The sweaters are out and the kids are starting to make Christmas lists. As our holiday calendars heat up, resident event planners Marcella Kragel and Ina Miller take a moment to help you plan for plan ahead for a more joyful season.

Our homes do so many different types of entertaining during the holidays. Whether you’re accommodating out of town guests, hosting a major holiday meal, or just setting the scene for your own family’s quiet holiday, getting your house ready now will save you time that would be better spent on family and friends.

We try to plan for the holidays just like we plan for any big event, although it is undoubtedly more of a marathon than a sprint. Here is our step-by-step guide to getting your house holiday-ready, so you enjoy your home and the season too.

Step 1:

This is the pre-planning stage. These suggestions, while not the most glamorous, will get your home ready for the holidays no matter what curveballs await.

  • Forget “spring cleaning.” this is the best time of year to declutter. Focus your time on the most heavily trafficked common areas, as well as making room for guests and gifts. This is the perfect time of year to pass along gently used toys, books and clothes to those that really need them. Check out local charities like Home of the Innocents, Wayside Christian Mission or Dress for Success for the opportunity to give your gently used items new life.
  • Make room for guest coats in closets and clothes in guest room drawers. Nothing makes a guest feel more welcome than having room to get comfortable during a visit.
  • Stock up on essentials like toilet paper, hand soap, and travel size toiletries. Think of easy things that will make your guests feel more at home and less frantic if they were to forget something. An extra toothbrush or hair-dryer can save the day when your guests are getting ready for a night out.
  • Plan now for pet arrangements. If your great aunt is allergic to cats, a well-timed kennel visit is just the peace of mind you need to make sure her stay is as comfortable as possible.
  • Small house, no problem! You can still carve out spaces for guests using folding screens. During the day, screens can hide suitcases and personal effects, and at night create a small private space.


Step 2:

Now…the fun stuff. Think about how you want your home to look, and how you will be using it throughout the holidays. This is your opportunity to create traditions that will forever be associated with your home.

  • First impressions are the most important. Clean up your entry and doorway. Empty your dying pots from the summer and hang a colorful wreath. With the sun setting earlier, guests will often see your home in daylight as well as darkness. Make sure it is welcoming no matter the hour with holiday lights, entry bulbs refreshed and the front interior of the house cheerfully illuminated, even if guests predominately gather in the back.
  • Are your in-laws coming? Pull out those special gifts they have given you over the years. You know the ones; you say you love them and then they get carefully packed away in the attic as soon as the holidays are over. Dust them off and, while you’re at it, this is also a good time to update the framed school pictures of your nieces and nephews that you haven’t gotten to yet. If you can get to these tasks, it will make a huge impact and make your guests feel loved.
  • Meal planning is your best friend. In addition to thinking about the whole holiday menu, make sure to take allergy and dietary restrictions into account. It shows your guests you took the time to consider their needs, and saves you the unnecessary stress of throwing together something special for that peanut allergy plagued cousin.
  • Plan coordinating tablespaces for large meals. We find that organic materials work best. Not only are colorful pumpkin, gourd and squash centerpieces beautiful, but they can easily be moved to a mantle to mix up the table the next night. Take it one step further and cook them in a subsequent meal, creating a zero-waste centerpiece that you don’t have to stash post-dinner.
  • Give kids a pre-meal task of collecting beautiful pinecones, colorful branches or sprigs of evergreen from your neighborhood for interactive centerpieces. Candlesticks and table-runners are easy to store and change out to give your table a brand-new look from night to night.
  • Have your Spotify account ready to match the mood of every occasion. Whether it is a quiet night by the fire, in between parties or the Thanksgiving main event, consider the background music. In addition to the wonderful smells from your kitchen, this is the stuff lasting memories are made of.


Step 3:

Troubleshooting! Planning for the unexpected is an acquired skill. Take it from us, we learn something from every event and try to incorporate that knowledge into the next one. Nothing is ever perfect, but these small steps could avoid big disasters.

  • Inevitably you will receive some unexpected guests. Plan for surprise child visitors by stashing holiday coloring books and a box of crayons in an easily accessible cabinet. Keep a vinyl tablecloth handy for kids to gather on the floor with appetizers, without worrying about your carpet.
  • Don’t forget place cards. They are easy to plan for, but hard to come up with spur of the moment, and they can help avoid awkward dinner conversation disasters. Always have an extra blank one handy to account for your friend’s brand-new girlfriend.
  • When you pick out a wine for dinner, also consider a mocktail (non-alcoholic cocktail). Make guests who don’t drink feel comfortable and included in the menu, just as you would a vegetarian.
  • Avoid unwanted couch crashers by having Uber or Lyft accounts ready for guests that might need help getting home.
  • Party games, no matter how corny, inevitably liven up even the oddest mix of childhood friends and co-workers. Have a couple ready if things get desperate. Guests don’t have to know it was a saving grace, and it could lead to an annual tradition. 

Posted on 2018-11-02 by Marcella Kragel and Ina Miller