Holiday Housekeeping Hints

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The day after Halloween, my local shopping plaza started playing Christmas tunes. This reminded me that it’s never too early to start getting ready for the holidays. They’re coming whether we like it or not, so why not be proactive and head off the anxiety that comes with hurried, last-minute preparations?

Many people dislike the holiday season because they associate it with stress. There’s a lot of pressure to make everyone else happy, usually at the expense of ourselves. The best way to avoid this situation and learn to love the season of joy and giving is planning and organizing as early as possible and getting as much done ahead of time as you can.

The following tips will help you achieve these goals.

Make a Plan

Before diving into any large-scale project (which the holiday season definitely is), it’s essential to have a blueprint of what needs to happen to make the venture successful.

Don’t procrastinate, just do it. Begin today.

Do some planning:

  • Make out menus for holiday meals. General is ok, specific is better. At least get an idea of what you’ll be serving.
  • Make meal preparation charts. Write a list or draw a diagram to visually plan the steps, including approximating a schedule. It’s easy for details to get lost in the fray when you’re trying to do ten things at once on Thanksgiving Day. Having a plan at hand will come in very handy.
  • Make a list of chores that need to be done before Thanksgiving to get your home ready. This would include things like getting your fine china dusted off, figuring out where you stashed your turkey roaster last year, and preparing guest rooms for occupancy.
  • If you don’t stick to a regular cleaning routine that keeps your home in shape every week or two, look around and write out a list of areas that need to be cleaned before the holidays officially kick off. The kitchen, bathrooms, and areas where you entertain should be spruced up, if nothing else.
  • Create a master list of people to whom you’ll play Santa Claus. Figuring out what to buy can only come after knowing who to buy for. If you already know what to buy, skip this step.
  • Make another list of chores that will need to be done before Christmas to get your home ready. This would include things like creating a space for your Christmas tree, decorating, cleaning the oven in readiness for cookie baking, etc.

Next, make three master shopping lists:

  • Food supplies to have on hand for holiday gatherings, holiday baking, feeding out-of-town guests, etc. Think about what non-perishables can be stockpiled ahead of time. Refer to the menu plans you made.
  • General supplies necessary for the comfort of out-of-town guests, parties, or decorating. Things like toilet paper, gift wrap, paper cups, napkins, etc.
  • Gift ideas for people on the master list you prepared earlier.

Shop Now

Don’t wait until stores are overrun with frantic shoppers or online traffic is wreaking havoc with website usability. Stock up while lines are short.

Hit the grocery store with list number one, then Costco for lists number two and three. Go online when you get home to finish up.

Not only does this approach save time in the long run, it’ll take some of the pressure off later on. Knowing you’ve already got a pantry full of staples is like having money in the bank during the holiday season, when the pressure in on and that last-minute stop at the grocery store leaves you frustrated and running late, late, late.

This is also the best time to shop for gifts, especially if you’re not sure what to give. Having time to browse and reflect on what would tickle the recipient’s fancy isn’t a luxury you can afford the day before gifts are exchanged.

Get Your House in Order

With the bulk of shopping out of the way, move on to the next step: getting your home into shape. Refer to the lists you made earlier and get busy doing chores and cleaning.

Give your kitchen a good going over. Make sure the fridge is clean inside, the stovetop is free of burned-on messes, and the microwave isn’t harboring splatters or spills. This saves embarrassment when cousin Fran needs to store her Jell-O mold in the fridge and Aunt Kate needs to microwave her green-bean casserole.

Clean the dining room and other areas where you’ll entertain. Dust away cobwebs on the chandelier, sweep away the dust bunnies in corners, and vacuum up the dog hair that’s accumulated on the sofa cushions in the living room (guests don’t want to have dog hair all over their clothes after visiting you, no matter how much they love your animals).

Dust and vacuum guest rooms and make up beds so they’re freshened up and ready for use.

Be sure bathrooms are clean, that there are clean hand towels at the ready, and check your inventory of soap and toilet paper. Running out of TP with a house full of guests would not be a happy moment.

Start Preparing for Christmas

Yes, you read that right. It’s wise to begin Christmas preparations before Thanksgiving, if time allows. Once that train starts rolling on the day after Turkey Day, it gains momentum rapidly.

So, with Thanksgiving preparations well in hand, start getting a jump on your Christmas to-do list.

If you’ve already purchased gifts, which is advisable (as discussed above), start wrapping them as time permits.

Begin tackling other chores.

Think about what else you can do now to get ready ahead of time.

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On Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving is the day that officially kicks off the season of holiday madness. If your plans were laid out with thought and diligence, Thanksgiving Day should find you calm and well-prepared.

Before Christmas

On the day after Thanksgiving, go back to your Christmas readiness list and get going with whatever hasn’t yet been accomplished. Take satisfaction in ticking tasks off the list as they get done.

Reducing stress later is accomplished by buckling down now. Looming deadlines cause anxiety. Conversely, thoughtful preparation well in advance creates a feeling of calm.

Having the situation well in hand affords us the time to spend doing things that matter, like simply being with friends and loved ones. Take the bull by the horns now so that you can learn to love the season of joy and giving.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

Get Your Home In Shape for the Holidays: a Week-by-Week Action Plan

 

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The holiday season is bearing down on us like a freight train. If your home is not quite ready for the time of year when people show up at your door and expect to be invited inside, now’s the time to get busy. This holiday-readiness action plan breaks down home holiday preparation into a simple five-week plan that’ll have your house in tip-top shape by Thanksgiving Day.

Week One: Cut Down on Clutter in Common Areas

Phase one calls for clearing out unnecessary stuff that collects dust and complicates cleaning in common areas like the living room, dining room, kitchen, and family room. The goal is uncluttered surfaces throughout: countertops, shelves, tables, and wherever else stuff has accumulated.

File or toss out stacks of bills. Recycle magazines that you’ll never read. Donate the box of baking pans that have been sitting in the corner since your mother-in-law gave them to you after she cleaned out her kitchen cupboards (and which don’t fit into yours either).

Look around your space with a critical eye and be merciless. If it’s not useful to you, get rid of it. Things that you don’t need can be used and appreciated by someone else if you donate them to a local community action center or church.

This de-cluttering phase is a fresh start. When it’s complete you’ll be able to clearly spot, and access, the dust on flat surfaces, cobwebs in corners, and dirt everywhere else. It’s infinitely easier to clean and maintain spaces that have minimal clutter, so this first step ensures that your subsequent cleaning endeavors will be successful.

 

Week Two: Tackle Dust and Cobwebs in Common Areas

Phase two is the time to clean up accumulated dust and cobwebs that are clearly visible and accessible now that the clutter has gone away. Get out your long-handled, telescoping duster to first tackle cobwebs and dust up high. If you don’t have one, secure an old towel over the business end of a broom. Areas where dust settles and cobwebs form: valances and window treatments, ceiling fans, the top of wardrobes and cupboards, recessed lighting fixtures, and corners where walls meet up.

After all the dust up high has been removed, move on to areas at eye level and below. Target chair rails, lampshades and finials, picture frames and wall hangings, window sills, shelves, door ridges and louvered doors, air exchange grates and covers, baseboards and baseboard heaters.

Dust also accumulates at floor level under appliances like the refrigerator and stove, under beds and couches, and in the corners behind furniture and in closets. Tackle these areas with crevice tools, a dust mop, a broom, or your vacuum cleaner.

Remove as much dust as you can from these typically overlooked areas. Eliminating dust from your ceiling fan and on top of the fridge reduces the overall amount of dust that can be stirred up and re-distributed later on. Once the lion’s share of dust is gone, a little bit of upkeep between now and Christmas Eve will guarantee a dust-free family bash, so Aunt Gertrude will have no cause to cast a critical eye at dust bunnies in corners.

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Week Three: Deep Clean Guest Rooms

If you’re expecting out-of-town guests for the holidays, phase three of your pre-holiday cleanup involves getting guests rooms ready for occupancy. The nature and amount of work involved in this step depends on the state of the rooms: if they’ve become household catchall spaces, the task will be more complicated than if they simply need sprucing up.

Do whatever needs to be done to make them habitable. De-clutter, if necessary, dust and vacuum, freshen bed linens and window treatments. When this phase is completed, your guest rooms will be ready and waiting when Santa Clause and his compadres come to town and you won’t have to scramble at the last minute to unearth the beds.

Week Four: Thoroughly Clean the Kitchen

The kitchen typically sees a lot of action during the holiday season. For this reason, giving the kitchen a good cleanup is the goal of phase four of your holiday action plan.

This is the time to tackle tasks that don’t get done regularly: purge the pantry, re-arrange and re-organize cupboards, clean the oven and the fridge. Really take time to get into corners and underneath furniture.

When you’re done, the kitchen will be in prime condition for holiday baking as well as entertaining visitors. No cringing when Cousin Celia opens your oven door to pop in her green-bean casserole!

Week Five: Give the Whole House a Quick Cleanup

Phase five is the time to whip through the whole house: dust, vacuum, mop, clean bathrooms, and generally tidy up. Pay particular attention to the areas that will be visible to visitors. Since you’ve already de-cluttered, eliminated cobwebs and dust, plus cleaned guest rooms and the kitchen, this phase of the operation should be quick and easy.

Breaking down a big job into manageable segments is the key to successfully achieving any goal. This five-week action plan gets your home into shape just in time for the holiday season kickoff: Thanksgiving. So get busy, stay on track, and allow yourself the luxury of less stress at game time by implementing this preparation plan over the next five weeks.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

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Get Your Home Ready for the Holidays: Fall House Cleaning Tips

orangetreeThe change of seasons is the perfect time to tackle chores around the house that don’t get done as part of your regular cleaning regimen. Getting your home ready for winter isn’t difficult, and it’s worth investing a little time now to start preparing your home for the busy holiday season. The following are some common tasks that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Dust Baseboard Heaters

If your home has baseboard heaters, this is the time to really get them clean. Use your vacuum cleaner dusting brush and crevice tools to remove dust, cobwebs, and other debris that collects inside and underneath.

Dust Vent Covers

Use your vacuum cleaner dusting brush to thoroughly remove accumulations of dust or cobwebs on heating vent covers and grates.

Freshen Cozy Throw Blankets

Wash or air out throws that you snuggle underneath during cold winter months. Anything too bulky to put in your washing machine can be taken to a Laundromat.

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Clean the Oven

This is the perfect time of year to clean the oven. Before holiday entertaining season begins, get your oven in tip-top shape so it’ll be performing optimally to bake pies and cookies.

Wash Fine China

Dust or hand wash the fine china and crystal that doesn’t get used in the summer, when picnics and grilling outside are the norm. You’ll be glad you did when it comes time to set your Thanksgiving Day table. More done now means less stress later.

Deep Clean the Dining Room

Take time to thoroughly clean the least-used room in the house: the dining room. Holiday entertaining is right around the corner, so get your home in shape now. Eliminate cobwebs in corners and on light fixtures. Dust the tops of hutches, and tackle baseboards. Get into all the areas that don’t receive regular attention.

Freshen Guest Rooms

This is also the perfect time to give guest bedrooms a good once-over. Freshen window treatments by vacuuming, or air them outside. Organize the closets, sort out miscellanea in wardrobes or dressers, and get rid of things you don’t use that are wasting space.

Vacuum Mattresses

While you’re cleaning the bedrooms, vacuum and flip mattresses. Also freshen bedding, by airing outside or laundering, if necessary.

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Clean Glass Doors

Before cold weather sets in, clean glass entry doors. Gleaming glass makes a great first impression on holiday guests. Plus, it’s tough to clean outside glass when the temperature drops below freezing.

Wash Entry Mats

Start off fresh when messy winter weather hits. Wash entry mats, boot trays, and runners so they’ll be ready for the workout ahead.

Winter is on its way, and with it, the holiday season. Give yourself time to enjoy fun and family by getting your home ready now. Why put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today?

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

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