How to Prepare Your Home for the Holidays

Having guests over for the holidays can be one of the best parts of the holiday season. Whether they’re coming for just a day or staying overnight, it’s a great time to relax and bond together as a family. When you’re all together, you’ll create memories that will last long after the presents have been upwrapped.

But when you know you’ll be hosting, it can put a lot of stress on your shoulders, and it can feel like there’s a never-ending list of tasks to complete. Couple that with work and school demands, and suddenly, it can feel as if you’ll never have enough time to get everything done around your home.

As with any other home project, the earlier you start to prepare, the less work you’ll have to do all in one day. Here’s how to prepare your home for holiday guests — without losing your mind.

Shop a little earlier

When you have guests coming over, whether for one day or overnight, you can feel a little scatter-brained the closer the day comes to their arrival. You’re trying to cook, clean the house and get all your work finished before the day arrives. With all that running around, you might forget a few of those necessities that your guests need and you don’t want to be without.

Some of these extras might include:

  • Toilet paper
  • Hand soap
  • Coffee
  • Paper towels

Now you probably have these necessities right now, but do you have enough for guests? This is an easy fix. Pick up extras of these items over your next few shopping trips. You don’t want to be caught without them, and the last thing you want to worry about is running out of toilet paper when you’re guests arrive.

Declutter now

Since we’re still a few weeks out from Thanksgiving and even father from other winter holidays, now is the best time to start decluttering your home. When you start the process so far out, you can do it at your leisure and in small spurts. Maybe you clear off the kitchen counter one evening after work and then tackle your coffee table the next night.

Focus on decluttering the rooms guests will see the most: the living room, kitchen, dining room, foyer and guest bedrooms and bathrooms. Leave your bedroom and your kids’ bedrooms for another day. Take the time to go through all that mail sitting on your countertops and recycle those Amazon delivery boxes. Put away books, magazines and dishes lying around and find homes for that random clutter lying around that never seems to have a home.

Now there is always the worry that clutter will just pile back up if you start too early, and this is possible. To combat the clutter buildup, get your kids to pitch in by assigning them easy chores. Have one of them be in charge of recycling delivery boxes and another in charge of emptying the dishwasher whenever it’s full. Getting everyone in on the decluttering will help you feel less stressed and allow you to enjoy having guests, rather than dreading it.

Make living in your home simple

Part of making your guests feel welcome is making it as easy as possible for them to navigate your home, which may feel unfamiliar to them. They may be staying over for the first time, and you want them to feel comfortable at home when they’re your guest. One of the best ways to do that is to make living in your home as easy as possible for guest.

First, plug in a few nightlights and switch them on when it gets dark. If a guest needs to get up to use the bathroom at 2 a.m., he or she won’t trip down the hallway trying to find the bathroom. You can find motion-sensored nightlights that will kick on whenever someone walks by. 

In your guest bedrooms, check the ceiling fan and lights to make sure they’re working. Your guests may get warm at night and need the fan to cool down. Test it to make sure it’s working and easy to adjust from the wall. Replace any light bulbs that have burned out. Change out the sheets and add an extra blanket and pillow to the bed just in case.

In your guest bathroom, make sure the necessities are easy to reach. Place a few extra rolls of toilet paper on the back of the toilet so guests don’t have to go hunting for it. Grab a few extra towels from the linen closet and hang them in your bathroom, and if you have any travel-size shampoos and conditioners that you won’t be using, add them to your shower or bathtub. With these simple touches, guests will feel like they’ve come to a hotel rather than someone’s home.

If your guests won’t be staying in a guest bedroom, you can still make your couch or sleeper sofa feel comfy and welcoming. Using a folding screen or a rolling bookcase, you can create a little privacy for your guests. In the mornings, these can be put away easily.

With these few added touches, your guests will feel welcomed into your home.

Dress up your foyer

Whether you have guests coming for a day or a few days, your foyer is about to become one of the busiest rooms in the house. It will be the first place people see when they walk in, and it will be where they drop off their boots, hats and coats. You want to beef up this area and make it accommodating to a large group of people.

Take some time now to clear out your coat closet and make a little room. You can move some coats to another closet for now and declutter a bit as you move along. Toss out old shoes that are worn or no longer fit, and donate what’s too nice to throw away. Add some extra hangers to everyone’s coats have a place to go.

If your foyer has space for it, pick up a bench — preferably one with storage underneath it — and place it next to or near your front door. This will make it easier for guests to take off and put on shoes. Since there’s a good chance it may snow or at least rain, you want to keep wet and muddy boots confined to one space. A bench will keep them from walking into your living room to put on shoes.

You can also add coat hooks to your walls if you’re low on closet space. You can even find decorative and festive ones at your local homegoods store, so check it out and make space where you can.

Cozy-up the kitchen

Your kitchen may become one of the busiest rooms in your home. Your guests will want to hang out with you as you cook, and when guests wake up in the mornings, they’d like to have space to grab a cup off coffee and maybe a muffin. Even if you have a smaller kitchen, there are some things you can do to make it feel more open.

If you have the counter space, add a few more stools to your breakfast bar. Head to your local homegoods store and pick out a a set of barstools that go with your decor. They may not match your stools perfectly, but so long as their complementary, it shoudn’t make a difference. So long as your guests have extra sitting room, that’s what counts. In fact, having two different sets of barstools can look eclectic, so mix them together to make it look intentional.

Out of all the appliances in your home, the one that needs to be in good working order is your coffee machine. It’s the one place people with gravitate around when they wake up, so it needs to be ready to go right away. Now everyone takes their coffee a little different, so set up a little coffee corner to accommodate everyone’s tastes, including:

  • Extra cups and mugs
  • A selection of K cups, if you have a one-cup machine
  • Sugar selections
  • Small spoons

Now in the mornings, having people in your kitchen is okay, but what about midafternoon or evening when you’re trying to either prepare your meal or clean up? You don’t want people crowding around your kitchen.

Instead, pick up a bar cart and turn it into a coffee cart. Make a big pot of coffee and pour it into a pitcher. Add some cups, spoons, sugar and milk, and then roll it out into your living room. Your guests can help themselves without crowding your kitchen.

Clean with purpose

It’s inevitable: If you’re going to have guests over for the holidays, then you do need to clean your home. It’s not a task most people enjoy, but it needs to be done. If you start early and tackle jobs that can be done ahead of time, you won’t need to devote a full day to cleaning, just an hour or so here and there.

Here’s a breakdown of what needs to be done in each room:

Guestrooms

  • Vacuuming and dusting: If you don’t use these rooms often, there may not be much to vacuum. Still, go over them quickly.
  • Change sheets: Make sure you have a fresh, clean pair of sheets on the bed.
  • Remove clutter: If there’s anything laying around on the floor, pack it away in the closet. Give your guests room to make themselves at home.
  • Wipe down windows and mirrors: No streaks in this room. 

Bathrooms

  • Scrub down toilets, sinks, tubs and showers: All surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected. Nothing kills a “welcome to our home” like a dirty bathroom, so make sure you do a thorough scrubdown of all surfaces.
  • Vacuum and mop: Hair tends to pile up on bathroom floors, so run a vacuum over the floor and give it a good mop.
  • Add towels: Change out the hand towels and lay out fresh ones for the shower. When guests are ready to show, they won’t have to ask for a towel. They can step right in.

Kitchen

  • Wipe down all surfaces: Use an all-purpose cleaner to wipe down your countertops. Clean away crumbs and put away mugs and clutter laying around. Pack pens and other knicknacks away in your junk drawer and put dirty dishes in the dishwasher.
  • Clean appliances: Your stovetop and microwave could use a little TLC. Wipe them down to get rid of grease stains and crumbs. 
  • Vacuum and mop: Kitchen floors take a beating. Run the vacuum over your floors and finish up by mopping the floors. Vacuuming alone won’t pick up flood splatters that end up on the floor, so make sure you mop.

Living room

  • Declutter: Have everyone pitch in to declutter the living room. Pick up toys. Put away video game controllers. Take coffee mugs back to the kitchen and organize the magazines out on the table.
  • Dust: A quick dusting will make the room feel fresh. USe your favorite scented duster or choose a microfiber option.
  • Vacuum: A quick vacuum job will pick up dust bunnies and hair from the floor. 
  • Light a candle: Nothing feels more welcoming than a fresh scent in the room. Light a candle, burn some incense or plug in an oil infuser.

Don’t forget to get your spouse and kids to pitch in. You’re not solely responsible for cleaning your home, and your family should be helping you out. Assign everyone a few simple tasks. Younger children can dust and older ones can vacuum. You and your spouse can trade off with bathrooms and the kitchen. 

Having guests over for the holidays should be a celebration — and not a stressful one. Since there’s still time before the holidays, get started a little early and do a little at a time. When all of the work is done overtime, you won’t feel like you’re in over your head with too much to do.

Tell us: What’s your favorite part of having guests over for the holidays? We want to know, so share with us in the comments!

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