How to prepare for holiday guests (while keeping your sanity)

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Well, the holiday season is approaching fast. Fa la la la la, la la la oh crap, when was the last time I cleaned the guest bathroom?!

The holidays bring joy, love, gratitude, cold weather (for us in the northeast), but they can also bring stress, unhappiness and an overall grouchy demeanor. One of the main culprits of this is hosting guests in your home. Not only is the very act of having additional people in your house a lot to handle, but the stress over the condition of your home is enough to make any mom throw in the towel and down a bowl of eggnog.

Cleaning and tidying before company is basically a rite of passage for mothers, but it doesn’t have to be the holy grail of stress that we have made it out to be. Here are a few tips for preparing your house for company without losing your sanity in the process.

1. Create a calendar. The worst thing you can do around the holidays is to go into them blind. Create a calendar for the months of November and December and keep them handy. This seems like such a simple tip, but you’d be amazed how many people forget to plan out the dates. I mean, Christmas comes on the same date every year, so why do so many of us wait until the last minute to get everything done, as if it just popped up out of nowhere? Write down the arrival and departure dates of your guests (if they are staying with you) or the dates that family will be coming over. Be as specific with times as possible.

2. Have a plan. Now that you know exactly when your in-laws will be arriving and how long Aunt Millie will be hanging around, you can work backwards to create a plan. Do you need to grocery shop, prepare meals, clean, organize, declutter, decorate? Write it all down in a brain dump. I am a fan of the brain dump because it gets everything out onto one piece of paper. Nothing gets lost. From there, you can start to create your plan. It doesn’t make sense to clean the bathrooms 2 weeks in advance since, unless you plan to go un-showered in that time, you’ll be using the room during those weeks. However, can you prepare meals in advance? Prep some food? Declutter the guest room? Decorate the house? Fill in your schedule with tasks that can be done every day (or every few days) until your guest arrive.

3. Use baskets. Are you looking around and thinking “We have too much shit in this house! What am I going to do with it all?” If the thought of doing a major declutter or organization project before the holidays makes you want to curl in the corner and rock, then don’t. Instead use baskets to do a quick and easy tidying of the house and put the baskets where they won’t be seen. Remove piles of papers, magazines, toys or other clutter and place them in baskets (small or large, depending on the amount of clutter. I love round laundry baskets for this) to be gone through at a later date. Warning! Remember that moving clutter from one place to another doesn’t actually solve the problem, so you will need to be disciplined enough to take care of it after the holidays are over.

4. Prioritize. Is the time to finally declutter that hallway linen closet right before you have company arriving? No, probably not. Prioritize the things that need to be done. Guest towels clean (also known as “the nicer, cleaner towels” if you’re in my house)? Check! Bathroom clean? Check! Extra food in the house? Check! Wine on tap? Check, check, check! Now is not the time to do all the things, now is the time to do the right things. The rest can be done later. If you notice things that really need a good scrub or should be decluttered, take note and come back to it after the New Year.

5. Let it go. Is your mother-in-law the kind that likes to make mention of that cobweb in the corner that she swears has been there since the last time she visited? Do your friends like to comment on how “quaint” your small home is in comparison to their large McMansion? Let it in, then let it go. The comments people make, especially when they are in your home, is more of a reflection on them than it is on you. Do the best you can to make their visit or stay comfortable and welcoming, but leave it at that. You’ll never be able to do everything or make everyone happy, so it is important that you give yourself grace above all else. This is your special time of year too, so be sure to pat yourself on the back and give yourself an extra cookie or two for your efforts. Be an Elsa. Let it go.

Looking at the holiday calendar and getting a major case of to-do list-itis?  That is why I designed the free video course "Survey Your Day" to show you exactly how to track your time and revamp your schedule to give you more time and a better handle on time management. Own the holiday season so it doesn't own you. Click the button below and get the super awesome totally FREE video course sent to your inbox