If you joined us for part 1 of Annie’s holiday prep tips, chances are that your meal planning is as good as done. Now it’s time to shift our focus to getting the house in guest-friendly shape. Ready? Set? Go:
1. Make lists of what needs to be done. Annie uses her iPhone for this, which means she can make on-the-fly additions to or subtractions from it, and she also has it on her whenever she goes on a shopping trip. She creates four main list categories: cleaning, laundry, shopping, and noncleaning prep (like snow shoveling or setting the table).
2. Break up the cleaning into smaller chores. Nobody really enjoys housecleaning (even if they say they do), so instead of trying to swab the entire house in one day, choose a couple of tasks over a few days’ time, and you’ll feel a lot better about the process. Let go of how things “have to be” done and enlist the help of family members, even small children; most people like the feeling of having a job to do, so play to their strengths.
3. Declutter! This is the perfect time to toss that stack of magazines or catalogs, or give away that unread book collection. (Think of it this way: if you haven’t gotten to it in four months or more, you probably won’t anytime soon.) You can also save a chosen few magazines or books and put them in baskets in the guest rooms, in case your visitors forget to bring bedtime reading material.
4. Clean out the fridge. If it’s past its prime, you never use it, or it’s unlabeled and so old you don’t even remember what it is, get rid of it! You’ll need all the refrigerator real estate you can get once guests arrive.
5. Think about potential glitches. Have a small driveway, or none at all? Figure out where guests can safely park their cars, and talk to neighbors in advance if you need to borrow some spaces on the street. Live in the snowy Northeast like Annie? Practice safety first by stationing buckets or barrels of sand or ice melter in the driveway and by the front door (don’t forget the shovels!). And if you have friends or relatives who aren’t as mobile as they used to be, make sure you’ve got a plan B for getting into the house, especially if your front entrance has steep stairs or is otherwise challenging to navigate. Escorting Grandma through the garage might not be as scenic as your decked-out front door, but it could be a lot safer for her.
6. Check your inventory. Think pots, pans, table linens, dinnerware, bath towels, soap, shampoo, toothpaste—anything you or your guests might be using during their stay. Since most stores have shorter hours or are closed entirely during the holidays, stock up now.
7. Stake out a place for coat and accessory storage. If you don’t have a lot of extra closet space, no worries: last year, Annie put an inexpensive rolling garment rack in her entryway, and it worked like a charm. Guests had an easily accessible place to store their coats, scarves, and handbags, and nobody had to dig through a mile-high armchair pile to find their stuff when it was time to go. In the off season, Annie uses the rack in her laundry room, so this little investment has more than paid for itself.
8. Fully stock the guest bathroom. This is the perfect time to whip out all those adorable travel-size shampoos, bath gels, lotions, and such that you’ve kept as souvenirs from hotel stays. And don’t forget to include a robe and extra washcloths, towels, facial tissues, and toilet paper in an easily accessible area, so guests don’t have to hunt around or constantly ask you for them.
9. Wash the guest-room bed linens. Even if you haven’t had guests in a while, nobody enjoys sleeping on dusty or pet-hair-decorated sheets. Wash those linens a day or two beforehand, then cover pillows and duvets with a blanket to keep pets from destroying your handiwork. Just before guests arrive, remove the protective covers and spritz the linens with a spray bottle filled with distilled water and six drops of your favorite essential oil. Annie loves lavender to promote restful sleep, or bergamot for encouraging a cheery, uplifted mood
10. Plan a few activities. No need to go crazy with this, but have a few ideas for activities guests can do while you’re occupied with prep, so they aren’t standing around watching you cook or set the table. Keep a few board games handy, have a family member take them on short sightseeing trips, or ask them to do simple chores like refilling salt and pepper shakers or taking the dogs for a walk.
11. Do the things that mean something to you, and let the rest go. No event will ever be perfect, so don’t make yourself nuts trying to live up to an unrealistic ideal. Put your focus on your family and friends, and enjoy the moment.
Now it’s your turn. Tell us your favorite keep-it-simple holiday prep tip in the comments, and you’ll be entered to win a Signature Ivory bath sheet, hand towel, and washcloth, a $109 value! Check out the Rafflecopter entry form below for 4 easy ways to enter! Contest ends on Sunday, December 29 at 11:59 p.m. EST. View the full details.
Congratulations to our winner, Meghan from Washington!