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Relegating holiday mess to a distant memory

Now that the wrapping paper has been ripped off the presents and the guests have gone home, it’s time to start thinking about the post-holiday cleanup. Whether fallen pine needles or melted wax stains, here’s how to clear it all up, pack it away and give your home a fresh start for the new year.

∎ Clean up pine needles: Pine needles clog up a regular vacuum cleaner, so unless you have a shop/canister vacuum, avoid using one. Begin by sweeping up as many of the needles as you can, then use either a sticky adhesive lint roller or a piece of duct tape wrapped around your hand to pick up the rest.

∎ Remove ashes from a fireplace: The best way to remove ashes from a fireplace is to dump wet coffee grounds on top of the ashes. The wet coffee grounds moisten the ashes so they don’t fly all over the place when you go to sweep them up. Use a small shovel to remove the dampened mixture.

∎ Remove candle wax from a tablecloth: Begin by chipping away excess wax with a butter knife, spoon or your fingernail. Lay the tablecloth on an ironing board and place a plain brown bag – without any writing on it – over the remaining wax. Apply a warm iron to the paper. The wax will adhere to the paper. Replace the wax-covered bag as needed. Continue lifting wax from the cloth until it is gone.

For colored wax stains, follow the directions above, but treat the spot with a prewash stain remover before washing.

∎ Remove watermarks on wooden furniture: The easiest way to remove a watermark is to spread about two tablespoons of mayonnaise on a paper towel. Place the paper towel, mayonnaise side down, on the watermark and press gently. Let it sit for about 15 minutes. Lift the paper towel and check the stain. If the mark is still there, repeat with more mayonnaise. When the mark is gone, gently wipe off the mayonnaise and polish the furniture as you normally would.

(Elizabeth Mayhew, a “Today” show style expert, is the author of “Flip! for Decorating.”)

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