by Donna De Palma
It takes a little planning to prepare your home for the holidays. When November blows in, our thoughts turn to making the season bright and what it takes to get our homes ready for family and friends. A smell of pine, the twinkle of Christmas lights, a full house, the warm glow of a fire, food and impromptu get-togethers are what we look forward to as the season draws near.
Be a thoughtful host and make your home inviting to family and friends by checking these simple tasks off your Christmas list in plenty of time to sit back and enjoy the holidays.
Clean out the junk
The day before guests arrive is no time to pull apart junk drawers and clean out linen closets. Declutter guest rooms and open areas of your home like your foyer, kitchen, living room, den, and dining room. Remove anything that’s unnecessary from countertops and tables.
Well before guests arrive and the festivities begin, clean out, sort and recycle mail, newspapers, magazines. Store shoes, hats, umbrellas, toys and other items that should be out of sight. Clean out your kitchen cabinets and frig and restock essentials.
Wrap up home projects
Using an upcoming holiday or party as a deadline is one way to motivate yourself to complete home repairs already underway. Hopefully you’ve timed your projects so they’re nearing completion as the holidays start to sizzle. Finish painting projects, hanging lights and refreshing accessories before mid-November.
Clean it up
Now is a great time to clean carpets and windows. The living room and dining room carpets will be front and center so freshen them up with a good cleaning.
In the kitchen, a deep cleaning of counters, sink and appliances will streamline your food prep when holiday baking and cooking go into high gear. Sharpen knives, run stemware through the dishwasher, polish silver and wipe stainless clean.
In the bath, fix leaky faucets and consider upgrading outdated accessories or bath hardware well before your guests arrive. Be sure you have enough guest bath and hand towels. Towels with a holiday theme carry the spirit of the season into the bath. Aromatic pine-scented soaps, or diffusers allow guests to feel indulged.
Make a budget
Have a game plan when it comes to budgeting for the holidays. Create a budget and a list of what you’ll need. Categorize expenses: decorating, entertaining, food, gifts. Prioritize what’s needed then buy the essentials.
If you’re going all out to throw a party, lighten up on gifts or decorating this season. If you want to splurge on decorating, throw a cocktail party instead of a dinner party and serve light
hors d’oeuvres. If it’s a dinner party you have in mind, ask invited guests to each bring a dish to pass.
Assess your supplies. Is your kitchen well-equipped? How about holiday table settings? With holiday guests and dinner parties, this is a great time to update your place settings with new flatware, dishes, or a tablecloth.
Table décor, kitchenware, glasses, serving dishes, table linens, seating and dinnerware all should be ready before the menu is set. Locate what you’ll need around the house and purchase anything else you’ll want to set a memorable holiday table. If you need additional seating now is the time to secure it.
Stock up on candles for the table. A rule of thumb: when burning candles one inch equals one hour of burn time.
Stowing holiday guests
Expecting overnight guests? A thoughtful host anticipates their guests’ needs.
Anticipate what your guests will enjoy by putting towels, toiletries, a pair of pajamas and assorted books and magazines in your guest bedroom.
Have fresh linens on the bed and place an inviting seasonal arrangement of fresh flowers nearby. An extra blanket and slippers make it feel more like home. Clear some closet space or a drawer. No one likes to live out of an overnight bag.
A reading lamp and a clock add convenience and allow your guests to relax and enjoy the time away from home.
Rummage through your garden and yard
Christmas brings two vivid colors out of the crayon box. Make your color theme of red and green natural with finds from your own yard.
Why not make your own wreath or garland this year? Fresh aromatic balsam pine, blue spruce or white pine boughs make a good base for any garland or wreath.
If you’re lucky enough to have holly in your yard, it makes for great color when tucked into a garland or wreath. Berries from winter varieties of bushes and evergreens, like frosted blue juniper berries, can be wired together to decorate wreathes or greens.
Use berries, boughs and branches on your front door, your table and sills to bring seasonal scents and color indoors.
Clear a path
Be sure walkways and your porch are free from ice and snow. Throw down salt and assign someone in your family shoveling duty during family get-togethers and holiday parties.
Add a doormat, to extend a warm holiday greeting even before you open the door. Guests are less likely to track in snow and slush.
Light the way
Light the way so outdoor walkways are well-lit and safe. Christmas lights on bushes, around an entryway or lining your house add to outdoor illumination. Use only UL approved, outdoor extension cords and multi-outlet power strips for outdoor lights.
Make this season truly bright with lanterns or luminaries leading up to your front door. Simple luminaries can be made from paper bags filled with sand and battery-operated tea lights.
Adding motion sensing lights and path lights help illuminate the walkway for those who arrive after dark.
Spruce up your entryway
Focus holiday decorations on the front door and front porch or entryway. Make your front door a centerpiece by hanging a lush, full wreath front and center. If you prefer a more natural look, fill in with berries or artificial fruit. If you prefer luxe, decorate your wreath with ornaments in silver and gold and a big bow.
Place planters with small evergreens alongside your door. String lights, hang ornaments or wrap ribbon around them to add sparkle.
If you want to light up your door, add lights to your wreath or secure them to the molding around your front door. Lighting up your entryway is all about creating an inviting welcome for your guests.
Wrap it up
Designate a room or area of your home for writing Christmas cards, gift wrapping and mailing. Get organized and start early. Looking for tape, ribbon or wrapping paper at the last minute, just before guests arrive, is stressful.
Hang them up
Go through your coat closet and donate or discard old coats that you no longer use. Create space to hang your guests’ coats. If you don’t have an adequate closet, think of an alternative like a coat stand, rolling rack or moveable wardrobe. Borrow one of these from a friend if you’re trying to save on cost.
Consider putting a blank label on each hanger so guests can write their names on outerwear. No one wants to go home with someone else’s coat, hat or scarf.
Keep the fire burning
Bring in firewood and place it by the fire. A warm hearth symbolizes the spirit of the season. Have someone tend the fire while your entertaining guests and preparing holiday meals. If you have a wood burning fireplace that gets moderate use, it should be cleaned by a professional every few years to avoid creosote build-up.
In case of trouble
Whenever guests arrive, it’s a smart idea to be prepared for minor emergencies. Have jumper cables on hand if a battery gives out. Keep a tool kit handy in case something breaks just as the festivities are heating up.
A fire extinguisher and fire blanket in the kitchen can put out a kitchen fire. Keep a first aid kit handy for cuts and splinters. A few ice packs in the freezer can help with sprains and bumps.
It’s good to start early when sprucing up your home for the season. A check list of what needs to happen takes the stress out of holiday planning. Enjoy spending time with those you love and welcome your guests in style. Nothing brings people together like the holiday season so this year, make yours sparkle!