It is truly the most wonderful time of the year! Twinkle lights, snow-covered pine trees, brightly-wrapped presents, friends and family gathered around the table, and the overall feeling of goodwill toward men – what more could you ask for?
The only problem I can find with this marvelous season is all the clean-up that has to happen before, during, and after the festivities. It can feel a little overwhelming to try and get everything presentable when you are hosting guests, but a simple checklist can help you accomplish your to-do’s rather painlessly.
Before the Big Day
- Declutter. If at all possible, do this step a few weeks in advance and keep decluttering up until the day of the event. Between all of the parties and get-togethers, though, sometimes it’s difficult to find the time to put things away. If you find yourself in that category, grab an empty laundry basket, and do what my mother calls “power cleaning.” Just gather the clutter into the laundry basket and put it in an unused bedroom or the garage until after the party is over. It may be a pain to sift through the basket after the festivities, but it will make the party more enjoyable if there aren’t objects cluttering up every flat surface.
- Clean the “At First Sight” Areas. These are the areas of your house that your guests will notice as soon as they walk in the door. Start by shaking out the mats in the entryway, sweeping around the entryway furniture, wiping the baseboards, and cleaning the glass on the front door. Dust the bookshelves, ceiling fans, and artwork, and sweep, vacuum, and mop the areas where your guests will be staying.
- Freshen Up the Bathrooms. Besides the kitchen and living area, the bathroom is the most visited location in your home, so make sure it’s nice and clean. Deep clean the tub, toilet and sink, restock the toilet paper, and put out fresh hand towels. Wipe out the medicine cabinets, and remove any clutter from the countertop. Stick an odor-eliminating air freshener gel or spray in the corner to help your guests keep the room smelling fresh.
- Sanitize and Deep Clean Appliances. This one is pretty self-explanatory, though there is some debate as to if you should just sanitize everything before the party and wait to deep clean until after the guests leave. It’s your choice, but the areas you should not neglect are the stove, fridge, trash can, sink, dishwasher, and backsplashes. Whether you just wipe them down in advance of your company coming, or you decide to deep clean everything before and after, those areas should command your particular attention.
- Make a Plan. If you plan on doing a lot of cooking for your guests, take some time to prepare before anyone arrives. Make a menu and prep as much of the food as you can beforehand. You’d be surprised by how much of your holiday feast can be made ahead of time and then reheated the day of the party. You should also clean out the fridge to make room for all of the upcoming tasty treats.
- Prepare for the Worst. Guests are wonderful to have around, but they are also inevitably messy. Be sure to stock up on extra cleaning supplies, paper towels, vinegar (for natural cleaning), and trash bags. If you plan on using your crockpot throughout the holidays, purchase some liners to make clean up a breeze.
- Add the Finishing Touches. This last bit is the fun part! Update your ambient lighting with candles, twinkle lights, and the soft glow of your Christmas tree. Clear the guest rooms of their clutter, and update the bedding with soft, warm items. And, of course, decorate that Christmas tree to the nines with your family’s favorite ornaments.
During the Big Day
- Keep It Clean. It’s easy to let your home’s cleanliness fall by the wayside when you have guests, but make it a priority to at least spot clean throughout the day. Instead of setting things down wherever’s convenient, go out of your way to put everything in its proper place.
- Clear the Snow. There’s an old poem:
“Cleaning the house when babies are growing
Is like shoveling snow when it’s still snowing!”
Both tasks are mind-numbing (and somewhat unpleasant), but they are necessary for keeping a house tidy and safe.
- Use a Timer. If you struggle with time management, set timers on your phone for when you need to start and stop activities in order to stay on track.
- Act Quickly. Spills happen – it’s a fact of life – but if you are prepared, you shouldn’t fear! Keep carpet cleaner or a bottle of club soda on hand to help you get those unsightly spills out of the carpet. If you plan on serving red wine, make sure to have a bottle of white to help neutralize the stain. Also, be sure never to scrub at the stain in your carpet – just treat it with whichever cleaner you choose, and use a clean, damp towel to blot up the spill.
After the Big Day
- Triage. Cleaning up after the party is, without a doubt, the worst part of being the host, but don’t despair! You don’t need to clean everything up right after the party is over and before you go to bed. If you need to go to sleep and start fresh in the morning, by all means, go and hit the hay, but before you do, set your crusty dishes to soak overnight. If they are particularly baked-on, pour a little bit of Pepsi or Coke into the dish and let that soak – the pop will dissolve those baked-on messes and make clean-up speedy in the morning.
The next day, you can start by tackling the dishes (as you most likely have more dishes to clean than anything else). Put a load in the dishwasher first, make yourself a list that you can check off for a feeling of accomplishment, and start tackling it. Most likely, your triage will look something like this:
- Dishes again
- Wipe down wood, baseboards, flooring, and appliances
- Start a load of laundry
- Dishes again
- Set out an odor eliminator, and you’re done! Now sit down and relax – you made it through another year of hosting!
This holiday season, we wish you the best as you celebrate with friends and family.