The holidays are a favorite time of year for many, but for some it can be incredibly stressful. Aside from the money spent to create the perfect meals, buy the perfect presents, and put up the perfect decor, people tend to run themselves ragged trying to be the perfect host and hostess. All of this striving for perfection often ends up in a disaster — either you get so stressed that you can’t enjoy the holidays yourself or the whole thing ends up being the exact opposite of what you’d planned. If you want to avoid the burnout and have a holiday season that’s more fun than frantic, here are ten tips to help prep your home for guests.
1. Start weeks ahead.
Wait until the day or even week of to get started preparing for guests, and you’ll regret it. It’s wise to start all of your preparations at least three weeks in advance — this includes planning your menu, beginning to buy food, designing your tablescapes, and getting your guest room ready. Three weeks is enough time to get everything done so you can breathe more easily and relax as the holiday approaches. Plus, it gives you wiggle room so you don’t have to rush to do everything at once.
2. Create a cleaning schedule and keep it simple.
A clean home is an inviting home, but you don’t want to try and leave all of your cleaning until just days before you have guests for the holiday over. Start at least a week in advance with your cleaning and go room by room, or clean by type. For instance, on one day you can vacuum the base boards and on another you can wash all of the guest room linens and hand towels that you’ll need. You don’t have to move all of your furniture and hit every nook and cranny, but do ensure that your home is clean and presentable.
3. Remember the small details.
Buying big ticket pieces of holiday decor will add up quickly, so go small with your decorative elements to save time and money. Small things can make a big impression on your guests, especially when thoughtfully chosen. Things like place cards with hand drawn embellishments, a bit of fall foliage tucked into the napkin rings, and DIY printed guest menus will go a long way towards making your guests feel the holiday spirit without costing you a bundle.
4. Make your bathroom inviting.
While you prepare the table, living room, and guest room, don’t forget about the bathroom. Guests for the holiday will find it a relief if you place practical items in a basket for easy access, such as small bottles of mouthwash, dental floss, or antacid tablets. The bathroom is also an area where you can get creative and place beautiful festive accents such as towels, hand soaps, and small candles.
5. Check for dietary needs.
The worst thing that can happen is for everyone to sit down to dinner and for guests not to eat because they can’t have what’s on your menu. Before guests for the holiday come around, check to see if anyone has any dietary restrictions. For instance, if you have a diabetic in the family provide a dessert and an entree that’s appropriate for them. If you have someone that’s vegetarian or vegan, have a couple of sides that are completely free of meat so they’ll have food to enjoy.
6. Offer a variety of beverage options.
Many hosts and hostesses pay so much attention to what wine and cocktails to serve that they completely ignore offering guests who don’t want to imbibe something other than water. In addition to water, at least have one drink that adults and children can have that’s not alcoholic. If you’re able to put a seasonal twist on it, that would be even more special. For instance, you can make a simple cranberry lemonade, winter berry fruit punch, or pomegranate iced tea.
7. Don’t go overboard with the menu.
Anyone who has ever hosted guests for the holiday knows that every single person will have their favorite foods. However, you don’t have to pressure yourself to provide it all in one sitting. Pick a few items that everyone will like, cook them well, put a bit of effort into how it’s all presented, and your guests will walk away from the table full and happy. The same goes with your dessert table: you don’t have to put out every cookie, cake, and pie that exists under the sun to satisfy your guests. It can get tempting to do so, but a good rule to go by is putting out no more than five types of desserts and confections — even that is being very generous and is more variety than most people will expect.
8. Go with decor that’s versatile and functional.
If you’re going to spend money on holiday decorations, make it some thing that can do double duty. For instance, a tablecloth that has a festive print will protect your table, and a candle in a pretty holder will help scent your home and provide mood lighting. Other great accessories to choose include holiday patterned chair pads, guest towels, and napkins. If you want to splurge on new dishware, choose pieces that can also be used during other times of the year.
9. Set the stage at the door.
If you only have one piece of decor that guests for the holiday will see, make it a wreath or entryway decoration. Whether you throw a bough over the doorway, hang up a festive wreath, go with a mini tree filled with ornaments, or put an assortment of pine cones, gourds, and foliage on a stand near your front steps, give people something to look forward to before they come inside. Even before your guests knock at the door, they’ll be impressed that you took time to make the outside of your house a beautiful sight.
10. Use what you have.
The point of hosting guests for the holiday season isn’t to impress them by spending a ton of money, but to show appreciation for them with your hospitality and inviting home. This is why you should re-purpose things you already have whenever possible and focus on the needs of your guests while you prepare. Buying a few new pieces of decor here and there is perfectly fine, but you don’t have to replace all of the items in your home or guest room.