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Reduced Stress Holiday Cleaning

Photo by scottchan/

There’s a chill in the air and the leaves are changing color. Winter is just around the corner and for many people, this is the time of year when the holiday hustle starts to set in. Despite all the songs and platitudes about cheer and family togetherness, this can be a very stressful time of year, especially if you are having company for Thanksgiving dinner or a holiday party.

Chances are, you are struggling to find time in your already packed schedule to shop for gifts, handle the kids’ vacation time from school, plan the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner menus, participate in church or school holiday functions, and get your greeting cards out before Christmas Eve. And on top of it all, you need to make sure your home is picture perfect for your holiday company. How are you going to get it all done?

Take a deep breath. Put on some upbeat music and light some scented candles. And then follow these six tips to get your house presentable without exploding in the process.

1. Enlist Help and Delegate!

There’s really no reason you should be doing all of this yourself, especially if you share the house with other people!

Make it a group effort. Delegate specific tasks to each member of the household, and hold them to it. Especially with younger kids, the more specific the task, the better. For instance, instead of asking them to clean their room, ask them to pick up all of the dirty clothes off the floor and sort them into the laundry baskets. When they’ve done that, give them a second task. This method should help you avoid inactivity and meltdowns.

It also helps to be baking Christmas cookies while all of this is going on, since the delicious aromas of holiday baking does wonders for morale. And bribing family members with said cookies probably won’t hurt, either.

2. Prioritize rooms.

If you’re like most people, you are too busy to deep clean every room in your house during the most hectic season of the year. But you want to make a good first impression on guests. So prioritize. Do the rooms that matter most, first. For most homes, this means the front hall or entry way, the kitchen and the living room- whichever areas your guests will be entering through and congregating in. You’ll also want to pay special attention to whichever bathroom your dinner guests will be using. Go ahead and give it a good cleaning, and then forbid your family from using it until after the holidays!

3. De-clutter first!

The dirt and dust may seem to be the most overwhelming, pressing matter, but clutter is definitely more noticeable to visitors. Let’s face it, most guests are not going to be getting down on their knees to examine your baseboards or the cranny between your refrigerator and the wall. But if there’s a heap of books, beauty products, sports equipment and toys in the corner of the living room, it’s going to get noticed. Same goes for that stack of papers underneath the salt and pepper shakers on the kitchen counter.

Just removing the clutter from a room will dramatically improve the room’s appearance, so do that first. But what if you don’t have time to deal with all the clutter? Look, in an ideal world, we would each have a capable android to take care of all our organizational duties for us. But it’s not, and we don’t. There’s a lot to be said for leading an organized, clutter-free life, but this is holiday season, and we don’t have time for that. Save it for your New Years’ resolutions. Pick a designated clutter area, a place where guests are unlikely to go, and stick the clutter there to be dealt with later. (Once the holidays are over, this is another task that should be delegated! Refer back to Step 1.)

4. Floors, Furniture legs, Surface Areas

These are the most conspicuous areas of the room, so give them your attention first. That means sweeping or vacuuming and mopping your floors, dusting and polishing your furniture legs, and wiping down/sanitizing or dusting all of your countertops, stove, tables and shelves and the front surfaces of your kitchen appliances. With the clutter removed and the floors, furniture legs and surface areas done, you’re off to a really good start. If you are really, really short on time, you could probably stop here and consider yourself done. But if you want to go the extra mile to make sure your holiday dinner or party is memorable (in a good way), go on to the next tip.

5. Ready for More?

If you have time, you can move on to the less noticeable items. This step is where you wash the windows and vacuum the drapes. Also check to see if ceiling fans, wall corners and electronics need dusting. Again, the key thing to remember here is that you don’t have to personally do it! Delegate, delegate, delegate. Offer to pay the kids a few bucks to wash the windows, and if that doesn’t work, or if you don’t have kids, hire a professional.

6. The Night Before

It’s the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas, and you’ve cleaned the whole house, but your kitchen now looks like a tornado went through it! This should tell you something very important about yourself. You have a life! Your family prepares good meals and probably sits down together to eat them! Good job!

Relax. It’s probably not as bad as it looks. Looming social engagements tend to magnify messes, especially when the engagement and the mess are at your house. So take a deep breath and assess the situation. Hopefully, the results of your kitchen decluttering have lasted at the very least. So now all you need to do is load the dirty dishes into the dishwasher, scrub the sink and stovetop, and wipe down the counters. Then, just for good measure, spot clean the floor.

7. Finishing Touches

If you’ve completed all of the above steps and still have time for some finishing touches, congratulations! You may not be Martha Stewart, but you’re pretty close! Here are a few ideas to take your holiday preparations from totally respectable to completely amazing.

Polish your silver: You don’t have to use harmful, corrosive chemical agents to clean your accoutrements. Try a tiny dab of toothpaste on a toothbrush to remove the tarnish from your silver. Scrub gently in a small, circular motion.

And your glassware: If you have stubborn mineral stains or water marks on your crystal glassware, try rubbing them out with a potato peel, and then wiping clean with a dry, cotton cloth.

Apple Cider Simmer: To give your home a lovely, long-lasting Yuletide smell, put a small pot of apple cider on the back burner of your stove and let it simmer on the low setting. Add cinnamon sticks and whole cloves for an even more festive aroma. If the stores are out of apple cider, just slice up an apple and put it into the pot with a cup or so of water.

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