Start by giving all the rooms that guests will see a thorough clean. That means the hall, kitchen, living room, dining room, bathroom and any bedrooms they’ll be using. Remove cobwebs, dust and polish surfaces, then vacuum carpets and wash tiled floors. If everything looks spotless and tidy, guests will never guess that your usual clutter is craftily stashed under the stairs.
Next, make some lists so you can keep track of what needs to be done when. A present list, Christmas card list, to-do list, cooking/baking lists, shopping list, who’s coming on what day list, which parties you’re going to lists… write them all down and then refer to your lists as you go.
At the entrance
First impressions count, so make sure the front door and hall looks – and smells - welcoming and bright.
Make the front door attractive by making sure to sweep the front steps and path. A wreath of foliage and berries on the door looks instantly festive.
Inside, clear coat hooks, putting away tatty anoraks and muddy wellies so guests have somewhere to hang their coats and change their shoes.
Put bills in a drawer and place a Christmas plant, such as a cheery red poinsettia, on the hall table.
If your stairs run off the hall, wind a pretty garland down the banisters.
Light a scented candle – orange and cinnamon is always a favourite at this time of year.
In the kitchen
Go through the fridge – you’ll need all the space you can find. Throw out anything dubious and wipe shelves and storage containers with a clean, hot cloth and/or antiseptic spray.
Wipe down countertops, sink, hob and oven, so you have hygienic surfaces when you start cooking.
Wash or rinse all the special dishes, glasses and cutlery that you usually have hidden away in a cupboard but intend to use over Christmas.
Source extra chairs, crockery and cutlery, so you know there are enough for all guests on Christmas Day.
You can get away with cheerful paper napkins, which mean less washing later, but make sure your Christmas tablecloth is washed and ironed.
Stock up with washing-up liquid, dishwasher tablets, rubbish bags and kitchen towels.
In the living room
Remove pet hair from sofas and chairs with sticky tape or lint rollers, plump up cushions and shake out throws, then fold neatly.
Spray windows and mirrors with a glass cleaner to make them shine – nothing says clean like sparkly glass!
Check and replace missing bulbs on fairy lights before you put them on the tree.
In the bathroom
Clean the bath, basin, mirrors and shower screen.
Make sure the loo is pristine and that there is plenty of loo roll.
Put out clean hand towels and a new cake of soap.
In the guest bedroom
Put bath towels on the bed and a box of tissues on the bedside table.
Add fresh flowers – anything scented is a bonus.
Lay out a couple of good books and glossy magazines.
Make sure the bedside light has a working bulb that’s bright enough to read by.
Make sure there are enough pillows, so guests can read in bed.
Put a throw on the end of the bed in case it turns cold.
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