A day of festivity or recreation when no work is done.
That definition is a bit odd considering how much work “Holidays” add to our lives. Don’t get me wrong. I love the holidays, but somehow they always catch me by surprise. Can anyone relate? Or maybe you are like my daughter Miriam. She usually calls in July asking us what we are thinking about doing for Christmas. I think most people fall somewhere in between. They do some decent planning and preparation, and acknowledge that the holidays can be quite a bit of work added to an already busy life.
Here are a few ideas to help make your holidays go a little smoother.
Stay Relaxed – No Matter Who Is Coming
Kids for a few days. Relax, and go low key. Remember, it’s your kids coming home. They know how you lived before they left home. They won’t be surprised to find it pretty much the same when they visit for the holidays. They might actually be uncomfortable with big changes in how you go about cleaning for the holidays. Aim for somewhere between them camping in the front yard and them feeling welcome and cared for. The time spent cooking, playing and keeping the home reasonably clean can actually be part of making memories.
Parents for a few days. Whether parents or in-laws, don’t try to impress them. Go there, and you have set a stress filled stage for all future performances. This is your home you are inviting them into. Be gracious and loving. Be yourself and let them decide how they will live well with you for a few days.
Friends for a meal. Things don’t have to be perfect, and even if they are, things quickly deteriorate after they arrive. Dirt gets tracked in. Popcorn becomes dog snacks on the floor. Drinks get spilled. Hopefully your friends love you just the way you are. If they don’t, you have bigger problems than a clean house will fix. And hopefully they bring a dish to pass and help with the cleanup.
Whoever comes to visit, if a few things are left undone, don’t sweat. About five minutes after everyone arrives there is a good chance no one will know he difference. Things will get disorganized and a bit messy quickly. This is not really a bad thing. It means that everyone is relaxed and enjoying themselves in your home, so the things you weren’t able to get done probably won’t be noticed anyway.
“But I want it to be perfect!”
If you are the type of person that loves to set the stage, entertain and pamper guests perfectly in all imaginable ways, open a five star resort or at least become a more strategic in to keep stress levels down. Here’s a cleaning plan for you folks.
A Month or More Before Company Arrives
This is the time to take care of the “heavy lifting” part of cleaning. Once taken care of, these items are easy to keep up with. Do them in the order you like, and spread them out over the course of a week or a couple weekends.
Vacuum or dust everything including baseboards, lampshades, and drapes, under beds, pictures, mirrors, vents, curtains, window sills and cobwebs from the walls.
Clean carpets and furniture. By this I mean shampoo your carpets and furniture now. Besides improving appearance, winter is a great time for this chore to be done. Heat systems are running and humidity is down, so carpet and fabric quickly dry. Also, winter indoor air quality is greatly improved with clean carpets and upholstery. If you have young children, you may have to do some spot cleaning later.
Consider having your air ducts cleaned. Having you air duct work cleaned may improve indoor air quality and reduce noxious odors. (An evergreen candle can't hide everything.)
Clean rooms that you don’t normally use. If you have extra rooms like guest rooms and baths that don’t normally get used, clean them now and shut the door so they are ready to go. This is also the time to clean the rooms where guests may not spend much time, like sewing rooms, garages, the master bedroom and basements. These are overflow rooms, or rooms where guests may have a little peek but they won’t use, so surface cleaning is all they need.
Appliances – Clean your oven and refrigerator, in and out. Get them ready for all the extra food you’ll be storing and making.
Clean and organize the pantry and freezer. Completely empty both. Pitch outdated and opened items not likely to be used, organize and restock. Make sure you have plenty of all your basics. Go through your usual holiday recipes and stock up on anything you will need. With this chore done, you can make that batch of cookies on a whim.
Be Generous. Now is a time to be generous. Go through storage rooms, boxes, closets and your garage with the intent of being generous, not just cutting down on your clutter. If you heart gets into giving, you may have to make two trips, rather than one, to your local charity. Actively look to fill your trunk and don’t stop giving until you do. In the end you will have not only gotten rid of life clutter, you will be a larger blessing to others.
2 Weeks Before Company Arrives
- Check to make sure you have full sets of linens and shop if needed.
- Buy as much of the food you will need as possible. Make sure you have foil, plastic wrap, toilet paper, etc.
- Take out and check or clean any small appliances, dishes and flatware you will be using in addition to what you use on a daily basis.
- Make sure the entryway closet is cleaned and organized and ready to hold coats and boots for company.
- Clean all the trash cans and put a roll of new bags in the bottom of each one. That way if one of your guests volunteers to take out the trash while you are busy, you won’t have to stop and help them find a new bag.
1 Week Before Company Arrives
- Put fresh linens on the beds. Make sure there are plenty of blankets and towels in the room. Include things like a clock and tissues on the night stand.
- Set out a few things in the bathroom like extra toothbrushes, toothpaste and razors.
- Put out a good supply of toilet paper and make sure there are air fresheners easily accessible.
- Do a quick light dusting of the house.
1-2 Days Before Guests Arrive
- Go out for dinner the night before company arrives to give yourself a break and keep the kitchen clean.
- Keep the rest of the meals super simple so you can focus on preparing the holiday meal “pre-cook” menu items.
- Do a very basic weekly cleaning and vacuuming. Clean bathrooms, the kitchen and bedrooms.
- This one is often forgotten; pet management. If you have an outside dog, clean the yard, even if covered with snow, of anything you don’t want the kids to step in. Clean cat litter boxes, cages, and fish tanks one more time.
- Quickly go through picking up and touching up last minute things.
- Light a candle or have something cooking that smells good.
- Have a few lights on.
- Depending on what time of day the guests are coming, have a snack or drinks ready.
- Put on the holiday music.
- Just sit back and relax until company arrives.
Here’s the most important point. Set the stage for meaningful time together. If, for you, that means you pamper others then do so. If that means that everyone relaxes, cooks and cleans together, then go that direction. And by all means, remember these celebrations are Holidays, days of festivity or recreation when no work is done.