I'm overwhelmed with holiday preparations. Can you help me get organized?

16 December 2011
If you’re feeling that it’s impossible to get your home ready for holiday houseguests. Good news: You can do it.

A tip: Fix yourself a cup of hot cocoa, start a fire in the hearth and get comfortable in your favorite chair. Then make a list—and check it twice—of everything you need to do so your home makes a good impression on your houseguests—and so it makes them feel comfortable during their stay. Then enlist the help of your family and make appointments with any service pros you’ll need to help you finish the chores on time.

Here’s my pre-holiday honey-do list:

  1. Have the furnace inspected. Chances are, you’ll have the heat on while company’s here, at least overnight. You’ll rest easier knowing a heating and air conditioning technician has given your system a once-over and cleared it—or repaired it—so it won’t leave your guests in the cold.

  2. Sweep the chimney. It’s a messy, time-consuming job, so you might want to hire a professional chimney sweep. Choose one who can do both a cleaning and an inspection. An inspector will look for cracks in the masonry, damaged dampers, worn-out chimney caps and other problems, in addition to removing what you can’t see: the creosote, soot, ashes, dust, leaves and even birds that are stuck in the flue and chimney.

  3. Hang your stockings by the chimney with care—a lot of it. Hanging stockings can damage your mantel and pose a fire hazard. Tips: Use the smallest hook or nail you can find so the hole you pierce into the mantel will be nearly invisible when you remove the nail after the holidays. Move holiday stockings away from the mantel before lighting a fire.

  4. Gussie up the guest room. If it’s been doubling as a sewing room, a storage space or a home office since last time grandma came to visit, get in there and clean it out. Move your personal items to another room so you won’t have to bother your guests to retrieve them during their stay. Make room in the closet for company to hang clothes. Launder the bedspread, and place a candy cane on each pillow. And if your guests have stayed with you over past Christmases, frame a holiday photo from their last visit and display it in their room.
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