Hosting family or friends this holiday season? Then you probably already have a long to-do list. But we’d argue that if you want to make things easier on yourself, there are a few things that you should clean far in advance of the day your relatives and friends come knocking at your door. Even overnight guests only notice a few things about your home. But you’ll still need to prepare if you want to successfully host Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, or even New Year’s at your home.
Below, check out the things we’d recommend cleaning before the holidays.
1. Your food storage containers
Nobody cooks a big meal for the holidays without ending up with lots of leftovers. So the days leading up to the holiday are a good time to dust off your food storage containers (and make sure that all the lids haven’t mysteriously gone missing). The Kitchn, enumerating some tasks to get done before the holidays, even has some advice for preparing containers that don’t look super clean. “Get rid of stains by soaking them in a solution of one tablespoon bleach to every one cup of water for two to three hours,” the publication advises. “Rinse and wash again before using.”
Next: Clean out these items in your kitchen.
2. Your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry
Similarly, now is a great time to assess the state of your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry — and to make room for all the food! Whether you anticipate needing a lot of space to store ingredients or just want to prepare for all the leftovers, you should take the opportunity to clear your shelves of anything that’s expired or otherwise past its prime. This is also a good time to start thinking about your grocery list, and to check whether you have the baking ingredients you’ll need for the holiday.
Next: Clear out this item in your kitchen, too.
3. The kitchen sink
You also don’t want to go into a major holiday with dirty dishes already piled up in your sink. Don’t let them pile up in the days before a holiday. (Especially not if you already know that you may have a shortage of plates or glassware.) The night before your guests will arrive, make sure that all your dishes are clean and out of the way. That way, you can actually use the sink if you need it when preparing your meal. And all the dishes will be spotless and ready to go, no last-minute washing necessary.
Next: Take these items out of storage.
4. Tablecloths and cloth napkins
Even if you don’t use them frequently, you may find yourself thinking about setting the table with tablecloths and cloth napkins for a holiday dinner. If so, you should take them out and assess their condition at least a few days ahead of time. Ensure that they look clean and pressed, and that they remain free of stains. Depending on what you find, you may need to plan an extra load of laundry. Or, you might decide just to use paper instead.
Next: Wipe the dust off of these, too.
5. Serving platters
Here’s your annual reminder. It sounds obvious, but you’ll want to clean your serving platters well in advance of the meal. (That way, you won’t find yourself scrambling to rinse the dust off of your serveware when you already have a sink full of prep bowls and other dishes.) Get your platters down from the cabinet or wherever you store. And make a mental plan for which foods will go on which platters. That way, you can assess whether you have enough, or if you need to ask a friend or relative to bring a few extras.
Next: Make sure these are in good shape.
6. Dispensers or coolers for drinks
Whether you plan to make a big batch of apple cider or need somewhere to stow all the beer, you want to make sure to have all your equipment ready. Rinse the dust out of your drink dispensers. Or give your cooler a good cleaning if it collected some grime over the summer. Whatever beverages you plan to provide (or expect your guests to bring with them), make sure that they can go somewhere other than the overstuffed refrigerator.
Next: Clean and polish these small items.
7. Your favorite silverware
Whether you plan to use your “good” silverware or just your everyday set (or even if the two sets are one and the same), make sure that everything is cleaned and polished. Also take a moment to double-check that you have enough place settings for everyone whom you expect to attend. Additionally, make a count of your serving forks and spoons, and ensure you have enough for the dishes you plan to serve.
Next: Make sure this tool is sharp and safe.
8. Your good knives
If you’re planning a meal centered around a turkey or a ham, ensure that you clean whichever knife you plan to use to carve it. Ensure that your carving knives are sharp, in good shape, and still looking safe. And if you plan to use an electric knife, make sure that all the parts are present and dust-free. If you have small children in the house, it also doesn’t hurt to take the opportunity to refresh their memories on staying safe — and steering clear — when an adult is using a large knife.
Next: Pull these out of the basement or garage.
9. Folding chairs
If your guest list far outnumbers your dining room chairs, chances are good that you’ll need to haul your folding chairs in from your garage or basement. The Kitchn recommends cleaning them off with a damp cloth. And if they smell musty, leave them out in the sun for a day or two. The publication also recommends making sure that each one unfolds, and sits without wobbling. If the joints need a little help, try some WD-40.
Next: Get these items ready, while you’re at it.
10. Table leaves (or card tables)
Similarly, if you need more space at your table, you’ll want to prepare at least a day or two in advance. Haul the table leaves in from the garage, or grab those card tables from the basement. Enlist a friend to help you wrestle the table leaves into place. And don’t forget to ask for help if you need to rearrange some of your furniture to accommodate extra tables in your living or dining room.
Next: Don’t forget to assess how these look.
11. Your favorite decorations
Whether you have silver candelabras or colorful garlands that you put up for the holidays, now is the perfect time to pull them out of storage and clean them off. Think about how you’ll want to decorate your table (and home) and make sure that everything’s ready. Everything from napkin rings to the wreath you’ll hang on your door could probably use a quick dusting. (Preferably not on the same day that you’re trying to prepare a dozen different dishes!) While you’re at it, make a note of whether you need to buy any new decorations, or if you want to donate any of your old ones. If you donate them early enough, then your thrift store of choice will be able to get them onto the floor in time for the holiday.
Next: Launder these important items.
12. Linens for the guest room
If you plan to have overnight guests, make sure that you run a load of laundry so that you have clean, fresh-smelling sheets on the bed. (If you have pets at home, make sure that they’re relatively free of pet hair, too!) It doesn’t hurt to have some extra throws or blankets available both in the guest room and near your living room couch. Also equip the guest bathroom with plenty of clean towels. Even if you won’t have overnight guests, make sure that you have clean hand towels in whatever bathroom your dinner guests will use.
Next: Make sure this space looks neat and clean.
13. Your coat closet
If you have a closet where guests will stash their coats, don’t forget to give it a quick cleaning. Now is also a great time to donate any outerwear that you don’t need anymore. But even if you don’t have an overstuffed coat closet, you should also take the opportunity to ensure that you have enough hangers — and that there aren’t any dust bunnies lurking in the corners.
Next: Don’t forget about this item you carry everyday.
14. Your wallet or handbag
As The Happy Housie points out, it’s also a good idea to do a quick cleaning of your wallet or handbag, especially if you’ll need to do a lot of shopping in advance of the holiday. Clean out all of the old receipts that have accumulated. (And decide which ones you need to keep and which ones you can throw out.) Figure out whether you have gift cards or coupons to use when you go to the store, either to stock up on groceries or to purchase gifts. And make sure that you have whatever store loyalty cards you need.
Next: Take a moment to empty these.
15. The trash cans
Another thing you should clean — or at least clean out — in advance of the holidays? Your trash cans. Make sure that you empty every single trash can in your home, including those in your bathrooms. You may end up with a lot of extra trash, like food packaging on Thanksgiving or wrapping paper on Christmas. So it’s a good idea to clear everything out so your trash and recycling cans aren’t already full. If you have the time, it also doesn’t hurt to give the cans themselves a quick cleaning so that everything smells as fresh as possible when guests throw things out.
Next: Give these rooms a quick cleaning.
16. Your bathroom and kitchen
These seem pretty obvious. But you don’t want to forget to clean your bathroom and your kitchen. Clear clutter off the counters in both rooms, and wipe those counters down, too. Give the floors a quick cleaning, and make sure the sinks look and smell fresh. And don’t forget to give the toilet and shower a thorough scrub, especially if you’ll have guests staying the night with you.
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