Tis the season for holiday entertaining, the time of year when friends and family gather for food, fun and festivities. Holiday parties almost always make for a good time, but preparing your home can be really stressful when you’ve taken on the role of party planner and welcome overnight guests for any length of stay.
Make a List and Check It Twice
It’s a good idea to plan by creating a list of everything you’ll need to clean, buy and prepare several weeks before you’ll be entertaining for the holidays. Add everything from decorating and cleaning to cooking and making sure you have plenty of ice to your list. Check off each item as you go to get a sense of accomplishment and to be certain you haven’t forgotten to do or purchase anything. Proper planning will decrease the amount of last-minute rushing around you need to do, so that you’ll have plenty of time to tidy up your home for guests.
The Guest Bedroom
Before you show guests where they’ll be staying, you need to make sure the room is clean. Since the guest room isn’t regularly occupied, you’ll want to take a little time to dust bureaus, picture frames, knickknacks, nightstands and headboards. You should also give ceiling fans, baseboards and room corners a pass with a dust mop. Afterwards, vacuum the floor and don’t forget to clean those often overlooked mini-blinds, window treatments and windows themselves. The sheets for your guest bedroom may have been in storage for a while, so check them for signs of mustiness. There is a chance you’ll need to launder them again before your visitors arrive. If they seem OK, you can pop them in the dryer on low with dryer sheets or a few tennis balls to freshen them up and remove any creases they might have from being folded and stored so long. A welcome basket with toiletry essentials, bottled water, snacks and towels adds a memorable touch.
While red wine, cranberry sauce and turkey gravy are real crowd-pleasers, they aren’t so kind to upholstery and carpets. If you notice that one of your guests got a little too cozy with her red wine and the evidence is left behind on your rug or upholstery, blot it right away with a white cloth until all of the liquid has been absorbed. If the stain’s dry, whip up a quick solution of dishwashing liquid (1 tbsp), white vinegar (1 tbsp) and warm water (2 cups) to blot away the stain.
Deodorize Without Overdoing It
Smell is a powerful sense – and having a clean-smelling home goes a long way. Before guests come over, take out the trash, open your windows about 15 minutes prior to guests arriving and create a naturally delicious smelling fragrance right on your stovetop. Simply add cinnamon sticks and vanilla extract to a pot of boiling water and your home will smell like the holidays, sans cooking.
Stock the Bathroom
Bathrooms should be clean and welcoming, which sounds time consuming. Recruit the help of household products to clean troublesome places, like the toilet, while you sleep, so that cleaning takes minutes, not hours. Pour one cup of vinegar and one fizzy denture tablet into the bowl. Overnight, it will loosen up hard water deposits and be easier to clean, saving on time and elbow grease. To remove rings and clean underneath the toilet rim, use a damp scouring pumice stone.
Literally Disconnect Your Rooms
Between televisions, stereos and cell phone chargers, there are cords coming out of every wall, which can make your space look more like a technology store instead of home. Go through each room and unplug the wires that aren’t necessary – extra cell phone chargers, laptop cords, hair dryers and electric toothbrushes. Doing this keeps unseemly wires out of sight and makes for a cozier space.
Organize the Chaos
Mail, notebooks, magazines and books always seem to have a mind of their own and take over every inch of counter space possible. Before hiding them in drawers, closets or under beds, grab a decorative crate or box and keep them together. You’ll be adding to your décor, organizing the chaos that is your incoming mail and creating the illusion of having a clutter-free home.
Give the Floors a Once-Over… Once
Shiny floors and freshly vacuumed carpets leave a lasting clean impression – so commit to only doing them once – just before guests arrive. Floors are highly trafficked areas, so cleaning them in advance won’t save you time.
Set Up a Holiday Cheer Station and a Buffet
You have to think strategically when you’re in charge of holiday entertaining. And when it comes to food and drinks, the less distance your guests have to travel, the less opportunity there is for spills to occur. Designate a beverage station and stock it with everything guests will need including wine, beer, liquor, mixers, non-alcoholic drinks, cups and napkins. You’ll also want to put out an ice bucket and enlist a friend or family member to help you keep an eye on the level of ice as the party goes on. Or you can always simplify your beverage station by offering only water, sodas, wine, beer and something seasonal like mulled cider. The fewer components you have for making and serving drinks, the cleaner your home will be at the end of the party. The same idea applies to your food table when entertaining for the holidays. A buffet-style setting reduces the amount of work you have to do, as guests can serve themselves. In addition to the food you’re serving, lay out plates, utensils and napkins. It’s also a holiday entertaining must to make sure there are serving utensils available. Forgetting to provide those means guests will use whatever they can find, which can result in some big messes.
Pittsburgh housecleaning expert and recent national award winning member of the Merry Maids team Danielle Merced offers tips for stress-free holidays. Ms. Merced, 32, was recently honored with the national Client First Award, introduced in 2010 for extraordinary work with an immobile client whose home had fallen into significant disrepair. She is currently a senior at Robert Morris University studying finance after serving the US Army in Kuwait and Afghanistan.
Merry Maids of Greater Allegheny is based in Robinson Township and services all communities south of the rivers in Allegheny County as well as northern Washington County (McMurray, Canonsburg, Houston). Merry Maids was founded in 1979 in Omaha, Nebraska by Dallen Peterson. Allen worked with his family to create the Merry Maids system and franchise the company. The Merry Maids view of family and values also aligned with our ServiceMaster Corporate Commitment. Merry Maids currently operates 1,351 franchise and corporate-owned territories throughout the United States. As Merry Maids has grown, our core values remain the heart of what we do and who we are. As an example, many of the franchise owners who purchased territories in the early years have included their children in their businesses, and continue to work themselves. Merry Maids also encourages career growth. Several branch managers began their careers as team members.