Going on vacation means leaving your home – and all of your possessions – behind. The most effective way to safeguard your belongings is with a house sitter, but they aren’t always so easy to procure. Asking someone to give up their routine and live in your house for a week or two can be a hard sell. After all, we all like our creature comforts, and typically that means being in our home – not somebody else’s. If you’re unable to find a house sitter, consider these tips for securing your home before a vacation.

Hold Your Mail

Nothing says “We’re not home!” like a stack of uncollected mail gathering dust on your porch. Don’t make this mistake. Asking for a mail hold is incredibly easy (it can even be done online via the Post Office website), and will help ensure that your mail is both safe and secure. Doing so will also help you avoid leaving tell-tail signs that you are away on an extended trip. Remember, criminals like easy targets, and for burglars, there is no easier target than an unattended home. Why risk robbing an occupied house when the one next door is completely empty?

Shut Down and Unplug Non-Essentials

If you are going to be away for a week or more, consider unplugging all of your non-essential appliances and electronics. Items like the refrigerator and stove can remain plugged in, but television sets, stereos, computers, routers, and other miscellaneous items can and should be unplugged – not just because they continue to use electricity even when they are turned off, but because it lowers the risk of an electrical fire or short circuit.

Close Your Water Valves

To help prevent the risk of flooding, be sure to close your water valves before heading out on vacation. To do this, you can either close them individually at the source – for example, your toilets and sinks – or close the main water valve, which is often located in the basement or along the outside of the house. Doing so will help lower your utility bill by ensuring that no leaky faucets continue to drip while you’re away. It can also help prevent flooding in the unlikely event that there is a malfunction of some sort with the pipes.

Take Advantage of Home Automation Systems

Many of the things you’ll be worrying about while away – monitoring your home, making sure the doors are locked, keeping the house at a reasonable temperature, and keeping the lights on to make your home appear occupied – can easily be managed with home automation systems like those by ADT. Making use of a full suite of connected devices, including thermostats, smart locks, lights, and wireless cameras, these systems put you in control – whether you’re away at work, or across the country. Simply access key features of your home from your smartphone or tablet, and make adjustments as needed.

Enlist the Neighbors to Help

You may not be able to get a house sitter for the full duration of your trip, but you can still ask the neighbors to keep an eye on your place while you’re away. In fact, if you have a driveway and your neighbors have more cars than they can fit, you could even offer up that space to them while you’re gone. A car in the driveway is one more sign that the house is occupied, and not to be messed with. Let your trusted neighbors know that you’ll be away and ask if they’ll keep an eye out for you while you’re gone – most will be happy to. If you really trust them, you may even offer them a key, so that they can water the plants and make sure everything is safe and sound.

Clean Up Before, Not After

Nobody likes coming home to a messy house. Be sure to clean up before you depart, rather than wait until after you get back. Wash the dishes, do a load of laundry or two, get rid of any food that will spoil while you’re gone, and empty all of the trash cans in the house. You may even consider vacuuming and sweeping the floors so that everything is spick-and-span. Though it might seem like a lot to do while in the midst of packing for a trip, you will be thankful that you took the extra effort the moment you walk through the door.