Despite all the joyful songs and happy wishes, the holiday period can be stressful, especially for those who host parties. There are decorations to put up, food to prepare and gifts to wrap. Sometimes, preparing for the holidays can feel like a full-time job, on top of the actual job, and the kids, and everything else.
I don’t have a super-quick Christmas recipe to share with you (sorry, not my specialty!), but I can certainly share the party prep steps I have learned through years of my parents, and then me, hosting holiday parties for big families. These steps will ensure that your house is welcoming, safe, and is fast to clean up after everybody’s gone.
Clean up clutter
You know, this stuff we accumulate over time in different rooms of the house; I tend to keep a pile of books in the living room for easy access. Clutter can feel natural to us because we live in the space, but it can be distracting to visitors and make your house look dirtier than it is. Clutter is a daily challenge, but it’s especially important to clean it up when guests come over. Not only can some of these objects be very personal (why would you leave your credit card bills to the view of guests?), but they can also get in the way of your guests feeling welcome in your space. Moreover, that kind of clutter can become a hazard around children or intoxicated guests.
Of course, you don’t have to throw away the clutter if you don’t want to. Just put it away for a while, in a box under a bed or in a cupboard. Scoop everything that covers side tables, your counters or the coffee table that isn’t useful to your guests. You can put it back after the holidays.
Secure for children
If you don’t have children (or they have moved on), your home may not be an ideal space for them. Uncovered electric plugs, wires and easily accessible kitchen accessories can be dangerous with children around. One trick I have learned is it go around the house crawling on all fours. Okay, you should probably wear pants for this step, but it’s useful for seeing objects and rooms from the perspective of a child.
The basics: cover unused electric plugs with plastic caps, hide wires behind furniture or stow them away if they are not in use, remove furniture with sharp corners (I have a scar on my forehead to prove this point) and secure kitchen utensils like knives and food processors behind locked doors or on a high shelf (don’t underestimate children’s ability to climb on a counter for cookies!) and check the floors for pins or pieces of plastic that children may put in their mouth.
Ease movement between rooms
Any road that doesn’t have much car traffic will never have a congestion problem. However, if the car volume increases suddenly, there will be unexpected traffic because the road wasn’t meant to take on so many cars.
Think of your corridors and room entrances as roads. They might work as they are right now, since there are so few of you. But imagine if there were 3, 4 times the amount of people in your house. Would they be able to move from room to room easily? Would there be congestion at major entrances and exits?
To ease the flow of guests throughout your house, move any furniture that stands in the way of entering or exiting a room. If you can, remove any furniture in corridors and hallways. Focus on the living room, the dining room and the kitchen (and any other room your guests would visit or group in). You want to help people move from room to room without having to navigate around furniture (because they will be busy enough trying to navigate around each other), especially as the night goes on and alcohol starts to take effect.
Prepare for emergencies
Despite all the attention and care you give to preparing your home, accidents do happen from time to time. A good hostess knows how to gracefully and quickly take care of any emergency. Here are some things to keep close, just in case:
- An emergency medical kit for scrapes, cuts or burns
- Salt or club soda or milk for treating fresh red wine stains (depending on your preferred method)
- Instant stain remover for other kinds of stains
- Emergency change of clothes for yourself or your guests
- A handheld vacuum cleaner for dry spills
As the expression says, being ready is half the battle. You will relax and enjoy yourself more if you know that you’ve done all you can to make your guests feel at home and to prevent accidents. After all, how fun can a party be if you’re not the heart of it?