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Holiday Hosting by Jackie Link

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Today’s guest blog post was written by Meat & Potatoes Organizing’s Lead Professional Organizer, Jackie Link. This might be one of the BEST EVER and MOST COMPREHENSIVE article’s I’ve ever read about prepping for Holiday entertaining (although I am a little biased). Please share with friends and family who might benefit from these strategic thoughts and ideas!!!

From Jackie:

What makes the holiday season so wonderful? It’s coming together and sharing the special time with our friends and family.  While we look forward to the arrival of our loved ones (in most cases), there is a large amount of organizing to be done beforehand and even during their stay.  In addition to decorating and tidying up for the upcoming festivities, you also need to think of ways to make sure your guests are comfortable in your personal space while maintaining your own sanity.  That’s no small feat!

If your household was anything like mine growing up, you’re familiar with that chaotic scramble over last-minute forgotten tasks and finishing touches as your poor mom flew around the house and delegated what she could to anyone listening.  Accommodating guests in our modestly sized home required some rearranging, shifting, and shuffling that usually left her with many to-do’s and more shuffling once our pop-up B&B had closed after the holiday.  We want to help you avoid exactly that.

I recommend reading through this blog before jumping to action. Aftwards, write your notes down so that you can keep an organized plan and visual reference for when your head starts to spin (I personally grab simple blank paper and markers).  The following tips will help make your house a cozy and comfortable holiday getaway for incoming guests.  Rounding up the items needed to accommodate visitors may even help you see which areas or possessions you have in excess or simply don’t really need!

Start with the stats. Write down the total amount of guests and the sleeping areas needed. Include your own family if anyone is shifting rooms temporarily.  Determine which bedroom is best for whom, where air mattresses will go (offices are usually good) and how many blankets and pillows you’re giving to each sleeper or bed.  Next, if any furniture needs to be rearranged to get them setup, do so accordingly.  Then grab donation bags or boxes and get to it!

First, gather all of your sheet-sets, blankets/comforters, pillows, etc. to take stock of your inventory. If there are any items you wouldn’t want your guests to use, ask yourself why you’re keeping them and if you’re comfortable with the space they’ve been taking up in your home.  Next step, repeat with towels!  Round them up, delegate to their guests’ sleep spot and decide if the leftover stragglers of towels and sheets are staying.  Remember that what you’ve already now set aside to keep is enough for your family AND guests!

Move onto the bathrooms.  Go collect all those travel-size toiletries and samples from around the house and any extra personal care items like q-tips that you’d like them to be able to find.  This is a great way to purge your own bath areas of a pesky category that can make spaces feel cluttered and are most likely going to expire before you would use them.  Distribute these to the bath areas and keep your personal items in your own spot.  Note the amount of guests, bathrooms and duration of stay to make sure you’re ready for toilet paper quantities.  Double check that a plunger is available in every bathroom too!  I promise no one wants to ask you where they are…

Sleeping and bathing arrangements are now sorted out. Let’s talk about the shared areas of the home where all of that celebrating will take place!  Get your entryway or mudroom clear of as much clutter as possible to avoid traffic jams and mayhem at the door.  Ideally, there’s enough hooks and hangers, even just temporarily, to keep your guests coats at the door with yours.  If you have extra baskets or bins laying around, give one to each guest to have by the door, or ask that they keep personal items in their sleeping zone.  Think of the hats, mittens, and scarves that come with every person and where they may end up without a drop-spot!  If you can, move your own shoes to a more permanent spot when not being used. You can even downsize on any shoes that aren’t needed!  This goes for your own jackets too.

Bonus tip:  Print out or simply write down your WI-FI name and password to a visible spot on the wall and designate a lower-traffic spot to stack gifts!

Our next round-up is your home chargers and extension cords, you’ll most likely need them!  Hide your own chargers in a designated spot (I would even mark them) and set aside extras that you can thoughtfully put out for your guests to use or have in their sleep zone.  Consider where you may need outlet tracks for media and entertainment, cooking and crockpots, extra lamps for your guests’ sleep zone, etc.  Lastly, chuck the extra cord snakes or donate!  No need to put unwanted items back when we already have them out.

Speaking of entertainment, let’s think about how your guests will spend their time in your home’s shared spaces.  Gather up categories like board games, gaming systems with accessories and speakers that you’ll want ready for entertaining.  Put speakers right where you’ll want them and utilize the “activity” area for rounding up board games.  Remember, the idea is not only to have things arranged, placed, and accessible, but also to assess how much you have.  If you pulled all the board games from around the home and are now looking at a truly massive pile that was a nuisance to get to in the first place, it’s probably a great time to purge!  Donate to shelters in need just in time for the holiday and keep the ones you really love.  

If you’ll have younger guests running around and therefore adults in need of distractions for them, gather any toys and kid-friendly activities to keep in a moveable bin or basket.  If you don’t have any toys/activities around the house, ask parents to bring a toy tub of favorites themselves!  Easy grabs are mess-free crayons and paper or coloring books, building blocks, or tiles and books.  There are hundreds of free holiday activity printables available online too, though I’m more of a “when in doubt, pull the screens out” kind of lady.  Did I already mention keeping chargers readily accessible?  

Some of my favorite holiday memories include looking at old photos and keepsakes with loved ones or hearing stories about the people that owned them.  While the keepsake category can be one of the hardest to sort, it may be a perfect opportunity to go through with family!  This is especially true if you’re holding onto keepsakes because you think someone else in your family may want it or if you have already organized your collection fairly well.  Giving specific items to the person they’re meant for and letting go of what could be loved by someone new, will shrink your own keepsake category’s size and thus, the amount of storage space it needs!  It is WELL worth noting, however, that this task may not be right for everybody.  If pulling out keepsake items is a whole project in itself, whether because it is emotionally or physically overwhelming, I recommend leaving that off your plate.  

We’re going to emphasize that one again.  You’re already doing a lot to prepare and may have family and friends to feed, too!  Please be kind to yourself and keep expectations realistic and fair when taking on any area or make sure to ask for help.  

The last area we’ll cover is the Kitchen, though I’m sure by now you’ve caught on to the method here and can address any additional problem areas you feel you have the capacity for!  Noting again the amount of guests as well as oven and stovetop capacity, write the bare-bones of your menu.  Next to each food item on the menu, write what kind of supplies are needed like serving platters and bowls and what you’ll cook it in.  Take those out and label what they’re for with scrap paper or post-it notes.  Go ahead and put them where you intend to place the food for serving.  Use paper and marker to visually draw out your spaces and surfaces (like a simple oval with “bread rolls” written in the middle or beside).  

Bonus tip: Opt for buffet-style serving instead of placed seating arrangements.  Let people build their own plate from a full table or counter of food and find a spot they feel comfortable at or setup card tables, etc.  Keep grazing bowls full of easy-to-refill snacks like trail mix and popcorn and you’ll be bothered much less.  To gain more height and space on an already packed food table, add in tiered serving platters!  Cupcake stands work perfectly.  If you do choose assigned seating, put down name cards.  It’s a nice touch and will help you keep the settings organized to place ahead of time.  

In addition to serving and seating areas, I recommend adding a drink mixing zone and a cocktail bar outside* of the cooking area so you’re not bumping uglies with Uncle Clark grabbing more eggnog.  These zones can be on a cleared surface in the activity room or on a simple card table anywhere out of the way, stocked with supplies and glasses. 

Bonus tip: Round up those coolers from the garage and basement for drink zones.  If you can find a good spot for them, get them placed and ready to load with ice, water bottles and drinks.  Grab any extra garbage cans as well to keep around during meal times and unwrapping of gifts, especially if you’re using disposable cups and plates.  Hey, less dishes and easier cleanup!  Same rules apply here: of course keep and use what you need but take note of where you have unnecessary multiples.  

Now that we’ve cleared the kitchen, lets mind-map your menu and serving setup!  First and most importantly, clean out your fridge.  Even with extra help from coolers, you’ll want all the space you can get for storing prepped food and leftovers.  Get rid of everything that’s even mildly questionable and check expiration dates.  Eat up what you want to get rid of before the influx of food.  That leads right into prep!  Things like casseroles, dips, cakes and appetizers can be made ahead of time and frozen to simply reheat.  If you’re a host worried about getting it all done, make a quick sign-up sheet for prep tasks (and when someone inevitably asks out of courtesy, point to your list)!  Keep these tasks simple and easy to explain without needing to give a teaching lesson on something and basically doing it yourself anyway.  

Quick hacks:

  • Go around the home and take out any cardboard you can see.  Get things in correctly labeled tubs (tape and sharpie work just fine in a pinch) or into clear containers.  This also gives you an opportunity to transport lost/loose items to the correct room in your home.  Go get that extra space back in your pantry before loading it up with holiday ingredients by getting cereal, bars, and snack items out of bulky cardboard packaging.  Recycle what you can ASAP because you’ll most likely have plenty more to deal with from food and gifts over the next few days!

  • As mentioned before, think about using disposable where you can if it will help reduce stress or a cramped kitchen.  There’s plenty of compostable or environmentally friendly options out there if you can prepare ahead of time! 

  • Use tubs and totes to temporarily* store items you need to move while making space for guests and their belongings.  Firstly, decide why you keep it in the guest room furniture/spaces or linen closet, etc.  Is it so rarely thought about and used, are we just keeping it in there to avoid letting go of it?  If it’s something you didn’t use this past year, consider donating!  My strict rule when temporarily binning items is having a game plan for WHERE the items in the tub need to end up eventually and ideally, WHEN I will be emptying that tub.  Label it very visibly and simply as it should contain similar items.  Always make sure what you are boxing up together is related to the category or room of the home.  We see countless spaces buried in long-forgotten tubs, most full of unrelated items and please trust me when I say unwinding that yarn tangle is a tedious task. 

  • Know thyself and thy limits- binning things up for organizing at another time is a very slippery slope!

Thank you all for reading and if it ever seems too overwhelming, know that you can call us at Meat & Potatoes Organizing to help you through this process.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!

Jackie Link

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