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.