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Hosting Holiday Guests

The first holiday in your new home is a magical experience. Not only do friends and family stop by to visit you, but they may be seeing your place for the first time.  Unfortunately, many holiday hosts and hostesses learn during the first round of guests about all the tasks they wished they’d finished beforehand. Here are some pre-guest preparations that will make holiday entertaining easy.

Check your exterior. Is your home safe to approach from the street? Check that your exterior lights are working and make sure to shovel snow and ice or sprinkle salt to create traction on sidewalks and the driveway. Aesthetically, it may be wise to pressure-wash your home’s exterior or front walks, possibly with help from a licensed contractor. If you forgot to prune in the fall, overgrown bushes may merit a trim.  Finally, once your front walk and yard are safe and clean, it’s time to decorate. A wreath, garlands around the lamppost, and lights in the windows show your home is open for the season.

Behold the front door and the foyer behind it. Make sure the doorbell works and that front door light fixtures are clean and contain a bulb bright enough to light the entry.  Inside the front door, be sure a doormat or shoe scraper is nearby so guests can remove mud and snow from shoes. If you have a no-shoe policy in your home, a basket of wool socks can encourage guests to slip into something cozy. Don’t forget to make a coat rack available or to hang coat hooks.

Create coziness with a good cleaning. Dress your home up in its holiday best by de-cluttering common areas and giving floors or carpets a good mopping or vacuuming, and by dusting borders, baseboards and heating fixtures. You might use paint to touch up baseboards, trim, or smoke-stained areas around the fireplace.

Prepare the guest bathroom and bedrooms. If these rooms are rarely used, they’ll need a deep cleaning and dusting. You may wish to touch up grout in the bathroom. Adding dimmer switches, swapping towel mounts or the vanity mirror, and painting can freshen up guest bathrooms. In the guest bedroom, be sure to offer extra blankets, a space heater, tissues, bedside lights, and spare toiletries. Another tip: Plug in a night light in the guest room or nearby hallway, since guests may forget your home’s layout in the dark.

Build a fire. Nothing relaxes holiday guests on cold nights like a warm fire. Be sure the chimney is cleaned several days before guests arrive, and make sure you also own a fire extinguisher. Trim the tree, but save a few ornaments for guests to hang. Keep some holiday music, or pleasant backdrop music, on-hand.

Keep refreshments on hand. Plan ahead for drop-in guests by stocking up on snacks. Mulled cider, wine, teas and coffees, hearty stews, and cookies or nuts always make good noshes, while buying or baking quick breads (which can be frozen) allows for snacks or breakfasts. Keep frozen cookie dough on hand, so you can whip up baked-from-scratch snacks with ease.

Prepare for children. If you don’t have children, but your overnight guests do, borrow kid-oriented movies and TV shows from the local library or video store. Stock up on milk and kid-friendly snacks, and create a small basket of inexpensive toys and games such as crayons and paper, balls, costumes, or puzzles.

Many homeowners give their property its first “stress test” during the holiday season. If you’re planning on staying in your home for years to come, it’s good to get an entertainment preparation regimen underway sooner rather than later so everyone enjoys the holidays.