Prepping for Holiday Guests

Are you the hostest with the mostest this holiday season? Take some time to get your house ready for the onslaught of guests now, so you'll be able to enjoy the holidays with your guests.  Here are some tasks to tackle.

1. Declutter your house and garage 

It's not the time of year to have a yard sale, but you can post the items you want to clear out on CraigsList, e-bay and Facebook sale pages.  You’ll raise some extra holiday cash, give a new home to furniture and household goods you no longer need and have your house looking great for the holidays.  Or consider donating the goods to a local organization that can sell them or provide items to those in need.  Donating will also allow you to take a tax deduction when the dreaded April 15th date is looming!

2. Check the condition and quantity of your linen closet

If you need new items, you’ll have time to watch for a good sale before guests arrive.  While many people will be shopping for toys and gifts on Black Friday, you just may score a great deal on towels, sheets and comforters! 

Need a place to hold extra guest towels? Swap out your towel rack for a shelving unit or put some decorative hooks on the bathroom (or guest room) wall.  The towels will add some color as well as a welcoming feeling, and guests won't have to hunt for towels or ask you for some.  If yours is a super-small bathroom, a shelf over the door can hold extra towels for guests.  

When making the bed, use sheets with a decorative touch, such as lace or scalloped edge.  Even if they're not expensive sheets, they will look like you really made an effort to welcome your guests..  Add a couple throw pillows to make the bed more inviting, and put a spare blanket at the foot of the bed.  A couple glasses and a water pitcher will also make the room look and feel special for your guests.

3. Baby Proof

Are your children or other guests bringing little ones into your not-so-baby-proof home? There are lots of temporary safety devices to help keep toddlers safe so parents relax and enjoy their visit with you. You can get a childproofing kit or get individual items like outlet plugs, cabinet latches and gates.  Just be sure you know how to operate them so you won't be frantically trying to get into a cabinet or open a door when you need something (or find a 5 year old, who will likely be able to get past the childproofing in a heartbeat).

4. Run your oven through its self-cleaning cycle long before the guests arrive

You’ll want your oven in top shape for cooking big meals (especially if you’ve got the kind of family members who will judge you based on the cleanliness of your oven). Cleaning the oven a few days before guests arrive will also give that icky self-cleaning oven smell time to get out of the house.  Running the self-cleaning cycle before guests arrive also helps reduce the risk of kitchen fires.

5. Don't mistreat your garbage disposal 

Preparing meals for a big crowd can put your garbage disposal through a real workout. Some disposals are better than others at handling hard or fibrous foods.  Feed vegetable peels into the disposal in small amounts with the water running.  Avoid grinding fibrous foods like celery, corn husks, artichokes and pulpy insides of pumpkins or squash.  Grind bones, fruit pits and other hard materials only if your disposal is designed to handle those kinds of foods. Even then, do a small amount at a time.

And be sure your guests who offer to help clean up know if you don't have a garbage disposal!

6. Protect yourself from washing machine hose problems

Inspect the hoses that connect your washing machine to the hot and cold water spigots in your laundry room. Look for blisters or cracks. If you see any, replace the hoses before using your washing machine again.  These days stainless steel hoses are recommended, so this might be the perfect time to change out your old hoses for some new ones, and avoid any leaks and floods!

7. Clean the lint out of your dryer vent

Clean your dryer vent (or call a professional in to clean it).  The last thing you need at any time of year is the lint in your dryer vent to catch fire.  And a vent full of lint makes your dryer work less efficiently, so you're wasting time and energy.  

8. Get your septic tank inspected and pumped, if needed

The ground still isn't frozen, so you have time to get your septic inspected and pumped.  With people visiting, your system will be getting a workout and handling more waste than usual.  If you have guests visiting who don't know about septic systems, let them know what they can and cannot flush.  You don't want to face the ugly and smelly prospect of the septic system backing up while you have guests!

9. Inspect your holiday decorations

If you have family heirloom, sentimental or antique holiday decorations, they may contain lead, asbestos or mold.  Some of the older ornaments we had as children are lovely to look at with their "snow" and "silver", but they may contain lead.  And that "snow" that your grandmother put around her Christmas village just may have been made with asbestos fibers.  Those old bubble lights that are so fascinating to children can contain poisonous chemicals in addition to be scalding hot if the glass gets broken.  If you live in an older home and store your decorations in the attic, be sure you don't have any asbestos insulation that could get into the storage boxes.  And the moisture in an attic can cause mold growth on cardboard boxes.  Mold can also grow on the trunk of a live Christmas tree.  Just as we know to check that wiring isn't frayed, we need to look at the total "package" when decorating. 

And now that you've got the house in tip-top, safe shape, you can relax and spend your time with the family and friends who are staying with you.  Bring on the holidays!