As the holidays reach an end, you might find yourself letting out a giant sight of relief. The holidays are busy, the holidays are hectic, and the holidays are often a time when we neglect our homes in an attempt to concentrate on things like shopping, cooking, and keeping the liquor key cabinet away from Grandpa Sal. To put it simply, the holidays and home maintenance don't mesh.

But, now that the holidays are over, January is a time many home owners find themselves picking up the pieces, and getting back on the home improvement track. To get started right, consider the following tips:

Take down those Christmas Lights: We know, we know: it's only January. Usually you don't take your Christmas lights down until the summer solstice nears, but this year, do it early. As nice as you may think your Christmas Lights look hanging from the eves of your roof in spring, take it from us - and your neighbors - an undecorated house is better. There is a time for holiday decorations, and months after the holidays have passed isn't it.

Return the items you got for the holidays: Whenever you open a present and utter the words, "Oh, you shouldn't have" you might be overwhelmed by kindness or you might be being literal: the holidays are filled with presents we love and presents we hate. Instead of keeping the ones you hate for a long period of time, eventually going to return them only to realize that it's too late, return your items now. Not only will this free your house from the space they are taking up, but it will also give you a chance to get something you really want instead of something you'll never use.

Take any lessons you learned from house guests: As the holidays wind up, you might find yourself a little bit happy to see your house guests head home. After all, in-laws, cousins, and grandchildren can all wreck havoc on your everyday life. While it might not be so hard to see them go, you can use their departure to apply what you learned to home improvement. Did your Aunt Sally continually complain about a leaky window in the guest room? If so, get it fixed.

Chip away: There's no way around it: if you live in cold weather, you're bound to find snow during the wintertime. Some of this snow stays for a short while, quickly melting before you can shovel, but other storms leave snow and ice stuck on your driveway for three or four months. This not only is inconvenient, but it's also dangerous. If you are unfortunate to live on the shady side of the street, and find that your walkway is a lawsuit waiting to happen, get out a shovel and start chipping away. Laying down salt and sand can help the process.

Get a jump on Spring cleaning: You just survived the holidays; the last thing you want to think about is spring cleaning. This may be the case, but while you're already in "clean-up" mode, why not just go all out and give your house a good scrubbing. Clean out the garage, fix up the basement, remove debris from window wells. Whatever your spring cleaning entails, starting now will leave you thanking yourself come April.