These steps are best done over the few weeks leading up to Christmas rather than all crammed into one week.
Decluttering now will save you precious time later, and best of all: it’s free!
It will also help to alleviate some of the post-Christmas stress of too much stuff in the house.
Work first to declutter the main living and high-traffic areas in the house:
- In the kitchen, declutter the countertops, refrigerator, and pantry by removing any unnecessary items and tossing expired food.
- Clean out the cabinets and give every dish, cup, pot and pan a designated space; this will make cleaning up after those late-night holiday parties a breeze.
- Tackle the coat closet by donating old coats and shoes, and leave plenty of empty hangers for guests to use.
- Consider going through toys with your kiddos. They’re often more willing to part with things at this time of year when they know that more is coming. (They’re kids, that’s just how their minds work.)
2. Decorate main spaces
While a touch of holiday decor can transform any space into an inviting winter wonderland, decorating every room in the house can be costly and completely overwhelming.
Instead, focus first on decorating the main spaces in your home with a few pieces that you’ve collected over time.
- Deck out your living room simply with a lighted garland, maybe a few holiday-themed throw pillows, some candles, and, of course, your Christmas tree.
- Add light holiday touches in the kitchen and dining area with holiday placemats, maybe some holiday-colored dish towels, and a holiday centerpiece on the table.
- When it comes to other areas in your home–bathrooms, hallways, bedrooms–add an inexpensive touch of the holiday season with a winter-scented candle. My favorite scented candles are from Natura Soy. Use my exclusive code to get 15% off: homemadelovely15
- Playing holiday music is also an easy way to set the holiday mood and touch on a different one of the five senses without overspending or visually overwhelming our spaces.
If you haven’t collected garlands, throw pillows, dish towels, yet, begin to stock up a little at a time. This is especially budget-friendly if you pick up a few things after the holidays each year, while they’re on sale!
3. Stock the pantry
Stocking the pantry early and buying items in bulk will keep you from last-minute, budget-busting shopping.
This year, this will also help to avoid issues with the store not having the things you want later on.
- In the weeks leading up to Christmas, pay attention to sales flyers from your local grocery store and wholesalers and grab what you need ahead of time.
- Buy non-perishable bulk items when they’re on sale and store them in your (newly decluttered) pantry. If you’re low on space, or you need to organize your pantry foods better have a look at our recently updated basement pantry.
- Perishable foods, like fruits, vegetables, and meat can be frozen if needed. Check out this post for how to freeze fruits and vegetables.
- If you’re lucky enough to have a grocery store that delivers with minimal fees, set a weekly grocery delivery schedule and plan out each week’s groceries based on what’s been used and what you need to restock.
4. Make freezer meals
Making several freezer meals can ease the stress of having to make dinner on busy holiday weeknights and will also keep the dinner budget in balance. They’re also super easy to reheat after a long day of shopping or decorating or cleaning to prep for guests.
Casseroles and soups are quick to put together and keep well in the freezer for at least 6 weeks.
Make sure to wrap each meal in foil and/or plastic bags to prevent freezer burn. Pop the frozen meal in the fridge in the morning to lower the cook time when you’re ready to put it in the oven that evening.
Another plus is that freezer meals will cut down on clean-up after dinner, making it easier for you to keep your home clean with less effort.
5. Create a wrapping station
Having a designated space to store gift-wrapping materials not only makes the wrapping process easier, but also helps to prevent unnecessary spending on gift wrap, tape, and gift tags since you are able to easily assess what you have on hand.
A desk in the home office or a dresser in the basement works wonderfully for a wrapping station. But plastic or zippered cloth container that slides under the bed is also an option: simply put all wrapping supplies in the box and bring it out when it’s time to wrap.
We bought this gift wrap organizer last year and it’s been very helpful for keeping all the Christmas wrapping supplies contained and portable.
6. Clean high-traffic areas
If you’re considering it, maybe wait to splurge on a cleaning service until after the holidays; you’ll appreciate starting off the new year with a clean home.
Instead, before the holidays, focus on deep-cleaning the high traffic areas in your home:
- Use a solution of water and vinegar (drop in some essential oils, if you prefer) to clean the bathrooms and kitchen before the holidays.
- Vacuum the sofa and armchairs that will be most used by holiday guests. Or take a day to wash the slipcovers.
- A mix of vinegar and baking soda can also be used as an inexpensive and effective solution for spot-cleaning stains on carpets and rugs.
7. Prepare for guests
There’s no need to break the bank in order to provide a warm and inviting space for your holiday guests.
Simply clean the house and be welcoming. Dust, vacuum, and clean the toilets. But don’t apologize for things out of place or any remaining messes though. Most people won’t even notice and everyone knows that life happens. Don’t sweat it.
If you’re having overnight guests, grab a winter-scented linen spray to mist the freshly-washed bedding and curtains in the guest room.
Rather than splurging for a holiday-themed bedding set if the budget is tight, stick with your everyday, neutral guest bedding but add a cozy holiday throw blanket and maybe a throw pillow to the bed.
8. Make a stovetop potpourri or otherwise make your home smell like the holidays
Making a stovetop potpourri is one of my favorite winter tricks for creating a cozy atmosphere in our home:
Add water, cranberries, orange slices, cinnamon sticks and vanilla to a pot (along with any additional spices you like), bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
The warm smell of the holidays will fill the house in no time. The best part is that you likely already have many of these ingredients on hand.
You can also diffuse essential oils, get a scented candle, or make your own room sprays.
9. Be strategic with outdoor decorations
Rather than paying for several expensive outdoor wreaths and outdoor lights, opt for a lighted wreath on your front door that will look festive during both the day and night. Or get a fresh greenery wreath from your local garden center each year.
Transition your summer and fall planters to winter: use natural items such as pine cones, birch log pieces, and evergreen sprigs to create holiday planters for your front steps or porch.
10. Plan ahead
This tip covers everything from ordering Christmas cards to schedule needed maintenance on your home (or anything).
The holidays are a wonderful time of year, but they can also be hectic as we try to juggle the many necessary to-do’s and activities.
- If you know that the water heater or another appliance needs maintenance, try to take care of it in advance rather than waiting until it’s out of order; you may end up paying extra, after-hours charges for service.
- A gift list is also a great plan-ahead item so that you can budget your money (and your time) during the holiday shopping rush. Use a simple planner, notebook, or the notes/reminders app on your phone to keep up with your holiday checklist.