That Time of Year is Coming....

Today I am looking out at a glorious fall day. I would love to go outside, but I have committed myself to finish this article. Otherwise, I would get lost in the smells and sounds associated with falling leaves, and start day-dreaming about next year's vegetable garden.

I suddenly realized how late we are in the year the other day when I sat down to plan a dinner party, and realised that it was a Christmas dinner party for 12! Yikes! Where did the year go? Wasn't it May just last week?

My house is in no way ready for a Christmas dinner party - good thing it's a couple of weeks away. However, I figured that if I was in this mess, you likely were as well. Here are my top ten tips for preparing and a sane and healthy home throughout the holiday season without making yourself crazy.

Top Tips for Holiday Sanity

My top tips are mostly about prevention and getting everything you can out of the way in mid to late November. that will reduce the number of balls you have to juggle when the busy season really starts to roll - it's the sheer number of things to be done that cause the most stress.

Even if only one or two of these are things you can add to your routine, every small step in the right direction helps to take the strain off.

#1 If you haven't already done so - spend a little time each of your public rooms getting rid of stuff that doesn't belong there. Return it to it's rightful owner/location, toss it, or put it in a box for donation.

If you generally move or remove furniture to make room for decorations - do it now too, even if the decorating doesn't happen for a few weeks.

#2 If you are going to donate something to a local charity or two - do it now! It's better for your food bank, Salvation Army, or community hamper program to receive donations early rather than later in the season so that they can plan better. It is also better for you to get it done, off you list, and out of the way.

#3 Clean windows make the whole house feel cleaner - so clean your windows and window frames sooner rather than later. As the days get busier, you won't have time for it, but you will notice it if it's not done. Again - concentrate on the public areas of the house.

#4 Do a walk through and wipe down door frames and doors around the handles before the end of November. In most homes this is less than a once a month job - so do it early in the season and don't think about it again unless you have to. It's another one of those little things that can make a whole room feel much cleaner.

#5 Especially over the busy Christmas season - keep your decorations simple That allows for some variety from year to year, and reduces the amount of set up, maintenance and tear down.

#6 Do your menus for entertaining well in advance, and purchase all non-perishables before the rush. If I don't plan in November, I know that I will be overwhelmed.

#7 Create an 'emergency accident response kit' to take care of the stains and spills that come with a crowd. It should include a couple of cans of soda water, one or two light-colored towels for soaking, a microfiber cloth is useful for pulling semi-solids from carpets and upholstery, and a spray-bottle of water. If you have special-care fabrics/flooring - make sure you have what you need in your kit as well.

#8 For a couple of days before you are going to entertain - feed the family a healthy but simplified menu, and use disposable paper plates to keep the work to a minimum.

#9 Unless you have crawlers and toddlers, don't worry too much regular floor maintenance. Preparing for a crowd always creates quite a mess - this is something you can leave to nearly the end without guilt (the day before usually works for us).

#10 Absolve yourself from having to have a perfect home. You can always shut a few doors if you had to neglect the bedrooms. No one is coming to take pictures for a House & Home spread.

#11 And last but not least - Get the whole family to help, especially with the routine jobs and the inevitable last minute 'panic pick-up'.

May you and your family have a meaningful and blessed Christmas and holiday season

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