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Holiday entertaining can be stressful, especially when you wait until one week before a party to start planning and prepping. You know that breaking the work into smaller, more manageable pieces will help you keep the stress down. So, why not get started now? Here are some ideas to help you plan and prepare for your holiday get-togethers:
#1 Dust.Do an in-depth dusting no more than two weeks before your event, going over every single surface of your home -- including ceiling fans, shelf tops and bookshelves -- with a cloth or a capable duster. Starting with dusting allows the debris that isn’t picked up to fall to the floor, where a vacuum will be sure to get it. (If your house hasn’t been cleaned in a while, you may need to do a secondary, lighter dusting for the dirt that the vacuum kicks up.)
Quiz: What's Your Holiday Prep Style?
#2 Clean high-traffic areas.Once you’ve got the dusting done, it’s time to start cleaning the bathroom, the kitchen and the guest rooms. If you need help with the cleaning, call a service for an extra hand. The kitchen is especially important. This may seem counter-intuitive because it will get dirty again, but removing old food and grime can prevent a fire. Plus, it’s where you’ll prepare the food for your guests. You’ll likely need bleach, rubber gloves and brushes for the heavy-duty stains and sticky build up.
• Sink: Over time, dark spots will start to show in your sink. Now’s the time to use a shine pad or another cleaning product to brighten them up. The sink will get dirty again, but this will certainly help to get it ready for the holiday work ahead. Be prepared to spend at least one or two hours removing grime and shining the sink basin.
• Microwave: Food always seems to find its way onto the walls of the microwave -- even when you’ve used paper towels as covers for protection. Since you’ll likely be using this appliance to prep holiday food, now’s the time to clean it out. You’ll also want to remove the microwave plate and wash it thoroughly.
• Stainless steel appliances: Stainless steel appliances collect dust, fingerprints and grime. When you’ve got visitors coming, you want your appliances to look as new as possible. Dusting wipes will clean them quickly. But, if you have the time, put the recommended steel appliance cleaner to work and really make them shine.
• Granite counters: Countertops, especially granite ones, are a magnet for food prep and cleanup leftovers. Before you have guests over, think about having your counters polished and sealed to protect them from hot pans and food. There are cleaning products designed specifically for natural stone that won’t ruin its finish.
#3 Organize anything out of place.Get things organized. It'll be easy to put some things away as you’re cleaning, but you might need a greater plan for other items. Consider the following:
• Storage boxes: Storage boxes come in many sizes and shapes to serve a variety of purposes. Store them wherever they make the most sense.
• Collapsible recycle bins: These can be moved to the garage if you need more room in the kitchen.
• Pitchers and vases: Pull these out in case you plan to place flowers on your table or may receive flowers from friends and family.
• Baskets: Place these in your bathroom or guest bedroom for accessories (magazines, linens, etc.).
• Ottomans: If you have the room, place one of these in your living room to store toys, books, remotes and other items that get in the way.
• Trunks: Use these to store clothing, books and other items when you need to free up space in the guest closet.
Related: 3 Ways to Cut Clutter in the Kitchen
#4 Decorate for the season.Be particular about what you choose to buy and showcase in your home; the idea is to make an impression without overwhelming your guests. Make some of your decorations if possible, and look for natural items at the store. Place holiday decor on your front door, on the mantle (covered in-depth below) and on the dining room table, then use more sparingly in other rooms. Other tips for holiday decorating include:
• Rearrange furniture. Consider using feng shui to create an room flow free of obstacles.
• Use metallics. They’re useful for bouncing light around the room and enhancing the beauty of the decor.
• Line luminaries along your front path. People will feel welcome the minute they arrive.
• Make sure your decor is complementary. Whether it’s a tree or a menorah, you want the size and type to fit the look of your home. You'll need to take measurements, and be careful not to buy something that fails to fit with the rest of your decor.
#5 Make use of your mantle.Your mantle is a great place for holiday decor -- be it green garlands, stockings or something more. Some homeowners decorate for every season, giving personality to their mantles year-round. During the holiday season, avoid using any hanging, flammable decor, and make sure that stockings are far enough away from the fireplace.
#6 Check your recipes.Now that you’ve cleaned and decorated, it’s time to think about the menu. What are you going to cook for this auspicious holiday? Whatever it is, check your recipe books and boxes to ensure you’ll have everything you’ll need. Then, go out and buy the non-perishables.
#7 When it’s time, start cooking.You’ll be able to prepare some of your dishes up to one week ahead of time. Make sure that food reaches an internal temperature of at least:
• 150 degrees fahrenheit for beef
• 160 degrees fahrenheit for pork
• 165 degrees fahrenheit for chicken
• 160 degrees fahrenheit for ground meat (until no pink is left)
Also, never cross contaminate. Avoid serving your guests Salmonella by keeping raw and cooked foods separate at all times. Keep side dishes and desserts on different parts of the counter or island -- far away from where you are preparing the meat.
#8 Have a plan for the day.Use the few days leading up to your event to create a quick plan. (This may seem like the first thing you should do, but it’s sometimes hard to nail down a plan when you have multiple to-do lists.)
Two Days Before:
• Plan your menu: Decide on a menu if you haven’t by now. Ask others for help or contributions.
• Set a time for the soiree: Let everyone know when the party will start (allow at least 30 minutes before you’ll actually eat).
• Buy food supplies: While you should have bought all of the required non perishables a week or two in advance, now is the time to buy perishable items. If you forgot anything on your last trip to the store, grab it now.
• Organize the kitchen: Make room in your cabinets, pantry and refrigerator for excess supplies.
One Day Before:
• Set the table: Put out dishes, napkins and silverware, and map place settings in case you need to add extra chairs or tables.
• Use store bought items: If you need to substitute store bought dishes for homemade ones, that’s okay. Store-bought appetizers, rolls and desserts will save you time and money.
• Make space: If things look a little cramped, rearrange some furniture or make more space in the dining room for everyone to sit comfortably.
• Make a to-do list: Plan what to cook in a specific order, and know how you’ll get to everything that doesn’t need cooking in the interim.
• Make sure your cleaning appliances are empty: Empty your dishwasher, sink and trash can.
• Defrost all of your food: Start defrosting the meat and anything else that requires defrosting or setting out.
• Enjoy! As you finish cooking everything and getting it out on the table, spend time with your guests and enjoy what you’ve prepared.
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