25 Tips to Prepare Your Home for the Holidays

Home for the holidays? It could mean you’ll be spending the season cooking and cleaning, if you’re planning to host guests in your home. Whether you’re having house guests for the week or you’re hosting a holiday dinner, a plan for the holidays isn’t a bad place to start if you want to stay merry and bright.

As holiday host, it’s a good idea to complete your holiday checklist before your guests arrive. Holiday preparation is mostly a matter of prioritizing and completing projects in advance so you can enjoy yourself while you host. Taking a preventative approach means your household won’t start falling apart at the last minute, after your guests have arrived.

Planning holiday feasts means doing most of the work in advance so the host can enjoy the celebration. Image courtesy of Houzz.

Even if you’re not planning for guests in your home, it helps to have a holiday planning checklist if you like to bake and decorate around the house to help celebrate the holiday season. Besides, you never know when unanticipated guests might drop in for an afternoon visit or even an overnight stay. You can keep on top of entertaining this season by following these holiday tips.

1. Deal with cumulative piles of junk. Whether you stash your stuff in a dark closet or right on the kitchen counter, every household has cumulative junk, also known as clutter. If you frequently throw extra household clutter into guest rooms, closets, cabinets, or other out-of-site places, pre-cleaning the house is the best place to start preparing for the holidays by creating some extra space.

2. Finish incomplete home improvement projects. A half-painted guest room or partially installed kitchen counter can make it difficult to host guests or prepare a large meal. Now isn’t the time to put projects off until after the new year. You’ll create more room in your home by finishing up jobs and putting supplies away for the year.

3. Tackle the home repair to-do list. December isn’t the best time of year to decide to keep your new year’s resolution to renovate the kitchen or update the bathroom, but it’s a great time to catch up on minor home repairs. Try replacing old light bulbs and fixing or updating items in rooms that guests will be using.

4. Create room for extra shoes and coats. Cold weather and house guests bring extra coats, boots, hats, and mittens. Giving your guests a place to put these essentials means you won’t have to max out the coat closet or use a house guest’s bed. Remove nonessential from your entryway closet and leave empty hangers for guests. In a mudroom, add an extra rug for wet boots, a portable coat stand, and bins for organizing guests’ hats and mittens.

Clear out an entryway cubby or add an extra coat stand for guests’ outdoor attire. Entryway by Case Design/Remodeling, Inc.

5. Assess the china cabinet. Did Uncle Bob break the gravy boat last Christmas, or was it two Thanksgivings ago? It’s hard to remember which items have been lost or broken over the years, so survey your holiday dinnerware in advance and purchase new items to replace missing ones.

6. Survey the linen closet. Double check to make sure you have enough sets of sheets and towels for all your overnight guests, and that linens haven’t been damaged in storage since the last time they were used. You can freshly launder stored linens a few weeks in advance to help save time later.

7. Prepare guest beds. If you have designated guest rooms you can prepare these rooms well before guests arrive. Put fresh linens on beds, set out extra blankets, and put a box of tissues on the night stand. Make sure the alarm clock works and has been set back for daylight savings time.

Make up guest beds in advance to help save time at the last minute. Image courtesy of Kogan Builders.

8. Stock the bathrooms. Bathrooms that guests will use should be stocked with plenty of extra toilet paper, as well as extra towels, fresh bars of soap, and bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion.

9. Check your HVAC system. The start of winter is a great time to clean or replace your heater’s filter. Test your heating system to make sure it’s working properly, especially in guest rooms that you may not heat when they’re not in use.

10. Clean the chimney. Chimneys should be cleaned seasonally, especially if you want to make sure jolly old Saint Nick makes it down the hatch. If you don’t use your fireplace much, light a fire in advance to make sure the flue is working and the chimney is clear. You can even prep your holiday fire so it’s ready to light at a moment’s notice.

11. Test infrequently used appliances. Do you have a second oven that you only use on holidays, or a snow blower that hasn’t made it out of the shed yet this fall? Make sure all your infrequently used appliances and gadgets are in working order before the guests arrive.

Test your second oven before it’s time to cook the roast. Kitchen remodel by Case Remodeling of Charlotte.

12. Deep clean now, touch up later. Cleaning is one of the biggest jobs for holiday hosts. By deep cleaning the house now you’ll be getting a major jump start on holiday prep work. You can follow up with some light dusting and vacuuming the day before guests arrive.

13. Hang holiday lights early. One reason so many people hang Christmas lights over Thanksgiving weekend is because that’s when they have the time. Lights are another big job that can be crossed off the list well in advance. If you don’t have time to hang all your lights while you’re polishing off turkey sandwiches, at least get them out and, plug in the strands, and replace ones that no longer work.

14. Perfect your tree timing. Putting up a holiday tree is all about timing, which depends on the type of tree you purchase. Synthetic trees offer a reusable, low-maintenance option that won’t die if you put them up too early. If you cut a tree yourself you can put it up several weeks in advance and it will last until the new year. Many tree lot trees have already been cut for a number of weeks. The best time to buy these is one to two weeks before Christmas, if you don’t want to lose all the needles before the holiday.

15. Decorate all the way. Depending on the extent of your holiday decorating, it’s a project that can take an entire weekend or longer. Try decorating a little bit here and there each morning or evening to spread out the fun and break it into several smaller jobs.

An eye-catching arrangement like this one takes only a few minutes to throw together. Image courtesy of Martha Stewart. 

16. Decorate with gifts, food, and children’s artwork. Instead of shopping for lots of holiday decorations, let your friends and family do the work for you. As friends bring gifts, cards arrive in the mail, and kids bring home holiday projects from school, arrange these items artistically around your home among a few tree trimmings, in place of commercial decorations.

17. Improve your lighting. Overnight house guests are unfamiliar with your space and may need extra lighting around the house to help with trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Install night lights in guest rooms, bathrooms, and hallways. Add reading lamps to guest room nightstands. Place holiday candles around dark areas in shared spaces to help decorate and improve lighting at the same time.

18. Prepare your dinner table arrangement in advance. Homes with a separate dining table can arrange a centerpiece and partially set the holiday table one to two weeks in advance. Your family can enjoy the table arrangement longer and save time at the last minute too. This is also a good time to polish silver and wine glasses.

Get the most out of your holiday dinner table by arranging the settings in advance. Photo courtesy of Houzz.

19. Clean out the fridge. Early December is a good time to do some much-needed fridge purging by throwing out rogue turkey day leftovers and other lost items to help make room for the next round of holiday goodies.

20. Clear your counter. Regardless of your kitchen’s size, you’re going to need all the prep space you can get out of your counter, especially if you’ll have little elves helping out. This is a good time to put away kitchen knickknacks and counter décor for the year. Try decorating the kitchen with holiday cards, artwork, and snack trays to save space.

The counters in the Case Remodeling of Charlotte kitchen remodel have been cleared of all but the essentials.

21. Grocery shop for dry goods now. Instead of a giant shopping trip right before guests arrive, survey your planned menu and pantry now and make a grocery run for dry goods only. Stocking up on flour, sugar, spices, and dry and canned goods will save precious time later.

22. Cook in advance. Review your holiday dinner menu to see which items you may be able to prepare in advance. Items such as cranberry sauce, breads, and some casseroles can be prepared ahead of time and frozen until they’re needed. Other dishes can be partially prepared in advance to save time later. And don’t forget to let your guests add some of their holiday favorites to the spread to take some of the load off you.

23. Prepare a cleanup plan. A cleanup plan helps the host enjoy the occasion after dinner. Depending on the size of your kitchen, you may want to create a rinsing and stacking area for dishes while they wait in line for the dishwasher, or a series of bins for sorting and soaking dishes.

24. Create a music mix. Don’t spend the evening glued to the stereo trying to find appropriate holiday music. Create an MP3 playlist from your collection of holiday tunes, which can be reused in years to come.

25. Sit back and relax. You’ve worked hard with all your planning, prepping, and delegating. Now it’s time to sit back, survey your work, and sip on a mug of hard-earned eggnog.

What is on your holiday prep list? Better yet, we’d love to hear your funniest holiday house guest disaster tale!

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