Getting Your Home Ready for the Holidays

The holiday season is just around the corner, and if you’re anything like us, that means a whole lot of family time and even more entertaining. And holiday prep goes a lot further than just decking the halls. There’s the deep cleaning — from scrubbing down the kitchen cabinets to detailing the guest room — not to mention the servingware detailing, the dog grooming and the linen laundering. Here’s how to tackle it without worries.

1. Schedule Cleaning and Prep

Spring cleaning is for the birds. For those who love to host big holiday gatherings, the real cleaning comes in the late fall. About a month before the first get-together, create a to-do list with everything you need to get done and a general timeline for when everything should be complete. Here’s a rough estimate of when you should start thinking about slashing things off your list.

A month or six weeks before:

Schedule all professional services and double-check your hosting essentials to ensure that you have everything you need. Four to six weeks leaves plenty of time to order what you don’t have.

  • Clean and detail the serveware — including plates, silverware, serving utensils and bowls — as well as placemats, tabletop décor and linens.
  • Check all serveware sets and kitchen equipment to make sure you have everything you need for your desired menu and tablescape.
  • Take dry clean only linens to the cleaners.
  • If using an outside service, schedule your professional home cleaning service for the week of the holidays, as they book up fast this time of year.
  • While you’re at it, order your centerpieces, meat and catering.
  • Order festive candles and décor to suit your theme.

A week or two before:

Do any of those tasks you can get out of the way early that won’t need to be redone right before the holiday madness begins, such as:

  • Change the bedding in the guest rooms.
  • Dust the ceiling fans, dressers, headboards and other surfaces.
  • Organize the pantry and kitchen cabinets.
  • Clean out closets and drawers so you have space for gifts or your guests’ personal items during their stay.
  • Deep clean the kitchen, including the fridge, cabinets and pantry.
  • Deep clean the bathrooms, including the shower and tub.
  • Mop and polish the floors.
  • Steam-clean or professionally clean the carpet, upholstery and curtains.
  • Clean interior and exterior windows (or hire a professional).
  • Clean out the fridge and make space for holiday food.
  • Do laundry and prepare your holiday outfits.
  • Clean and put out warm blankets and festive throw pillows.
  • Restock the firewood — you’ll want a cozy fire!
  • Clean and polish baseboards and molding.
  • Stock the pantry with snacks and treats.

A day before:

The day before your guests arrive, it’s time to put those last-minute finishing touches on the living room, bedrooms and kitchen.

  • Steam-clean linens to give them that fresh, clean feel.
  • Wipe down the stovetop, cabinets, countertops and fridge.
  • Clean litter boxes and pick up pet toys.
  • Vacuum all carpets and mop hard-surface floors.
  • Light candles or wax melts.
  • Clear up any clutter, throw away junk mail and discarded packaging.
  • Put out freshly cleaned kitchen and bathroom towels.
  • Set up your centerpieces and set the table.
  • Refresh toilet paper, tissues, hand soaps, etc. throughout the house.
  • Fluff the pillows and linens in the guest rooms.
  • Pick up last-minute meat, bread, eggs, milk and produce.

2. Consider Some Last-Minute Projects

If you’ve still got a month or two to spare, you may want to consider knocking out a couple of approachable yet impactful home updates. For example, consider doing a minor kitchen makeover with some fresh new ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets or a new kitchen table you’ve been meaning to buy. Some other seemingly small but quite effective home updates you can do include swapping out your slipcovers or toss pillows, giving a room a fresh coat of paint or creating a gorgeous gallery wall in the dining room or living room with family photos.

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3. Deck the Halls

And now for the fun part — decorating! If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, we recommend getting your tablescape and festive décor locked in at least three weeks before the big day, but remember that those pretty gourds and pumpkins can go bad, so don’t go sourcing your squashes too early. If the family is gathering on Dec. 25, make sure you’ve got your tree up and decorated, your lights hung and your halls decked at least two weeks before so you can properly enjoy the holiday ambiance for weeks leading up to Santa’s arrival. Bonus: Psychologists say that putting up your Christmas décor early makes you happier, so go ahead and get a head start!

4. Prep the Pets

If you’ve got a house full of furry family members, make sure to build their care and maintenance into your holiday prep schedule. Call to schedule professional grooming at least a month ahead of time, but keep the actual appointment as close to the holidays as possible. A freshly groomed pet will shed less and keep your house smelling great leading up to the big gathering. Plus, it’ll mean extra pets and cuddles from the family!

5. Ready Your Outfits

Don’t forget to think about yourself! Be sure you have all your holiday outfits selected and cleaned at least a week beforehand. While you’re at it, schedule last-minute services, such as manicures, pedicures and hair appointments, for the week leading up to the gathering. Remember, your stylist will be overbooked this time of year, so get your appointments scheduled as early as possible.

6. Bake Cookies

Baking Christmas cookies is a tradition as old as time, and it’s one of the best ways to warm your home and make it smell authentically festive. We recommend getting the bulk of your baking out of the way as early as possible so there’s no mess left behind in the middle of the rush, but not too early that your cookies are no longer fresh. Consider baking make-ahead and freezer-friendly Christmas cookies to keep week-of messes to a minimum.

If your home serves as the holiday hub, you may want to consider getting a head start on the prep early this year. Be sure to reference this all-inclusive guide to conquer it like the top-notch host or hostess you are!

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