getting ready for christmas-compressedPhoto: Emily May/Flickr

The holidays seem to come earlier every year. We had barely recovered from our Halloween candy hangover when the Internet began weighing in on Starbucks’ red cups. But there are advantages to getting into the holiday spirit early, especially when it comes to readying your home for guests. These 10 tips will help you to stress less and enjoy the season.

1. Mark your calendar: Party season is upon us! Print out a physical calendar or update the app on your smartphone to stay on top of everything. You’ll also want to make sure invitations, cards and packages arrive on time, so set reminders accordingly.

The holiday season can be a gruelling exercise in time management, so lists are your friend- gift lists, grocery lists and to-do lists. Make sure that you block off enough time to reasonably accomplish things like errands and shopping, accounting for extra travel time, parking etc. which is always more challenging during the holidays.

And when you are populating your calendar with your festive fun, build in downtime. The holidays are meant to be fun, but even the most die-hard reveler needs to pack it in at some point. Taking a minute to recharge is time well spent.

2. Clear out the clutter: While there is no need to react like Gayle, YouTuber Chris Fleming’s interpretation of a cleaning-crazed mother (“There cannot be any sign of living in this house!”), it is important to remove unnecessary objects from public areas, such as the entryway, kitchen and living/dining area.

But harnessing that enthusiasm, the holidays are a great time to do a seasonal purge of unwanted household items and clothing. Not only are you making way for incoming gifts (what are you wishing for this season?) your second-hand castoffs could be upcycled or re-purposed by someone else.

And when you introduce holiday decor into your living spaces, you are creating more clutter. It’s a good idea to take down or put away year-round items to let your holiday decor take center stage.

3. Give your kitchen a deep clean: Much of our holiday revelry is centered around eating and drinking. By deep cleaning your kitchen in late November or early December, you’ll be able to cut down on daily maintenance. Focus on organization, freshening your appliances, wiping down surfaces and caring for your cookware.

When you are done with the kitchen, move on to the rest of your home, with an emphasis on high-traffic areas, especially if you hosting overnight guests during the holidays.

Do a deep clean of the bathrooms, including the walls and tiles. In bedrooms, launder all bedding and window treatments. Dust baseboards and fans in all living areas.

Not only does getting your home clean in advance save you time during the peak holiday season, it also provides you an opportunity to see if anything needs replacing ahead of time.

4. Do a bit of inventory on your home: If you’re hosting a large gathering, you may need to purchase extra dishes or servingware. On a budget? Hit up the dollar store or a local thrift store for discounted pieces. Mixing and matching your dinnerware is totally okay — it adds character and dimension to the tablescape.

Dressing the table is fun on any occasion, but the holiday season makes it extra special. A must are charger plates, fancy napkins and a show-stopping centerpiece. Be creative with your table and DIY, by bringing the outdoors in with garlands, ivy berries and more.

Do inventory throughout your household and ensure that you have enough bedding and towels on hand for your overnight guests. Stock up on small but necessary items like batteries, food wrap and containers, stain removers and cleaning materials. It’s all about anticipating what you might need before, after and during your celebration.

dinnerware-compressedPhoto: Didriks/Flickr

5. Finish those weekend home improvement projects: Remember when you decided to re-caulk the bathtub but then gave up halfway through in favor of a Real Housewives marathon? Now is the time to get the job done.

This is especially important if your projects are in main living areas, where your handiwork is most visible. Not only will finishing up projects increase your useable space to accommodate and entertain your guests, it will make your home cleaner and calmer. Nobody wants to spend their holidays in the midst of a reno. As an added bonus, you can end the year with a completed to-do checklist!

6. Gather up a few ‘extras’ for house guests: Set out travel-sized toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, soap and a spare toothbrush. Place an extra blanket, reading materials and a couple bottles of water next to the bed. Your guests will appreciate the effort.

If you’ve got an activity-packed stay planned for your guests, include an itinerary of what’s on deck and when. If this is their first visit to the area, include books and brochures on points of interest, and your own recommendations.

For an elegant touch, include fresh-cut flowers in the guest room. Bonus if they are seasonal and add to your overall holiday decor. Place them in a holiday-themed bowl or vase. Don’t be surprised if your guests call down for room service, because they will think they are at a high-end hotel.

toiletries-compressedPhoto: Aaron Gustafson/Flickr

7. Rearrange the furniture: Take a step back and consider your main living spaces. Does the furniture permit flow for entertaining? Does each piece serve a purpose for the holiday season? Don’t be afraid to remove pieces that might be in the way, or to swap out for pieces from other rooms that might be more functional during the holidays. Make sure that you don’t move furniture directly in front of windows, blocking natural light and views, or overtop of vents, blocking the heat.

The holidays are about spending quality time with our friends and family, so arrange your living room furniture around conversation rather than the TV.  A U-shape configuration is ideal, because it is comfortable and inclusive.

If you’re hosting a party, you can create extra seating by utilizing floor cushions, ottomans and folding chairs. Nesting tables are great space savers, tucked away when not in use. Oh, and don’t forget to leave room for the tree! The tree should be the focal point in the room, but not be obtrusive.

8. Make a festive, go-to playlist: Setting the mood with music is often the last thing we think about before our guests arrive. Putting together a playlist beforehand will get you in the holiday spirit and discourage your weird cousin from rocking out to “Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer.” If you’re not much of a DJ, search for a playlist that suits your taste using Songza, Spotify or 8Tracks.

Or better yet- build your playlist around your guest list. Select a few songs that remind you of each guest and dedicate them to them. It’s a great ice-breaker and a lot of fun for everyone.

And your playlist doesn’t just have to be for entertaining, build your own to listen to while doing your holiday tasks, like wrapping or baking. Or create a list of soothing tracks for when you need a Zen moment during holiday chaos.

carltonGif: tumblr

9. Turn the lights down low: Replace light switches with dimmers to create a sense of warmth and intimacy in your home. Stock up on holiday candles in scents like balsam, peppermint, cinnamon or even sugar cookie (yes, it’s a thing). Flameless LED candles have come a long way over the past few years, and are a great alternative for families with young children.

Daylight hours are limited during the winter months, so setting the stage strategically with artificial lighting is essential. Replace light switches with dimmers to create a sense of warmth and intimacy in your home. And turn to different light sources, depending on the occasion. For cocktail parties, use your overhead lighting. For dinner parties, switch off the ceiling lights and use floor or table lamps, which cast a more intimate glow.

And twinkle lights are downright festive, and can go literally anywhere- illuminating staircases or on the ceiling for a starry night effect.

10. Get a head start on DIY projects: Time is of the essence during the holiday season. Whether you’re planning to can some jam for your extended family members or put together a festive wreath for the front door, it’s best to start these projects early. No one wants to be elbows-deep in boysenberries while everyone else is decorating the tree.

And maybe the best gift you can give yourself this holiday season is to not overload your to-do list. You can always outsource, delegate to others for help- or even delay some DIY projects to next year- when you’ll have more time!

diy project-compressedPhoto: Anders Ruff Custom Designs/Flickr

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