8 Tips for Getting Your Home Ready for the Holidays

With these tips and tricks, you'll be ready to welcome your guests and not feel stressed.

Prepping for the holidays can be stressful — there's no doubt about that. But with proper planning, you can enjoy a relaxing time with friends and family without the worries.

1 Holiday Mantel, 3 Ways

1 Holiday Mantel, 3 Ways

A beautifully decorated mantel can set the tone for the holiday just as much as your tree. Here are three easy, stand-out looks that can make any fireplace more festive.

Photo by: Brian Patrick Flynn, FlynnsideOut

Brian Patrick Flynn, FlynnsideOut

Just follow these helpful, last-minute tips to guide you in the right path of a stress-free season.

Spruce Up the Main Spaces

Don’t worry about getting every nook and cranny. Put your focus on the main areas in your home that guests will be seeing like the front porch, entryway, kitchen, living room and bathrooms. Easily declutter spaces with a laundry basket you can hide away in your closet. A quick dusting with an old sock isn’t a bad idea, either.

Clean Fast With These Pro Tips

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Make a Schedule and Stick to It

Set aside a specific time to get your chores done. "Nobody hires a cleaning service that promises to arrive some random Saturday when nothing else is happening," Cynthia Townley Ewer, author ofHouseworks, says, "Take a tip from the pros and set up a regular cleaning schedule. Pros don’t quit until the job is done. Schedule the job and stick to it to get the work done in record time."

Photo By: Ljupco Smokovski

Find a Motivator

Cynthia suggests using motivators to prevent distraction and head off boredom. "Play your favorite upbeat music. Listen to a book on tape so you'll feel as if you're accomplishing two tasks at once."

Photo By: Yuri Arcurs

Dress for Success

Professional cleaners dress in comfortable, washable clothing designed for work. Supportive shoes and kneepads spare their bodies. Goggles and gloves protect against chemicals. Throw out the bleach-stained sweatshirts, and create a cleaning uniform that includes shoes, gloves and eye protection.

Photo By: DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Invest in Proper Tools

"Professional cleaners don’t use gadgets. You’ll never find them toting specialized one-time-use tools or the latest gimmick hawked on a TV infomercial," according to Cynthia. "Buy good tools — once — and use them, and you’ll be finished in record time."

Photo By: ©iStockphoto.com/Tatomm

Simplify Supplies

"There's a reason the pros can tote all the products they need in one tray," Cynthia explains "They've simplified their cleaning products down to four basic supplies:

  • Powdered abrasive cleanser
  • Tile and bathroom cleaner
  • Heavy-duty degreasing cleaner
  • Light-duty evaporating cleaner (glass cleaner or multi-surface cleaner)

That's it! No soap scum remover, no special counter spray, no single-use products designed to clean only blinds or fans or walls. The professionals know that with these four simple products they'll be able to handle any ordinary cleaning chore."

Tote Your Tools

For efficiency sake, professional cleaners tote all their tools with them. All their tools — cleansers, brushes and rags — are right there in the tote tray. Vacuum, mop and mini-vac wait in the doorway. A plastic bag for trash is tucked into a pocket, next to the waving lamb's wool duster. That’s why the pro has finished the entire bathroom before our amateur makes it back up the stairs with the powdered cleanser.

Photo By: DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Minimize Your Movement

"Professional cleaners don’t circle a room more than once. Taking their place before the bathroom sink, they’ll spray and wipe the mirror, scrub the sink, wipe down counters and polish fixtures before they move one inch to the right or left," says Cynthia.

"Don’t get physical with your cleaning sessions; make every movement count. Stand fast and clean everything in your path before you move on."

Photo By: Lise Gagné

Pick It Up Before You Clean

"Professional cleaners come to clean, not to tidy counters, furniture, appliances and floors. They can’t do the job if each horizontal surface in the home is covered with papers, toys, dirty dishes and just plain clutter," Cynthia explains. "Pretend that you’ve hired a high-priced cleaning crew. You wouldn’t make them relocate the clutter just to be able to do their job. Give yourself the same head start — pick up before you clean."

Photo By: DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Two Hands Are Better Than One

"The pros don’t work as if one arm is in a sling and neither should you. Get in the habit of using both hands to attack cleaning tasks," advises Cynthia.

"Spray a mirror with one hand; wipe it down with the other. Scrub counters with two sponges or cleaning cloths. Dusting goes twice as fast when a lamb's wool duster in one hand cleans nooks and crannies while the cleaning cloth in the other skims flat surfaces."

Photo By: DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Teamwork

Two people make a bed four times faster than one. Two or three can make short work of an average home. Make cleaning a group effort. Family members are more reluctant to mess up a clean house when they have been part of the cleaning effort!

Photo By: Zing Images/Getty Images

Use Seasonal Scents

Have your home smelling delightful with holiday-scented candles or stovetop scents that will warmly welcome your guests as they enter the home.

Tea Cup Candle

Tea Cup Candle

Put a fresh spin on an old teacup by turning it into a fragrant candle. Melt a block of crafting wax in a pan, and then once liquefied, pour it inside the cup, leaving a one-half-inch rim around the top. Before the wax hardens, cut wick material to size, then place in the center.

Set the Table

It's time to bring out the fancy dishes. Create a lovely, festive tablescape complete with printable place-cards, color-coordinated dinnerware and fresh, seasonal blooms.

Vintage Red-and-White Holiday Table Setting

Vintage Red-and-White Holiday Table Setting

As seen on HGTV Crafternoon, this sweet holiday table setting was inspired by vintage christmas decor. This retro look features red, white and mint, with repurposed cookie jars standing in for traditional vases.

From: HGTV Crafternoon

Photo by: Andrew McGary ©© 2014 HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Andrew McGary, © 2014 HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Free Printable Place Cards

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The Finishing Touch

Complete your holiday table with custom place cards. Just fill in the name of each guest and print. They're fast and easy, and everyone is sure to be impressed. Click here to download the simple instructions.

Desert Buffet

Use tent cards to identify all the tasty treats on your table. Click here to download the template.

Green Swirls

The place cards can be tent folded or put into stands. If you're looking for a creative alternative to the standard holder, place name cards in wine corks (cut a slice in the top), pine cones or a Christmas ornament (slide it into the wire on top). Click here to download the template.

Reindeer or Snowflakes

Four place cards fit on one 8-1/2" x 11" piece of paper. On this template, there are two red stripe reindeer and two green stripe snowflakes.

Candy Canes

You can change the font and alter its size as long as you stay with in the margins. On this template, there are two red stripe cards with a banner and two blue stripe cards with pinecones.

New Year's Dinner

An elegant dinner party is not complete without a glitzy place setting. Download the template, fill in the names, print, then add some glitter to make your place cards sparkle. Click here to download the template.

Champagne Toast

Whether your buffet is casual rustic style or an elegant sophisticated spread, these chalkboard-look place cards will look stunning. Click here to download the template.

Bubbles

For a dinner on the eve or a brunch the next morning, make your table pop with these fizzy tent cards. Click here to download the template.

Chalkboard Style

Clean the Fridge + Oven

If you plan on cooking the holiday feast, it's a good idea to start by cleansing the fridge and giving the oven a deep clean. Another tip? Plan ahead and figure out what food you can make beforehand. There’s nothing more stressful than trying to prepare a big dinner for your guests in a day. Pies and side dishes can be prepped a few days before, so all you need to do is bake them.

Contemporary Neutral Kitchen with Stainless Steel Refrigerator

Contemporary Neutral Kitchen with Stainless Steel Refrigerator

A contemporary neutral kitchen with a stainless steel refrigerator is shown, as seen on DIY Network's The Expandables.

From: The Expandables

Prepare for Houseguests

Make your guests feel welcomed and loved by taking the time to tidy up the guest room and bathroom for those friends or relatives staying for a few nights. Be sure they have plenty of clean towels, toiletries, blankets and pillows to make them feel right at home.

Contemporary Bedroom With Silver Accents

Contemporary Bedroom With Silver Accents

Silver, gray and blue blend together in this ethereal bedroom with masculine touches, including upcycled menswear throw pillows.

Clean the Floors

While it may seem like a daunting task, cleaning your own floors without the help of a professional is possible. We have all the tips you need to clean carpet, vinyl, hardwood and tile. Get expert advice for every floor type besides carpet here.

Clean White Living Space is Open, Welcoming

Clean White Living Space is Open, Welcoming

The open floor plan of this Driftwood, Tex., home combines the living space and dining room. A traditional table is surrounded by shield-back chairs and highlighted by a classic chandelier in the dining space. The living room features comfortable yet contemporary furniture, focused on the limestone fireplace.

Photo by: Paul Finkel

Paul Finkel

Be Prepared for Baby

If you don't have kids of your own, your guests that do have kids will thank you for spending the time to make sure the home is baby-proof. Just being aware of what baby can reach is a good method to go by.

Babyproofing

Babyproofing

Keep Them Distracted: Brightly colored plastic bottles and containers that you deem safe can be kept in a bottom shelf or cabinet. This could keep baby engaged while meals are being prepared.

See More Baby-Proof Ideas

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Adorably Curious

Nothing is cuter than a baby, and no one is more curious. Here are some straightforward baby-proofing tips to keep babies out of harm’s way as they grow and explore.

Turn for the Better

Babies’ toys often have knobs on them, which help with developing dexterity. But they also make turning any knobs available very tempting for little ones. Placing covers over oven/stove knobs reduces the risk of toddlers being able to grip, much less turn these knobs.

Inexpensive Fridge Hack

Little hands invading the fridge can be deterred with this clever trick: two sticky, non-permanent hooks and an elastic band. Place them higher on the refrigerator and the door will remain closed. Once you feel your child has a handle on fridge restraint – viola! It’s easy to remove the hooks.

Behind Closed Doors

Lower kitchen cabinet doors that house chemicals or off-limits kitchen wares should only be accessed by grown-ups or older kids. Cabinet safety latches are easily installed with a screwdriver, and will keep doors from being opened.

Keep Them Distracted

Brightly colored plastic bottles and containers that you deem safe can be kept in a bottom shelf or cabinet. This could keep baby engaged while meals are being prepared.

A Soft Landing

A clean carpet that is soft enough for babies to play on yet tough enough to withstand wear and tear from toddlers can be an invaluable addition to a baby-proofed nursery. A strong water and stain resistant underlayment may save money and frustration over the years.

Within Reach

Keeping toys and stuffed animals at baby’s level is a great way to keep them occupied with what’s theirs. Toys can stay organized in baskets to decrease clutter and help them learn how to put toys away. It’s a win-win!

Cover Up

Because outlets are down on baby'€™s level, they become a tempting danger. To prevent this, place outlet covers, caps or plugs in all outlets not in use.

Keep it Light

Artwork hung above a crib should be lightweight, in case of earthquakes, or hanging hardware failure. There are many creative and unique DIY projects that are safe to hang in a nursery.

Hang Your Clothes Up

It’s better not to hang heavy items over the changing table either, especially once baby reaches the ‘grabbing’ phase. Instead of a leaving the wall blank, consider hanging a soft baby outfit on temporary hooks for a stylish, removable display.

Safe and Sound

Whether in earthquake country or not, you could consider removing the glass in front of any non-precious artwork in the nursery. You can also replace glass with Plexiglas at a local framing store. The artwork will be just as fun but without the risk of injury should it break.

Where Do You Think You'€™re Going?

Keep kids, especially any tiny sleepwalkers, inside with doorknob covers. The cover aims for tamper-resistance by spinning when little hands try to grab them but adults can easily grip the cover properly and open the door. They can be easly removed when everyone in the house is okay to have access.

Soften the Sharp Edges

When little ones start to walk they often '€œpull up'€ on furniture. Applying stick-on, removable corner cushions may help prevent bruises and bumps from furniture edges. And when they really start picking up speed, corner cushions can protect from run-ins with sharp corners.

Build a Fire

Up the cozy factor with a crackling fire going as you entertain your guests. Keep fuzzy blankets handy for those not as close to the fireplace. Enjoy cocktails and conversation with your company — you deserve it!

BPF_holiday-house_interior_mantel_three_ways_understated_elegance_h

BPF_holiday-house_interior_mantel_three_ways_understated_elegance_h

A palette of white, gray and charcoal helps to blend its seasonal trappings with the room's year-round decor

Photo by: Brian Patrick Flynn

Brian Patrick Flynn

Host the Holidays in a Small Space

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It's All in the Prep

Here are a few holiday hacks designed to make a big difference within a small space.

Conceal Electronics

If your television doesn’t match your winter decor, hang a piece of artwork over it to cover it up. Canvases tend to be light and easy to hang.

Hint: If you don’t have one like this on hand, you can wrap a blank canvas in any wrapping paper you like. You’ll be gifting your guests with a tech-free party.

Office/Craft Cart Turned Bar Cart

A simple can of metallic spray paint has completely transformed these beat up rolling shelves into a fabulous and functional bar cart. Cheers to that.

Add Layers

Adding different levels to your serving stations will allow you to pack twice as much food and dishware into a tiny space. This simple cake stand will bring a hot chocolate station to new heights. 

Use All You Got

Don’t be afraid to repurpose rooms for your party. This office area becomes a libation lounge when the bookshelves are used to hold snacks, condiments and serve-ware.

Don't Go For the Typical

Faux trees can solve a lot of problems, but their stands tend to leave much to be desired. No need to buy a fancy tree skirt, though. Tuck your favorite scarf around the base of your tree and start trimming.

Photo By: Marc Kelly

Repurpose Pots + Planters

Chances are you don’t need to shell out big bucks for a designated ice bucket. Large planters, pots or festively-hued storage bins can add an unexpected bit of fun to your beverage stations. 

Use Nature, It's Free

No one ever said that garland must look like pine clippings. If you have any sort of decorative greenery lying around, feel free use it on your mantels. White lights help to define the holiday mood. 

Lights Don't Need to Be Seasonal

Your holiday lights don’t have to be seasonal either. If you enjoy string lights outdoors during the spring and summer, feel free to bring them inside for the holidays. 

Photo By: Marc Kelly

No Need to Spend A Lot

If you’re in desperate need for more decor, you only need to invest in some wrapping paper. Wrap up any sort of boxes you have lying around and you’ll have an instant holiday vignette. 

Put Lights in Unusual Places

Shed a little light on that tablescape! Don’t spend hours stringing your lights. If you’d like to set a more casual tone, simply scatter, drape and pile those beauties around your buffet. Be conscious of the cords, however. No one wants to stumble into the new year.

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