Prepping for the Holidays


The smell of Pumpkin Spice is in the air and that means the holiday season is quickly approaching. If you're planning to host the festivities at your home, you may be stressing about getting everything prepped for your guests. But, have no fear! These tips from Melissa Maker, cleaning expert and host of Clean My Space, can help you get organized, energized and ready to host an amazing gathering.


Start with a clean kitchen.

This is one of the most important tips when it comes to preparing to have guests come over. “People feel kind of uncomfortable when they walk in and the kitchen is scattered, messy and all over the place,” says Maker. “They feel like they’re interrupting something. Plus, having a clean kitchen makes it much easier for the host to manage the flow of the day.”

That clutter that’s been sitting on your kitchen counter or dining room table — get rid of it! If you're pressed for time, move it to a low-traffic area of the house where you can sort through it later. Next, make sure to unload the dishwasher beforehand and keep the sink clean and free of dirty dishes so things don’t pile up throughout the morning, afternoon and evening. (You can even have your spouse or kids take over dishwashing duty so you, as the host, have time to focus on other tasks.) Having a clean sink and kitchen makes things easier when it’s time to clear the table — plates and trays can go straight into the dishwasher and you can simply move on to your next course.

Finally, wipe down countertops and tables with disinfectant cleaners as you go to make sure your kitchen and dining room are safe from bacteria and viruses.

Timing is everything.

When you’re at work, you may create a work-back schedule for projects, where you start with your deadlines and then figure out when different steps in the process are due. You can incorporate this strategy into your prep plan for any gatherings. “It’s all about being organized,” says Maker. “Knowing what time things have to go in the oven to be reheated or what time you have to start cooking a particular dish. Also consider when you need to set the table or start plating things.”

Think to yourself, “If my guests are coming at five, this is my work-back schedule.” This way your appetizers will be ready, you can have dinner in the oven, and everything will be flowing smoothly and ready to go. “Having that sort of agenda for the day or the evening is going to help you stick to a schedule,” adds Maker.

Set up your table and kitchen.

Ask yourself, do you want a formal or informal setting? If you don’t have a big table and are comfortable with being relatively informal, you can serve food buffet-style from the kitchen. Or if you want to be a little more formal but have a small dining room table, you can have certain family members help serve food. For example, dad can serve the appetizers to the guests, while mom is in charge of the side dishes. Tiered trays are helpful as well because you can stack food upwards, says Maker. This will allow you to fit more items on the table without the clutter.

Add small decorative touches to your home.

“What makes most sense is for hosts to stay true to their aesthetic when they’re decorating,” says Maker. She’s a big proponent of buying less, repurposing items and finding little ways to make people feel special, without necessarily having to go over the top or spend a lot of money. For example, if you have beautiful handwriting, you can make name tags for each guest and set them on the table. Or fold your napkins and then tie ribbon around them with the name tag attached.

Additionally, “you can never go wrong with flowers,” says Maker. “The cool thing about flowers is you can always pick something that’s seasonal or matches your color scheme.” You can have a beautiful centerpiece on the table that can be moved off to the side while you’re eating and smaller complementary displays that are interspersed throughout. And, if you want to set the ambience, light some unscented candles and place them throughout the house.

Don’t let guests go home empty-handed.

Have takeout boxes or compostable to-go containers ready so your guests can take food home. Or make goodie bags of dessert that they can eat later. You can even divvy up your floral arrangements and send people home with those as well.

When people come over to your house, they never want to feel like they’re imposing. They want to feel relaxed and welcomed. When you’re prepared for a gathering, your guests will feel like they can enjoy themselves and have a good time. And when you’re organized, you can also take part in the event instead of running around the whole time, says Maker. “It’s your party too; you should have fun.”

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