Simple ways to organize your home before holiday guests arrive
Plan now, save time later
Taking a few minutes to plan can save you time and stress later. Start with a list of rooms that are likely to be used by guests: kitchen, living room, dining room, bathrooms, etc. List the key chores for each room. Keep the task list simple; you can save the big cleanup for after the holidays. Next, look for chores you can assign to family members. Finish your list by highlighting chores that need to be done before guests arrive. Clean the bathrooms early; save the baking for just before the party begins.
Create a temporary storage area
Closing bedroom doors not only reduces the number of rooms you have to clean, it also provides temporary storage during the party. Move your personal coats to the bed, leaving the hangers for guests. Next, collect everyday clutter (toys, books and so on) in empty laundry baskets and store them in your room. Breakable items should be placed in a safe, visible location in the room as well. Finish by wiping down shelves and adding coasters and cocktail napkins for your guests.
Create a grab-and-go cleaning bucket
Creating a grab-and-go cleaning bucket saves time and ensures you have what you need for almost any job. Fill the bucket with the basics: glass and furniture cleaner, sponges, a feather duster, a garbage bag and gloves. Keep it simple – leave the silver polish on the shelf. Take your bucket room-to-room, cleaning as you go. Focus your efforts on the areas guests are most likely to notice or use, such as faucets, counters and sitting areas. Leave the deeper cleaning for another day.
Tune-up your appliances
Appliances get a lot of use during the holidays, particularly if you have overnight guests. Reserve time to clean out your microwave, refrigerator and coffeemaker. Remove the microwave turntable to wash it in the sink; wipe the rest of the microwave down with a damp sponge. Next, clean out the refrigerator to make room for holiday treats. Toss out expired food and unwanted condiments, wipe down the shelves and replace the water filter. If possible, tighten the refrigerator door hinges. Finally, scrub out your coffee pot and run hot water through the machine.
Don’t forget the outdoors
The front sidewalk may not be the first thing that comes to mind as you prepare for guests, but it is an important detail. To ensure guest safety, replace all outdoor light bulbs and make sure motion detectors are working properly. Check your stairs and deck for loose boards, nails and slippery carpet. Any potential hazards should either be fixed before the party or, if there isn’t time, clearly marked for guests to avoid. If there’s snow on the ground, shovel your sidewalk and driveway and use de-icer to complete the job.
Keep your pantry stocked
Keep your food pantry stocked with non-perishable treats that can be dished up at a moment’s notice. Dried cranberries, nuts, crackers, and dry (non-refrigerated) meats and cheeses can all be set out just before guests arrive. Augment with fresh fruits you can wash and serve whole, such as berries and grapes. Add coffee, tea bags, milk, juice and breakfast pastries to the shopping list for overnight guests. Extra toilet paper and hand soap should also be readily available for overnight stays.
Preparing for overnight guests
Overnight stays can add a layer of complexity to your preparations. Take stock of your available sleeping areas and bedding at least a week in advance. Also, check with overnight guests ahead of time to determine any special needs, such as dietary restrictions, allergies or sensitivities that might impact their visit. If your houseguests will include younger children, ask about childproofing. At minimum, electrical outlets should be covered and sharp or poisonous objects should be removed from easy reach. Discuss any additional requirements, (e.g., baby gates) before your guests arrive.
Give your home hotel flair
Leaving a welcome kit in your houseguest’s room will make them feel like they’ve checked into a four-star hotel. (It can also prevent last-minute trips to the pharmacy.) Include everything your guests will need during their visit; toothbrushes, fancy soap, pain reliever, mouthwash, razors, and washcloths are always welcome. Add a local-interest magazine or newspaper and a cookie or fancy chocolate for extra flair. Provide an alarm clock, water glass, coaster and reading lamp by the bed to complete the ambiance.
Throw a 'camp out' for the kids
Delight older kids and give their parents a break by creating a “camp out” area in the basement, home office, or another low-traffic area. Give them blankets and chairs to create a fort, or get out the family tent. Add sleeping bags, a couple of flashlights with fresh batteries, and some activity books with crayons and pencils to finish your “campsite.” The kids will enjoy their special space, and their parents will appreciate the privacy.
Prepare for next year
Preparing for next year when the current holiday season ends can save you money and time in the long run. Start by stocking up on steeply discounted home décor, hospitality items (plates, napkins, etc.), and color-coordinated storage tubs during end-of-year sales. Store your new and existing holiday items in the tubs and stow everything away. The colorful tubs will stand out when it comes time to get ready for next year’s event, and you won’t have to pay full retail for your party supplies.
Jacqui Kramer is a freelance writer in Seattle.