DEAR HELOISE: We have discovered a great use for last year's Christmas tree. We placed it outside, as close as possible to the bird feeder. The birds used it as shelter between feedings. It also served as a prop for suet cake holders, which the birds love. Of course, here in New England we make sure the bird feeders are down no later than March 31 so as to be gone before the black bears come out of hibernation. Bears love the seeds almost as much as the birds.
-- Paul S., Middlebury, Conn.
DEAR HELOISE: In this icy-cold weather, a lot of people are unhappy about letting their faucets drip all night long. It's an increase in their water bill and in many ways, a waste of good, clean water. I always place a large pitcher under the faucet to catch the water, then use it to make my morning coffee or water my plants, etc. This way I use it rather than waste it.
-- Marcia M., Delaware, Ohio
DEAR READER: What a terrific way to conserve water. Water is such a valuable resource that we must all take care to use it wisely and you have. This was a very good hint.
DEAR HELOISE: There are any number of gift-giving occasions and people in nursing homes or assisted living enjoy receiving a gift, even a small thoughtful one. However, all too often the senior citizen in a nursing home will be given something completely useless, such as dusting powder, or some silly knickknack. Look around their room. A nice robe or slippers will get more use. Treat them to lunch or dinner, or a movie. Most of the elderly would love a day out to do shopping, have lunch and see a film when we are over the covid pandemic. Take pictures for them to remember the day.
The elderly are less interested in "things" and more interested in being remembered, being spoken to as an adult and being taken someplace new or interesting. Showing that you care is the best gift of all.
-- Alana T., Coral Springs, Fla.
DEAR HELOISE: You know those mesh bags that oranges or onions sometimes come in? I roll the mesh into a multi-layered ball and it becomes a useful "scrubby" to clean sinks or countertops and does not scratch the surfaces. It can be used multiple times before being discarded. I keep a supply beneath my sink.
-- Ellen M., Danbury, Conn.
DEAR HELOISE: Over the years, I've had a number of garage sales, and I've learned a lot about what sells and what does not, what customers like and what they don't like. Here are a few hints:
• Have everything tagged with the price you're asking. Please don't ask them to "make you an offer." Don't overprice anything and have a few free items.
• Make sure items are clean and similar items are grouped together.
• Put up signs that say, "No refunds or exchanges" and "All sales final."
• Have plenty of $1 bills and someone who never leaves the cash box unattended.
• Place a notice in the newspaper with open and closing times, address but no phone numbers.
-- Cathy J., Topeka, Kan.
Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5000; fax to (210) 435-6473; or email