Countdown Before Christmas
The holidays are all about family, friends, fun, and creating fond memories to last a lifetime. Don’t let stress or worry about the condition of your home take away from the joy of the season. While it’s not a good idea to tackle major renovations in the few weeks before the holidays, you can definitely take care of those little touches that add up to a more functional, comfortable, and inviting home.
Brighten Up the Entryway
Even if Old Man Winter has your town in his icy grip, you can still bring welcome touches of bright color to your entryway by stringing lights around the porch, over the bushes, and even up the trees. If you live in a region with frost-free winters, pot up a couple of containers of bright and cheery annuals to deck the front entrance.
Sweep It Up
Fallen leaves, snow, and mud are common at this time of year, and you certainly don't want visitors to track them all through your front door. Before guests arrive, sweep or wash down the approach to your house. If they need to park on or walk across the driveway, clean that as well.
Is mud from early winter storms splattered over your home’s siding and windows? If so, and if you live in a region where nighttime temps are hovering in the 50s or above, clear things up before guests arrive. Use a power washer to blast grime and grit off the exterior of your house, and wipe the dust and dirt from the windows. If you live in a colder region, don't douse your home with icy water; instead, make do by wiping interior windows and ground-floor exterior windows with a homemade or store-bought cleanser.
Check the Steps
Does your home have steps leading up to the front door? Before friends and family come calling, make sure the steps are steady and safe. Fix any loose or cracked boards, secure wobbly handrails, and lay down nonslip rubber stair treads where appropriate. If you have concrete steps that need repairs, keep in mind that concrete should not be poured when temperatures dip below 50 degrees. If it's too cold to fix your steps, establish an alternate route into the your home—then tell guests to use it.
Overseed the Lawn
No need to worry about the lawn if it’s covered in snow, but if you live in an area with mild winters, chances are your exposed lawn is looking a little frazzled. A light sowing of annual ryegrass seed is an easy way to green it up until spring returns. Ideally, you should sow annual ryegrass in the fall, but early December still gives enough time for the seed to germinate before the holidays arrive.
Replace Burned-Out Bulbs
Check lamps and overhead lighting throughout your home, and replace any burned-out bulbs. Don’t forget the bathrooms, vanity fixtures, and the closet in the guest room.
Clean the Oven
Your oven and stovetop are probably going to get a workout turning out perfect pies, golden turkeys, and delicious side dishes for holiday meals. Before the cooking starts in earnest, run your oven’s self-cleaning cycle or give it a good scrubbing by hand, and run stovetop drip pans and grates through your dishwasher’s heavy-duty cycle to remove baked-on grunge.
Install a Toilet-Paper Holder
The half-used roll perched on the edge of the toilet tank lid might suffice most of the year, but it's not enough when you have a flood of guests. Install a toilet-paper holder—any home improvement center will carry a variety of choices—within easy reach of the commode.
Make Your Stairs Safe
If your home has a wooden staircase, it’s a good idea to tack down a runner or install self-stick stair treads before hosting overnight guests. Otherwise, visitors who aren't accustomed to bare stairs might fall, especially if they are wearing socks or soft-soled slippers.
Clean Out the Coat Closet
If your coat closet is a jumble of sporting goods, cleaning supplies, and papers you don’t know where else to store, it's time to clean it out to make room for your visitors’ coats. Take advantage of this opportunity to sort through the mess. Donate unwanted items, put important belongings in their proper places, and throw away trash.
Fix Drips or Clogs
No one wants the embarrassment of a clogged sink or tub when overnight guests are washing up. Nor do your guests want the irritating drip-drip-drip of a leaky faucet keeping them awake. Replace worn washers or fittings in dripping taps, and remove hair clogs, grunge, or other blockages in slow-draining sinks or tubs.
Scrub the Baseboards
You may think no one will notice scuffed, dusty, and dirty baseboards, but you’ll be surprised how much brighter and cleaner a room looks after the baseboards have been given a thorough cleaning. While you’re at it, scrub the front door and clean off any spots or smudges on the interior walls and trim.
Freshen Up Your Pet’s Area
Fido is adorable, but his stinky bed or crate isn’t such a pleasure, nor is Fluffy’s litter box. Wash pet bedding before guests arrive, and set a small air purifier near your pet’s litter box or crate to help filter out dander, odors, and pet hair. If you're especially worried about pet odors, know that BetterAir offers an air purifier that releases positive microbes that feed on the bacteria that cause bad odors, restoring ecological balance to your home interior.
Hire a Chimney Sweep
A roaring fire on Christmas Eve is a joy, but not if that fire sends smoke into your living room instead of out the chimney. It’s a good idea to have a professional chimney sweep clean and inspect your fireplace and chimney annually.
Look Over Your Holiday Decor
Before hanging up those holiday lights or setting the inflatable snowman on your front lawn, check all cords and plugs for signs of fraying, breaks, or cracks. Toss anything that’s damaged. Using holiday decorations that are past their prime could cause a fire. It's just not worth the risk.
Related: 12 Christmas Tree Decorating Fails
Clean the Carpets
Whether you do it yourself or hire the task out, get your carpets and area rugs cleaned before welcoming guests for the holidays. It makes a huge difference in the overall appeal and freshness of a room, and deep cleaning often removes odors that you may have become used to, but your guests would definitely notice.
Childproof, If Necessary
If you’ll have very young visitors during the holiday season, especially overnight guests, take precautions by setting up a safety gate at the top and bottom of the stairs, placing outlet covers over the electrical outlets, and making sure breakables are out of reach.
Test Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
You should test the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors seasonally, but if you’ve neglected to do so, go ahead and check them now by pushing the “test” button. If nothing happens, or if the device produces just a feeble chirp, it’s time for new batteries.
Install New Home Entertainment Electronics
If you’re planning on putting in a big-screen television or a surround-sound speaker system, do it now so you and your family can spend time together watching holiday movies or listening to your favorite Christmas tunes. While many homeowners are handy enough to tackle the installation of a home entertainment system on their own, if you don’t feel up to the task, hire a professional who specializes in home theater installations for the best results.
Have Major Appliances Serviced
Halfway through your out-of-town guests’ stay is not the time for your washing machine, dishwasher, or furnace to give out. If you’ve been noticing—but ignoring—signs of trouble with major appliances, such as poor performance or strange sounds, call a service person to diagnose and repair the problem before it turns into a major headache.
Cold drafts that come through windows or doors increase your heating costs and decrease the comfort of your family and guests. It’s easy to check for drafts: Just hold a lit stick of incense near each window and door, and watch for wavering, bending, or blowing of the smoke column. Replace faulty or worn weatherstripping wherever necessary.
Touch Up Paint
While now is not the time to repaint the entire interior of your home, it’s definitely doable to touch up chips and nicks, or even give a fresh coat of color to one small room, such as the powder room or guest bedroom. Make sure to tackle this project at least a week or two before guests arrive to give the paint time to dry fully and the fumes a chance to dissipate.
Tighten Up Wobbly Chairs
Don’t risk Aunt Sally taking a tumble in a rickety chair. Before the big holiday dinner, check the legs on all chairs and tables, and tighten up any loose screws.
Clean Out the Refrigerator
If you are hosting a large holiday gathering, chances are your fridge is going to be filled to bursting with all the goodies you’ll be enjoying. Before your big trip to the supermarket, take time to empty everything out of your refrigerator and freezer, including the drawers and the shelves on the doors, and scrub down the entire interior. Toss food that is past its expiration date, and make note of condiments and other staples that need to be added to your grocery list.
Stock the Bathroom
Don’t let one of your guests suffer the inconvenience of discovering too late that there isn’t any toilet paper in the bathroom. Stock up on tissue, toilet paper, hand soap, and air freshener, and be sure there's always an extra roll or two of paper within reach of the toilet.
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