Oh, it’s a wonderful time of the year — and doubly so when you get to host your friends or relatives for the holidays in your new home. Whether you’re planning something truly grand over a weekend or just an intimate dinner party among close friends, you can create a memorable experience that won’t put a strain on your Christmas cheer with these “holiday hacks.”
Make Your To-Do List Early
Santa Claus isn’t the only fellow who needs to make lists to keep everything straight during the holidays. Good organization can help you stay ahead of the rush when you’re planning a get-together or playing host at Christmas.
You can make use of lists to keep your grocery shopping, cleaning and related tasks on track so that nothing escapes your memory. Having a list on hand also helps when your guests ask what they can bring. (Don’t be afraid to let your guests help by bringing something or cooking. They’ll feel more involved, and you’ll have less to manage.)
Tidy up Just the Essential Areas
There’s an old saying that “perfect is the enemy of good,” so don’t let yourself obsess over the details trying to get your home in pristine shape for the holidays. Your entire house doesn’t have to be spotless before your guests arrive. Focus on the key areas of your home in which you anticipate guests to be and concentrate your efforts there.
We recommend giving your kitchen, dining room, living room and bathrooms the most attention since that’s where your guests will probably be. Just shut the doors to the bedrooms and other private spaces and be content that your home is “good enough” for those you invite. If there’s a little extra clutter about that you don’t have time to sort, sweep everything into a laundry basket and tuck it in the closet until your guests leave.
Have Extra Gifts Ready and Wrapped
There’s something incredibly embarrassing about someone giving you a gift when you don’t have anything in return. You can bet that at least one or two of your guests will appear with a gift-wrapped goodie of some sort that is meant to be a token of their love or friendship.
Buy a few bottles of wine, some seasonal coffees or teas, and a few boxes of chocolate. Wrap them in some colorful tissue paper and ribbons, and put them under your tree or somewhere handy. That way, you’re never caught off guard and stressed by an unexpected bit of generosity.
Prep Your Kitchen and Put out the Snacks
Your kitchen is the heart and soul of every gathering, so focus a lot of your attention there. Set out a mixture of salty, sweet and savory snacks where your guests can find them without searching. You can add a little holiday flair by putting Christmas ornaments in a bowl and some fancy satin or velvet ribbons around your dessert trays.
If you’re expecting some kids to be in attendance (or you just have whimsical friends), consider putting out some gingerbread cookies, a few tubes of icing and some sprinkles to use for decorations. Guests of all ages can have fun creating gingerbread men to eat later.
Have a Beverage Station Ready
Help your guests help themselves by putting a “beverage station” in your kitchen. Set extra coffee pods, sugar, creamer and a stack of cups by your brewer and put the mulled cider in a crockpot where it’s easily accessible. Cola, iced tea and water can be located nearby.
If you’re serving alcohol, sit the soda and other mixers out next to a bucket of ice and make sure that you’re stocked with vodka, whiskey, rum and wine. That way, when you’re guests arrive you can let them mix their preferred drinks without playing bartender all night.
Add Some Holiday Ambiance
You naturally want to create a festive mood for your party, so don’t be afraid to go a little “extra” on the holiday decor. One of the quickest ways to add Christmas charm to a room is to string twinkle lights around the windows or walls. Low lights, candles or a lit fireplace can also create a feeling of intimacy and warmth.
When you’re planning your party, take the time to put together a playlist of holiday music and other favorites to play during the party. Make sure that you have at least two hours’ worth of music so that you don’t have to restart the playlist very often.
Put Together an Overnighter’s Basket
Guests may end up staying at your home overnight during the holidays by accident or design — and you want to be ready. We suggest that you put together a basket or two that holds all of the essentials someone might need overnight, including washcloths, towels and the password to your WiFi.
Another smart thing to do is stock up on sample-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner, toothbrushes and other toiletries your guests may need. That way, your guests can locate what they need and you won’t be worried about their comfort.
The key thing to remember is that advance planning is your friend. The more you have organized and ready, the less stress you’ll be under once your guests arrive. Ultimately, you want your guests to feel welcome and comfortable in your new home — and you want to be relaxed enough to enjoy the holiday spirit as your friends and family gather to celebrate the season.