Deck the Halls with Practicality
12/16/2014 08:02AM ● Published by Aimee Cormier
By Michelle Matthews Calloway
Nothing brings people together like the holidays. Maybe you’re welcoming students home from a semester at college, hosting extended family members for a while or simply having everyone over for the big day. Whatever the case, you want your home to serve as a relaxing refuge where family and friends can come together and celebrate.
Having a neat, organized home will offer not only an inviting setting for your guests, but also a welcome guarantee for your holiday pleasure. Being organized will help lower your stress levels.
Pre-Holiday Prep: Cleaning Your Home
Even though your house will inevitably get messy with the additional traffic from holiday guests, you want to present your home in its best light. Having a plan in place will go a long way to helping you effectively manage the time you spend cleaning – and will also help preserve your energy!
Consider the rooms in your home. In what rooms and areas will guests spend the most time? Begin cleaning and organizing the rooms that will be occupied the most. Ensure that they are free of clutter. Put misplaced things in boxes or baskets and store them out of sight until you can sort them accordingly. Vacuum or scrub the main entertaining area and use the proper products to wipe down any dusty surfaces.
Pay special attention to your bathrooms, areas subject to considerable use, because you want to present a clean, sanitary space.
Help Your Houseguests Feel At Home
If you anticipate having houseguests, use this prep time as an opportunity to go through and organize your guestroom closet. Box any items you don’t use on a regular basis. Leave empty hangers, shoe racks and plenty of open space for your guests’ attire. Just as you did with the bathrooms, make sure guest bedrooms are neat. Pull out your best comforters, and bedspreads and ensure the bed is made with crisp linens.
With all your cleaning and organizing, don’t neglect your own master bedroom and bathroom. Unless you lock your bedroom door, expect at least one guest to wander mistakenly into these personal areas.
Keep Decorating Simple – Or As Elaborate As You Have Time For!
To keep decorating simple, select and use only your favorite holiday decorations. To reduce clutter, remove one non-holiday item for every holiday item you display. Store the items until after the holiday season. If you buy or receive decorative gifts, replace outdated items. Place the outdated items in a special box where they will be conveniently stored in preparation of donating to charity when the holiday season is over.
If you favor elaborate decorations, indulge! For tips and tricks from Acadiana’s top designers, be sure to read “Divine Design” on page 31.
Don’t Forget About Safety
During the cleaning and organizing activities, carefully examine your home for any potential safety hazards before your guests arrive. Repair any chipped concrete on walkways and ensure porch railings are sturdy so no one trips or falls. Make sure there is adequate indoor and outdoor light if you will be hosting evening events or if you expect houseguests to arrive during the night. Should a family member or friend have mobility issues, make sure that the paths between the entryway, kitchen and guest bathrooms are free of obstructions.
Although the holidays usually bring increased joy and cheer, unfortunately they also increase seasonal hazards. The National Fire Protection Agency reports that certain types of fires and injuries associated with holiday decorating are much more common during this time. Causes of fire include Christmas trees, electrical failures or malfunctions that trigger sparks, space heaters, decorative lights and candles. Facilitate safety by keeping all exits and windows easily accessible in the event of a fire or other emergency. Make sure that fire extinguishers are charged in the event a candle or possibly a chafing dish sterno gets knocked over.
Prepare Your Pantry
What’s a holiday without good food? Get your “inner” chef ready for upcoming feasts. Just as you did with preparations for cleaning your home, develop strategies for preparing meals. Take inventory of existing pantry items before going grocery shopping for your holiday meal to avoid duplicating items or, even worse, having to make an additional trip to the store the day before the meal. Often overlooked are spice racks and seasoning jars, so check them in advance to make sure you have enough of everything you need for cooking and baking. Also survey dry goods such as rice, flour and sugar.
Once you have established the menu, make a list of what can be prepared in advance and what will need to be made shortly before the holiday or the day of. Separate your shopping accordingly. Any frozen or canned products can be purchased in advance of the holiday rush and stored until use. Frozen turkeys also can be bought weeks before and then thawed out when they need to be cooked. Any dairy products or fresh produce should be purchased a few days before the holiday meal and freshly prepared for optimal flavor.
Rather than spending all of your time cooking the night before the dinner, determine if any side dishes can be prepared ahead, frozen and then reheated. Some foods actually taste better when flavors have had an opportunity to meld. Even some baked goods and desserts can be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen until use. For example, cookie dough can be prepared and frozen beforehand. Any work you can handle in advance will save you time in the kitchen on the big day.
Don’t neglect good nutrition during the holidays. Remember, it’s easy to skip meals or opt for unhealthy, sugary snacks in the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle. Purchasing and placing quick, healthy snacks towards the front of the pantry within easy reach can help you avoid this pitfall.
Stay On Top Of Wrapping Gifts And Sending Cards
While wrapping gifts is an inevitable task, it doesn’t have to be a chore. Strive to make only one trip to the store to buy an assortment of gift-wrapping items. To save time both now and in the future, stick with versatile items that can be used for any occasion. There’s no need to splurge on a dozen different prints of wrapping paper. Instead, purchase a couple rolls of plain craft paper and decorate each wrapped box with unique holiday themed stickers, ribbons or bows.
Holiday cards express a sentiment of annual tradition and celebration. Try to get a head start on cards by creating a spreadsheet or address template before Thanksgiving. Organize people into categories such as family, friends and co-workers. Creating an electronic database may seem like a big upfront time commitment, in the end, doing so saves time because edits can easily be made throughout the year. Also, after packing up the tree, save money by buying next year’s holiday cards at clearance prices.
Strategizing and planning ahead now can save you hours of time in the future. By determining an easily executable plan of action and efficiency, your holidays can be smooth, hassle-free and enjoyable.