Going camping or cottaging for a week or two is a summer tradition for many families. If you’re lucky, you can go for more than a couple of weeks. Lazing about, relaxing, swimming, sunning, barbecuing, ahh.

But wait a minute. Before you get too comfortable, did you remember to cancel the newspaper or is a pile of newsprint blowing all over your yard at home? Is your mailbox stuffed to overflowing while you cavort at some lovely northern lake? Is your normally well-kept city lawn starting to look like waist-high prairie grasses waving in the wind?

If so, consider this: Everybody knows you’re not at home. And this is like an invitation to those who would be tempted to help themselves to whatever might be of interest in your home.

The trick is, of course, to make it look like you are at home when you are not. Cancel your papers, and ask a neighbour to pick up mail and flyers for you. The last thing you want is papers lying around your door practically broadcasting your absence. An unmowed lawn can also give you away, so arrange for someone to cut it if you’re gone away more than a week.

Use timers on lights, and set different times in different rooms. Leave curtains open to avoid that “left town” look. Turn down or turn off telephone ringers that can deliver a “not home” message to anybody who hears it from outside. Timers on TVs or radios can help create an illusion of someone being at home. Radio talk shows can be effective at creating the sound of a conversation in a house.

Keep a car parked in the driveway, or ask a relative or a friend who lives nearby if they could leave their car parked in your driveway while you’re gone. Another way to create the illusion of “being home” is to have your neighbour (and you’d better be very nice to them from now on) take your trash or recyclables to the curb on garbage pickup day and remove it in the evening. (This is, providing your city workers are not on strike.)

Ask family or good friends who live close to visit periodically, water the plants, check the house and just take a look-around.

Also tell a trusted neighbour that you’ll be going away and for how long. Tell them about any planned visitors to your house (such as your walk-around relatives or friends) during your absence. Give them your number while you’re away in case of an emergency. Giving them a key might not be a bad idea either, in case they need to get into the house to check, for instance, a fire alarm that is sounding.

While these kinds of precautions will create a lived-in look, other things are just security-minded reminders. Thieves, like the rest of us, are attracted to easy jobs. It’s worth the trouble to make their work more difficult — maybe they’ll just pass. When you go away, make sure windows are locked, and use a wooden strip in sliding tracks for extra security. Double check that doors are locked, preferably using deadbolt locks. And since garages sometimes offer easy access into a home, make sure you garage door is locked and secure.

Lastly, you might consider home alarm systems, as they make your home a less likely target for thieves. Plus some insurance companies offer a discount on property insurance if you install a monitored system.

And once you’ve secured the home base, you can truly relax and enjoy that well-deserved vacation away from home.

– Sylvia Putz is a journalist with an interest in decor and design. She’s written for the TV show Arresting Design; sputz@arrestingdesign.com.

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