a variety of purposes such as cutting up chicken, slicing pizza, snipping off herbs for recipes and trimming fresh produce.

* Check battery-operated home smoke detectors at least once a month. Depress test button, if provided, or blow smoke from a candle into unit.

Replace batteries at least once a year or whenever you hear the warning signal (usually short beeps) that lets you know batteries are weak.

In the garden

* Wrap a cylinder of 1/4 -inch mesh hardware cloth around base of trees to protect bark from gnawing rodents. Cloth should cover about 2 feet of the trunk.

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