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Before you start decking those halls, hold up! Let’s get your house in order. I love the holidays y’all, it’s the time of year that I live for. I have more energy, my spirits are lifted, and it’s just a great time of year. That being said, nothing sends me into Grinch-mode quicker than a house that’s a mess! Not only does my house need to be clean, it needs to be decorated and well-stocked for the season. Nobody wants to be looking at piles of laundry and clutter at this time of year. The holidays are a busy time for just about anyone. Getting your home ready for the holidays is a must! Going into the season with a home that’s clean, festive and organized is only going to lift your mood and set you up for success!
The last thing you want to be doing during the holidays is stressing over a messy house. A good sprucing-up is just what you need to kick-start your holiday! Think you’re off the hook because you’re not expecting guests? Not so fast! The most important guests in your home are the ones who live there! Yes, that means you!
First you need to decide whether you’re willing and able to knock out my ten steps in a single day, or spread them out over a few days. How much time you need will depend on the current state of your home. I have two toddlers so unless I can find a baby-sitter for the day, it’s pretty much impossible for me clean my entire house in one shot. A full-on cleaning usually me a few days to get everything done, between cleaning, takes me full time, blogging and mommy’ing. If I’m able to dedicate a full Saturday without interruptions, I can get my house in order more quickly. Let’s jump right in!
Here are my 10 steps to getting your home ready for the holidays!
1. Tackle the laundry!
If it’s one thing you don’t want to be doing this holiday, it’s stressing over piles of laundry! I have a tendency to leave clean clothes unfolded for days and this year it caught up with me. I know that the first thing I need to do to get my house in order is to get my laundry in check, and keep it that way.
Unwashed and unfolded clothes make your home look super-messy! You’ll be surprised at how much neater your home will look when clothes are washed, folded and put away. Don’t be like me and try to skip the putting away part, it will catch up with you!
Before you do anything, gather all of the dirty laundry and sort it! Throw a load in before you start cleaning. If there are any clean clothes that need to be folded and put away, start doing that now, while your loads are washing. Make sure to regularly check on your clothes that are washing and drying so that you can get in as many loads as you can. If you finish folding and you still have clothes that are still going in the washer/dryer move along to step #2.
One rule that I try to get everyone to follow in my house is keeping things in the rooms that they belong in. The kids stuff belongs in their room and mommy’s and daddy’s things belong in our room. Coats go in coat closets, and shoes get taken off at the door and put away. Of course with 2 small kids, and busy jobs, this doesn’t always happen. Toys, clothes and shoes start to pile up in areas that they don’t belong in very quickly!
When I do a full-house cleaning, I take a walk-through of the house and scoop up any items that are out of place. I put all of the items in their respective rooms, but don’t actually put them away until I get to cleaning or tidying that room. If your kids are big enough to put their own stuff away you can make them do it so you don’t have to. Again, just get the stuff in the right room and you can put it away when you come back to that room later.
Make sure you also sort any piles of paper that are lying around. Any old bills or mail that is no longer relevant should get shredded and recycled. If there are papers that you need to hold on to, put them in their place and and you can file away later when you come back to that room. Now is also a good time to also take out the trash and recyclables.
3. Purge and Donate
As you de-clutter, you’ll likely come across items that are no longer in use. It’s important to get rid of them, so you’ll have space for anything that you’ll accumulate over the holidays. Donate any clothes that are too small and any toys that your kids don’t play with anymore. Anything that’s ripped, stained or broken goes in the trash.
I keep a nice basket in the corner of the kids room to put clothes in that they’ve outgrown. As the basket fills up, I’ll either donate or give the items away. Clothes that are too small do not go back in drawers! Out-grown clothes serve your family no purpose, so get rid of them. We often take for granted all of the stuff that we have! There are people out there who could use our gently-worn items. You can also donate to an organization like Big Brother Big Sister Foundation. They’ll even pick them up for you! You just need to contact them and schedule a pick-up.
Churches also take donations and so will other non-profits in your area. There are also plenty of community-organized coat-drives at this time of year. A simple Google search will tell you where you can donate stuff in your area.
5. Clean and Organize the Kitchen
The kitchen is the heart of every home, especially during holidays. A clean and organized kitchen sets the tone for a happy and well-fed holiday season!
When I do a deep clean of my kitchen, I literally start from top to bottom. I give the top cabinets a good wipe-down, giving extra attention to the cabinets around the stove area. If you’re feeling ambitious, you should tidy the insides of the cabinets that get the most cluttered.
Now is also a good time to clean out your fridge if it’s in need of a cleaning. I do a weekly purge of old items in my fridge, and try to time it with trash pick-up days.
Next, I clean the counter-tops, sink, stove-top and appliances. I then make my way down to the bottom cabinets. Last step is to sweep and mop the floor. I mix 1 gallon water with about 6 drops of citrus essential oil and half a cup of rubbing alcohol to get my floors nice and shiny, and smelling lovely. I use this same solution on my cabinet doors. If you’re uneasy about using rubbing alcohol on your cabinets, Murphy’s oil soap, and Method Daily Wood Cleaner are other alternatives.
As you clean and organize your kitchen, keep a running list of any cleaning products that you’re running low on, and any other paper goods that you need. That way you can grab them on your next shopping trip.
A DIY stove-top potpourri , or scented candle will give your kitchen a nice holiday smell and rid the space of any lingering food smells. Don’t forget to put out fresh dish towels! A kitchen rug is optional but pulls the space together and gives your kitchen a nice, cozy touch!
6. Clean and stock the bathroom
I think the bathroom is just about everyone’s least favorite room to clean, but regular deep cleanings are necessary and can’t be skipped! This is the second room on my list because I just like to get it out of the way.
I like to keep my bathroom as tranquil and fresh-smelling as I can. This starts with a good cleaning and making sure that it’s well-stocked. Before you start cleaning, sweep the floors first, before they get wet. Give the bathtub, toilet and sink a good scrubbing, and wipe down mirrors and cabinets.
Take inventory of items like toilet paper and other toiletries. Add anything that you’re running low on to your running list that you started in the kitchen. Make sure to fill the hand-soap and lotion dispensers. I like to keep hand-lotion in my bathroom for people to use after they wash their hands, especially in the winter. Make sure to also put out fresh hand and bath towels, and have plenty of clean extras! You’ll also want to lay down clean rugs and bathmats.
A scented candle and hand-soap adds a nice finishing touch to your clean bathroom. You can opt for holiday scents if you wish, but clean, fresh scents are nice at any time of year.
7. Change bedding and clean the bedrooms
Whether you’re expecting guests, or just want to get some quality sleep, wash your bedding and change your bed-linens. You should be doing this regularly, (once per week). I love white sheets because they go with anything and can be bleached, therefore they’re easy to keep clean. Opt for a higher thread count for softness, and so that they’ll stand up to regular washings. Flannel sheets are also great for staying nice and warm in the winter. Layer your bedding with some cozy blankets and a nice duvet cover with a comforter insert. Down or down alternative comforters are both great options and come at a variety of price-points.
Once you’ve changed your bedding, put anything away that’s out of place and dust your mirrors and furniture. If you have the time to clean and organize your drawers and closets, go for it! It will make it easier to put things away properly.
Finally, dust your light fixtures, electronic devices and clean the floors and windows. Make sure to clean sure to get the window-sills, behind the furniture, and under beds. You might be tempted to only clean the areas that you can see, but think about how much dust accumulates and ask yourself if you want to be breathing that in while you sleep!
8. Spruce up common areas and entry-ways
Getting your foyer or any other entry-way in order is super-important because this is the first space that people see coming into your home! You want to make sure that your entryways look and feel inviting! This includes side entrances and mud-rooms!
Utilize any coat closets that you have, and set a boot tray or coat rack near entry doors so that people have somewhere to hang up and retrieve their outdoor clothing. Don’t clutter your living space with these items.
Clean and dust any mirrors or tables. Consider placing a small dish of candy or mints on an entryway table for guests to help themselves to. Scented candles and potpourri are also nice to have in an entryway. A festive wreath and doormat are perfect for greeting guests at the door.
Common areas like living rooms and dens should also be tidy and clean. Dust the furniture, light fixtures, and electronics like you did in the bedrooms. Also make sure to clean the windows and floors.
9. Get your Dining Room ready!
This is the one place in my house where papers and clutter accumulates the most, due to the proximity of my office space. I find that staging the table with a centerpiece and table-runner helps to discourage people from treating the dining room table like a catch-all. Use pretty baskets in your space to disguise piles of papers, if that’s something that you truly can’t get away from. This year we are putting the Christmas tree in the dining room which is even more of an incentive to keep it clean. The dining room is the primary eating space for my family so I also make sure to sweep it at the end of each day and wipe the table down after every meal.
Now on to the fun part! Once your home is clean, it’s time to put the decorations up! Before you start cleaning, you should already have an idea where you’re going to put your Christmas-tree or any other focal decorations. Additionally, it’s good to have a theme and color scheme planned out in advance, that way you know exactly what you’re looking for when shopping for decorations. You don’t need to buy new decorations each year (I get lectured when I do), but it’s good to assess what you have. From there you can pick up a few items to give your decor a refreshed look, or replace any broken or worn out decorations.
Start with decorating your tree, then hanging any other lights and garland throughout the space. Try using books, bowls, vases or fruit that you already have in the house to use as decorative accents on shelves and tables. Keep it simple! No need to get extravagant, a little decor can go a long way.
Don’t forget to hang your stockings and keep under your tree looking nice! If you don’t have a mantel, you can hang them on your staircase, or if you’re lucky to have built-ins you can try hanging them off of those. The DIY Maven at Curbly.com has some great ideas for alternate ways you can hang stockings if you don’t have a mantel.
I like to coordinate my gift wrapping and boxes with the rest of the Christmas decor. This step is optional but a nice added touch if you want a nice, cohesive look!
Bonus Tip: Maintain! Maintain! Maintain!
This extra tip is super-important! Don’t let all of that time spent cleaning go to waste! A few daily habits that I like to put in place are having my family put their coats, shoes, purses and keys away as soon as they walk in the door. As soon as I bring the mail in, I decide what’s junk and recycle it immediately.
Run your dishwasher every night and have your family members take turns unloading the dishwasher every morning so that dirty dishes don’t end up in the sink!
Wipe down the toilet, dining table and countertops after each use if you can, and encourage everyone to make their beds every morning! Don’t forget to sweep the floors!
It might sound like a lot but taking 10 minutes here and there to tidy up throughout the day makes a huge difference!
Wishing you a stress-free, clutter free, happy holiday season!