The holiday season brings visions of tinsel, holly and an abundance of get-togethers. We look forward to the sounds and smells of the season, cookies baking in the oven, laughing and joking with family at dinners and parties. Decorating and shopping, hot chocolate and Santa visits – what could be better?
Of course, the ideal for the season is a smooth, stress-free holiday. But between the parties to attend, gifts to buy, cookies to swap, cards to mail, and guests to entertain, our reality lies somewhere between “never going to happen” and “cluttered chaos.” The guests are coming and you need a game plan, fast!
Make this the year for enjoying the season in a clean and organized home, where you’ll feel ready to relax and celebrate. You might start off far from relaxed and organized if nothing has a place and nothing is in its home. Remember how spring-cleaning dreams went down the drain when summer plans rolled in? You need to go from crazy house to cozy home, and the key is a plan that lets you divide and conquer.
First, start with the meals and menu planning. Make dinners ahead and freeze them if possible. Pulling out a full frozen meal with save you last-minute trips to the grocery store and time in front of the stove and oven. When hosting dinner parties, reach out to guests and ask them to pitch in potluck-style, or better yet, have the dinner catered. Call in help from some local bakeries to have delicious sweets on hand (great for tea-time, too!).
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Second, with the fast approach of overnight guests, you should start with a deep clean of the guest room and bathroom. Be sure to vacuum, dust and clear any cobwebs. Guest rooms are usually left untouched for months on end; you will be amazed at the dust that can settle in the meantime.
Remove your own clothes and items from the closet and store them in the garage or attic for the small amount of time that guests will be over. If you don’t have attic space, then move the items over to one side. Take this opportunity to clear out some of that extra clutter that has been hiding for years. Purchase wooden hangers for guests. What’s the point of a clean closet if there are no hangers?
Next, add some storage. We generally use guest rooms to store mementos and extra “stuff.” Make room for your guests by adding storage with bookshelves and wall racks. Resist the urge to clutter them with your own belongings – so tempting – as to leave a few shelves open for your guests. Add a luggage rack near the end of the bed. Warm and welcoming is the goal, and they will appreciate the extra space to get comfortable.
Splurge on some new, season-appropriate sheets and bed linens. The gesture of quality will make your guests feel welcome. Their visit isn’t a burden; it’s a gift.
For a true hotel-worthy touch, set up a coffee station in a corner of the room. Some guests rise earlier than the rest of the crew. They don’t want to traipse through the house waking everyone up, especially when they don’t know where the coffee filters are. Allowing them to start their day with a cup of coffee on their own time will relieve some stress.
Add a special seasonal touch to the room. Hang a wreath over a mirror. Place a pitcher of fragrant evergreen boughs by the bed. Add a tray or basket of supplies like snacks, water bottles, guidebooks and an alarm clock. Take the time to create a list of places your guests might be interested in visiting. Think about restaurants they might like to try, and don’t forget about museums, shops and art galleries. Overnight guests are taking time from their busy schedules to spend the holiday with you and your family. You have the opportunity to make this a vacation for them, and not just a trip.
Don’t overlook about the guest bathroom. Clean the bathroom thoroughly and add a few fragrant candles. Place a backup supply of toiletries in the shower and on the counter. Be sure to wash and hang fresh towels.
The holidays will be here before you know it, and the guests will be knocking on the door. Avoid frantically searching for extra pillows and linens when the guests arrive by carving out some time each day to accomplish a task on the list. Give your overstuffed house a makeover by streamlining responsibilities and taking action now rather than later. If you start with a roadmap and stick to it, you’ll be able to greet the season of giving with a relaxed outlook and a welcoming home.
Jennifer Burnham is the owner of Pure & Simple Organizing, a professional organizing company. Check out her new blog on SouthParkMagazine.com for all things streamlining and de-cluttering!
Note: Two photos that ran in this story the November 2012 issue were credited incorrectly. The photos on pages 33 and 34 are courtesy of Ballard Designs.