Dear Readers: Some parts of the country are getting into COLDER WEATHER. Prepping your home for the upcoming winter is important, especially in areas with extreme weather. It not only can help reduce your energy bill, but also prolong the life of your house. Here are some hints to help you:

* Check doors and windows for drafts. Replace weatherstripping if needed. Be sure to check electrical outlets, too. Seal if they’re letting in cold air.

* Cover pipes where they are exposed to the elements.

* Have the chimney cleaned and inspected. Remember to keep the vent closed when not in use to keep cold air out.

* Inspect the roof and exterior of your home for loose shingles, cracks or other repairs that need to be made.

* Have a professional inspect your heating system to make sure it is working properly.

-- Heloise


Dear Heloise: I keep a small bottle of dish soap by the sink because I hand-wash my pots and pans. Recently, I squirted a few drops of soap into the empty sink and used my plastic pot scrubber to wash the sink. After rinsing, my sink looked as clean and shiny as my pots, and it was a lot easier than getting out the specialized sink cleaner and sponge. (Plus, it rinsed a lot easier than some sink-cleaning products.) -- B.P. in Texas


Dear Heloise: My husband and I keep a couple of nut picks in the car for cleaning our shoes after we take a walk in the park. The park we favor has a lot of tiny, rough stones that catch in the treads of our shoes. The nut picks are a great way to get all of these stones out of our shoes so that they do not damage our floors when we get home.

Another hint is to make sliding glass doors run more smoothly: run an old white candle on the runner. This waxes it without making it gummy or leaving any discoloration behind. -- Cecilia B., via e-mail


Dear Heloise: When we were moving to a new home, I discovered a simple way to keep track of household goods, particularly in the kitchen: I emptied each drawer into a separate shoe-box-size, clear plastic bin. The plastic bins were then stacked into moving boxes. For unopened boxed food and even canned goods, I used larger plastic bins and taped them shut. This made unpacking a snap. -- Patricia P., The Woodlands, Tex.


Dear Heloise: I save the tiny plastic cups that salsa comes in from restaurants and use them to dispense my father’s morning and nighttime meds. Dad can lift the cup and pour all the pills right into his mouth without dropping one. -- Rachel in San Antonio

I, too, save the little cups and use them for all kinds of things, from salad dressing for dipping veggies in to ketchup for french fries. -- Heloise

Heloise’s column appears six days a week at Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, or e-mail it to

, King Features Syndicate