Essential Holiday Checklist

Essential Holiday Checklist

The countdown to the holidays is on. Ditch the dirt and conceal the clutter because your guests are on their way--whether you want them or not. Try these cleaning and organizing tips to get your house in order, with the least amount of effort possible!

Up to Six Weeks Before:

  • Start a holiday journal using a portable spiral bound notebook. Carry it with you and make it the one place to jot down shopping lists, notes and menus so you can find them again.
  • Mark your calendar. Pencil in commitments, events and invitations then add in time for shopping, cleaning, cooking and gift-wrapping. Lastly, block off a few free evenings and weekends so you can enjoy the season spontaneously.
  • Make an "I'll need that" container. Designate a single box or basket in a common area as the place to toss vital items as you come across them (spare batteries, your serving platter), so you can find them when you need them.
  • Create a "receipt receptacle", a single place to collect receipts throughout the season. They'll be vital for returning or exchanging items, and for tracking your holiday spending. Try an unused shoebox; just add the newest on top.
  • Count the total number of holiday cards you plan to send out, then divide that number by seven (for seven days in a week). Now you know how many you need to write each night to get them out on time.
  • Charge your hand vacuum. You know you're going to need it!
  • Set up a gift-wrap station complete with tape, scissors, boxes and bows, to/from tags, gift bags and tissue paper.
  • Schedule haircuts, babysitters, manicures, catering, pet grooming, baking and wreath-making now.
  • Pick outfits and try them on. Replace, mend, tailor or launder if necessary.
  • Locate and clean bakeware, entertaining and buffet items, plus linens, tablecloths and napkins.
  • Stock up on plastic containers to send leftovers home.
  • Clean out your child's toy area. There's more on the way, so it's a good time to fill a bag or two and donate to a local charity.
  • Set up an emergency gift shelf filled with five to seven inexpensive, generic gifts. Photo frames, candles and scarves work well. Don't forget extra gift bags and holiday cards.
  • Be realistic; know what not to do. For example, now is not the time to repaint the living room. Try hanging photographs over any serious imperfections.
  • Charge batteries, including the ones in your camera. Buy extras if you need them.
  • Save time by shopping or ordering holiday cards online.
  • Stay on track by using a kitchen timer; set it as a reminder so you don't get sidetracked completing tasks like online shopping or wrapping gifts.
  • Write out a menu timeline. Start with your serving time and work backwards so you know what needs to happen in order for all the food to be ready at the same time.
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