Hard to believe but the holiday season is nearly upon it. It might not be Halloween yet, but already I’m getting emails about holiday must have gifts so it has to be just around the corner. The holidays are a stressful time because we have such high expectations for everyone to have a wonderful time even though we know they rarely work out that way. We want the food to be perfect, timed just right and we want the house to look spectacular. If you have a team of chefs, servers and decorators it might be possible (though probably not) but if you’re like most of us it’s just you and maybe a child or parent preparing the whole gathering. If that’s the case it’s time to start planning ahead so nothing is left to the last minute. By staying organized and planning ahead you’ll avoid the last minute panic attacks and might even get to enjoy yourself.

Here are 10 things you can do now to start preparing for the holidays:

  1. Create the guest list – This is the best place to start because the number will dictate so many decisions you make going forward. If the holidays are pot luck then determine who will bring what. Be sure to find out about plus 1s in advance so you have a place at the table and enough food.
  2. Create the menu and shopping list – Get what you can that can be frozen or stored in the pantry. As you get closer to the holiday you can purchase dairy items, the roast or turkey or other items you simply may not have room for. Stock up on baking goods like flour, sugar, spices, and don’t forget the wine.
  3. Get the carpets professionally cleaned – After a summer of kids and animals tracking through the house you know the rugs and carpets could use a freshen up. Not only will your living room look fabulous but it will smell wonderful since the turkey won’t be competing with the smell of wet dog.
  4. Purchase new candles and hand soap – Stores such as Bath and Body Works and Bed, Bath and Beyond are great resources for both items. If you’re crafty you could make your own. You could even give them away as gifts for your guests. Fresh soap and candles are a lovely little luxury that can add color and scent to your home without overpowering it.
  5. Clean out the entryway closet – Go through all that has accumulated in the hall closet so you can make room for guests’ coats. If you don’t have an entryway or hall closet you can use a bedroom to lay the coats on (use a guest bedroom if possible, rather than a teen’s bedrooms).
  6. Polish the silver – For those who still use the good silver now is the time to go through it and polish it up. Same goes for the good china. Pull it out, count it and make sure you have all the serving pieces you need. If you don’t have enough consider mixing patterns.
  7. Linens – Wash and iron linens such as table clothes, napkins and runners so they are fresh and free from last years stains.
  8. Order the flowers – Now is a great time to call the florist and set up delivery of a lovely centerpiece.
  9. Clean the house – If you have weekly help schedule a more in depth cleaning right before the event. If you do it yourself tackle one room at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed. Focus on the bathroom, living room and dining room as those are the rooms that will be used most. Dust and mop closer to the date and make sure kids keep their rooms picked up and neat.
  10. Check out the chairs – Take a few minutes to have a seat on each dining room chair to make sure it’s sturdy and safe. If you have chairs that are wobbly there’s plenty of time to get them glued and secured before the big day.

Stay tuned for more holiday entertaining tips as we get closer to the big days!