When it comes to preparing your home for the holiday season, there are, of course, the basics: adding décor and lights, setting up the staple festive items, and perhaps even moving furniture around to accommodate guests.
But, as it feels every year, the months of November and December always go by so quickly. That’s why it’s best to consider what you can do—and early—to get on top of the holiday season and best prepare your home for your family and guests.
From decluttering to checking your heating system, here are the eight best tips from experts to help you be proactive this season.
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When it comes to getting your home ready for the holidays, it’s best to start preparing early. “The holidays have a way of sneaking up on you,” cautions Bailey Carson, home care expert at Angi. “To ensure you aren’t caught off guard or scrambling at the last minute, put together a plan and corresponding timeline in the weeks leading up to hosting company or entertaining. Try focusing on gift shopping and organizing your home early on, and then save tasks like tidying the guest room and doing a deep clean for the final days before friends and family arrive.”
Along the same vein as early prep, you can also ready your family, children, or roommates by making some meals or treats in advance. That way, on the busiest holiday days, you don’t have to stress over what to eat.
“I like to clear out my freezer to make space for Christmas bakes and some home cooked 'ready' meals,” shares Lisa Waterman, lifestyle blogger and author of Women Who Win at Christmas. “Preparing treats and meals in advance means that I can enjoy the festivities with my family rather than having to rush off to the kitchen.”
02 of 08
If there are items you haven’t used in the past year, toss them, sell them, or, in the spirit of giving back this holiday season, donate them. The decluttering process can be so helpful—especially before the holidays—because it helps you to focus your cleaning and organizing more effectively. Plus, your decorating will be easier if there’s less in the way.
Cathryn Bailey, founder of home renovation site Bomisch, shares that it’s best to give every item a place. “As you start preparing for the holidays, it's time to start thinking about where things belong and whether they even have a correct home or not,” she says. “Everyday things like vacuums, coats, shoes, laundry baskets and so on often float around the house with no real place to return when you're finished with them. In turn, these things quickly clutter up your house creating an unnecessary mess. The first step is to figure out which items in your household don't have a designated place and create one for them.”
Some of the questions you can ask yourself are: Where does this item go? Is there a place for coats and shoes? Where could guests put their personal items? Where can my bills/paperwork go that’s out of sight?
Asking yourself these questions can help you best prepare yourself.
03 of 08
Do a Deeper Clean
We all know how to vacuum, dust, and wipe down surfaces. But how thorough of a job are we doing? As it happens, there is a good way and a bad way to vacuum.
“Vacuuming in a zig-zag pattern is a tried-and-true way to properly clean carpets this holiday season,” shares Richard Chang, co-founder and CEO of Roborock. “Carpet fibers are twisted loops that get dirty from all sides, so vacuuming in only one direction will result in a partial clean. To fully clean carpets with a traditional or cordless vacuum, work the vacuum across a room in one direction following a zig-zag pattern and then repeat the process from a right angle. This pattern achieves the best results while saving you time from passing over the same sections to get clean carpets.”
Not only is this an arguably more effective way to vacuum, but, Chang says, it can help reduce symptoms of allergies as it’s a deeper and more thorough clean.
04 of 08
Focus on the Front Entrance
Remember that the first thing your guests will see is your entryway, so it may be a good idea to clean things up a bit. Create a ‘home’ for coats and shoes, and consider—especially if you live in a climate where snow is prevalent—a ‘drying station’ for wet clothes and boots.
“Make a DIY drying rack,” shares Leanne Stapf, the chief operating officer of The Cleaning Authority. “Take a plastic tray filled with rocks or pebbles and let the boots drip inside. If the inside of your boots got wet, put newspaper in them and it will soak right up!”
Outside of your home is important, too. If you live in a cold climate, be sure that your driveway and walkway are clear of ice and snow. You may need to assess this more than once before your guests arrive. A good, eco-friendly hack for this is coffee grounds, sand, or birdseed—these items help to break down the ice without damaging the environment.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Make Subtle Decor Shifts
The holidays are a time of welcomed change. One way to spruce up your home—and in particular, your bedrooms—is to swap out some simple decor items and other elements to create a new mood.
Beyond adding the votive candles and festive holiday garland, you can, for example, change the bedding, like pillows or blankets, to a warmer set. You could also move the furniture around to create a different feel, install a set of shelves to display more items, or even add a fresh coat of paint to the walls.
“I like bringing out fresh decor during the fall that will last through the spring, then layering Christmas decorations on top of that so you aren’t starting from scratch,” shares Kristin Bartone, Principal Designer of Bartone Interiors. “Think fuzzy, heavily textured earth tone pillows and throw blankets that can easily add a pop of red or green to get you in the Christmas spirit.”
If you have decorations that you’ve purchased over the years or acquired from loved ones, you can plan the space around these items more intentionally. For example, adding more of the color scheme from your grandmother’s old wreath to the guest bedroom or incorporating more lights in the windows to share a festive vibe both indoors and outdoors.
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Be Smart and Safe With Electric
Don’t neglect safety in the desire to be festive. Docia Boylen, owner of Handyman Connection, shares a few tips about electricity and safety while decorating: “Spread out your lights throughout the home to prevent overloading a circuit and blowing a fuse,” she cautions. “Light timers are also a great way to regulate your total circuit usage.”
Boylen also cautions about extension cords. Often, people use indoor extension cords outside, often without even realizing, but this may not be a good idea. “Indoor extension cords aren’t equipped to handle outdoor lighting.” Boylen cautions. “You don’t want too many things plugged into the extension cord, either. [Instead], get a smart cord that will alert you when you’re plugging in too much.”
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Update That Guest Room
If you’re going to have guests this holiday season, you need to ensure that they are comfortable for the duration of their trip. Beyond the surface-level cleaning, bedmaking, and organizing, consider adding an ‘essentials’ basket with items like toothpaste, lotion, mouthwash, and other useful items.
You’ll also want to deep clean the most important place: the bathroom. All surfaces should be wiped down and residue-free. The toilet and shower are the most important, of course, to create a ‘hotel’ experience.
Val Oliveira, Founder of Val’s Services, shares a hack for refreshing your toilet with a DIY ‘Toilet Bomb’. All you’ll need is 1 cup baking soda, ¼ cup citric acid, and 1 tablespoon dish soap.
“Mix everything together and separate into a silicone ice cube tray for at least 4 hours,” Oliveira says. “Once dry, gently pop them out and store them in an airtight container.” From there, you simply toss the bomb into the toilet (before and after guests) and it helps to both clean and refresh the smell.
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Check the Essentials
As you prepare your home for the holidays, colder temperatures, and guests, there are a few essentials you must address: heating, air conditioning, and water pressure.
Mark Dawson, COO of Benjamin Franklin Plumbing and One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning shares his tips: First, you’ll want to assess the water pressure of your shower head and make sure that the showerhead is clean before guests arrive.
“The most accurate [assessment] method is to buy a pressure gauge from your local hardware store and hook it up to a hose faucet,” Dawson shares. “Check the pressure when all other faucets and water-using appliances are turned off to get a baseline reading. In general, you want the household plumbing to provide between 40 and 60 psi.”
As far as air quality, Dawson recommends cleaning out all your AC registers and vents, fan blades, and filters. As temperatures cool down, people and pets are more apt to spend time inside, creating more dust, dirt, and allergens in the filters. You can clean these parts yourself, or you can hire a professional duct cleaner. Either, Dawson says, is important to consider to refresh your space come holiday season.
You’ll also want to look at your furnace. “Over the summer months, furnaces collect dust and if [your furnace] isn't cleaned properly before you turn on the heat this holiday season, you can expect a foul odor of burning dust lingering in your home for hours,” he says.
Getting a tune-up can help to prevent poor air quality, but it can also help to avoid more serious issues, like carbon monoxide leaks. Assessing your furnace early is a must.