preparing for holiday entertaining

Ohmygosh! You just scraped the last of the jack o' lantern off the front porch step, and it's already time to plan the Thanksgiving menu.

Then we're full-throttle into the holiday whirlwind of activity that culminates in a New Year's Eve bang. What's a temporally-challenged hostess to do? Easy. Take some deep breaths, and let's get organized.

Preparing for holiday entertaining is as simple as fine-tuning a few little pesky details now so that entertaining will be a piece of cake.

Preparing for Holiday Entertaining: The Partyware

Got guests coming for Thanksgiving dinner? Or for the first night of Hanukkah?  Maybe you're having a Christmas cocktail party. 

Don't wait till the guests rsvp to begin preparing for holiday entertaining.

Here are things you can do ahead so you can be cool, calm, and collected when you open the door.

  • Clean the silver: Get out the silver utensils, serving dishes, and candlesticks and give them a good polishing.
  • Clean china and crystal:  Save time by popping the holiday china and crystal in the dishwasher several days or weeks before the big event. Then you don't have to worry about spots and dust when you're setting the table. Did I say "dishwasher"? I sure did. Most modern china and crystal is dishwasher safe - as long as you load carefully so that pieces don't clank against each other. If you have any reservations about their safety, test wash one piece before filling the racks. Hand-wash heirlooms and pieces trimmed in gold or silver.
  • Holiday linens: Inspect, clean, and iron your festive tablecloths, runners, napkins, and placemats.
  • Flowers: Plan or order your centerpiece for your dining room table, as well as other floral arrangements. (Idea: Drape leftover Halloween pumpkins with autumn leaves and spray paint the whole thing gold for an effortless, elegant centerpiece.)

Preparing the Rest of  Your Home

  • Coat closet:  Empty your coat closet so it can contain all your guests' coats. Position a coat rack or wicker bins where guests can leave purses, umbrellas, gloves, etc.
  • Traffic:  Your regular floor plan may not accommodate a host of people. Move furniture so to create intimate conversation areas as well as good traffic flow. Set up the bar in the living room or den to keep people out of the kitchen.
  • Guest rooms: Remove most of your personal items so the room will feel like their own during their stay. Empty drawers and closets so they can unpack. Make sure they have an alarm clock, radio, reading lamp, and some books or magazines. Leave a basket of fruits and snacks and some bottled water. Their room should be their little refuge if they need some downtime (you might need some, too). Install a night light to prevent falls in strange rooms in the dark.
  • Guest baths: Again, empty some drawers, so they have a place to put their toiletries. Make sure the guest bathroom is sparkling clean and put out new towels and soaps. Do not put lighted candles in the bathroom if there will be children running around. Remove your medications and supplies from the medicine cabinet and stock it with aspirin, antacid, cough drops, toothpaste, shampoo, and other items they might need.

Declutter Your Home

Go through your home and remove nonessentials from every surface. Put them in a box in the attic until after the holidays. 

This action serves many purposes: It removes delicate items that visitors might inadvertently break. It clears surfaces for drinks. It clears surfaces for holiday decorations. And finally, you might decide you can live without that junk and get rid of it for good.

Wow, the house is looking great. Your holiday season is off to a good start!

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