Holiday tableBy Claire Kurtz

Now is the time to think about prepping and organizing your home (i.e. dining areas and family spaces) for the holidays. Get a handle on things early, and you’ll have a more relaxed, more enjoyable time with loved ones this holiday.

Space…the final frontier

We could all use more space when we’re having company, but thinking ahead can help you make smart use of the space you have. How will your family use your space? Is your home ground zero for the major family gathering including all six grandkids? Or is it the place where you’ll host a few close friends for a quiet gathering? What items will you want to decorate your space and what items will you need for entertaining?

What kind of atmosphere do you want to create? When it comes to keeping a space organized for the holidays, step one is to de-clutter. Decorating without de-cluttering is like putting lipstick on a…well, you know. Start by removing and safely storing your year-round decorative items to make room for holiday decorations. A space becomes visually overwhelming and functionally less useful when there are layers of decorations on furniture surfaces and walls. You want to create a fun, festive atmosphere in your gathering spaces and maintaining a nice balance of decorative and holiday-themed items is important for this.

Also, think about how your space will be used during gatherings. Will people put their drinks and plates on the coffee table? Should you rearrange or remove furnishings to accommodate a different traffic flow?

Adopt a new routine

One of the most powerful tools for keeping your dining and gathering space well organized during the holidays is to make sure you complete a nightly 10-minute “round-up.”  Scan both your dining and living rooms and pick up and return all items to their rightful places. Return spaces to their original, calm “set-point.” If necessary, assign each family member a zone in the living or dining room to look after and keep clutter-free. Make sure all magazines, books, toys, pet accessories, clothes and paperwork get back to their appropriate locations each night. If you’re addressing holiday cards or wrapping gifts at the dining table or working on a puzzle as a family in the living room, finding a way to clean up or store items after each session will discourage clutter piles from building.

A list of lists for the holidays

If you plan on entertaining and hosting family and friends, now is a great time to begin putting together an entertainment plan. Create preliminary guest lists, menus, grocery lists and lists of serving pieces you will need for each gathering. List the centerpieces, vases, candles, linens, flatware and glassware you will need for each gathering. Doing this now helps you know what items you need to purchase and can help give you an idea of when to schedule time for maintenance activities like polishing silver or laundering and pressing linens.

Review your guest lists and determine whether you will need to rent or purchase extra flatware and china place settings and whether you will need to serve buffet or family style for different events.  Back out a timeline for events and schedule days for shopping (two days before), food preparation (one day before) and picking up auntie from the airport (morning on the day of). Treat holiday events like work projects – which they really are – and plan ahead so that you don’t drop the ball (and forget to pick up auntie from the airport).

Stock up on staples and self-serve items

Keep your pantry and fridge well-stocked with pre-prepared and ready made items during the holiday season – especially if you’re having overnight houseguests. This will allow you to enjoy time with friends and family without running to the grocery store every day.

Keep plenty of bottled water, juice boxes and soda on hand, and for adults a selection of champagne, wine or beer. Pre-fill snack size Ziploc bags with almonds, pretzels, popcorn and Hershey kisses so that snacks are readily available.  Keep a large bowl filled with fruit such as bananas, apples and pears on the counter for self-serve houseguests. Keep a selection of cheese and crackers, olives and oven-ready hors d’oeuvres on hand.

With these organized reserves you can quickly pull together a spread of any size and really enjoy your time with guests.

Most of all, remember to relax into the holidays. It’s about good times with loved ones. Do a little work on the front end, and then go with the flow. You and your guests will appreciate the effort.

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Collin KelleyEditor

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.