The holidays are fast approaching, which means it’s time to dig up old favourite recipes, get ready to visit family and friends, and host festive get-togethers! Put your entertaining jitters at ease with these 10 tips to be a better host when you plan on throwing a party.
First Impressions: Front Hallway
The first area your guests will lay eyes on is your front hallway or entrance. Taking 10 minutes to properly dust, clean, and organize your entryway will give a polished first impression! Grab a box and quickly pack any shoes and clutter away in temporary storage, to free up your shoe rack(s) for your guests. If you are short on hangers or space in your closet, remove any of your own coats and put them somewhere out of sight. You can also double up on hanging coats when guests arrive. If hanging coats in a closet is not a viable option, consider buying an inexpensive coat rack or two and arranging them neatly in the hallway. Sweep under your mat, and vacuum any debris or dirt that gets tracked in the hall before people arrive.
Keep Shared Spaces Clean
Having company over means there will be more traffic than usual in your living room, dining area, kitchen, bathroom, and other common areas. It’s good to tidy your entire house, but focus first on the spaces where your guests will spend the most amount of time. Clear away any unnecessary items (boxes might come in handy again), wipe down all surfaces, sweep/vacuum, and wash your windows, mirrors, and other glass surfaces to get rid of grubby fingerprints.
Worried about that stain on your couch? Flip the cushion over, or place a throw pillow on top. Magazines or books can be stacked neatly on your coffee table. Nice bowls or decorative platters that simply won’t fit in your cupboard can become artistic centrepieces. Doing a thorough clean can be time-consuming, especially in larger spaces, so don’t leave it all to the last minute.
Set a New Perspective: Rearranging Furniture
When hosting a dinner party, a great way to open up your space (and give it a little facelift) is by rearranging furniture. If your living room or basement is feeling a bit cramped, push your couch or chairs against a wall to leave some breathing room for guests to gather and socialize. An empty, but tidy section of a room will fill up with people while you manage any last-minute dinner preparations. Open spaces might even spark an impromptu dance party, and are also great for playing board games. Every room has a different layout, so play around with your furniture to determine which set-up looks best!
Cleaning your kitchen is an on-going, endless chore. We are constantly prepping food, making messes, and washing dishes. The holidays can be especially taxing with so much going on in the kitchen, so make sure this space ready for action well in advance. Your oven will most likely be working overtime, so test its temperature with an oven-safe thermometer. If the temperature of the oven matches the read on the thermometer, you’re good to go! You wouldn’t want to burn or undercook your meals on the big day.
Sage advice about spices: check your cupboards and throw out anything old, and take stock of what you have versus what you need. There’s nothing worse than running out of salt, pepper, or that key secret ingredient to make your dish pop.
Finally, move onto your fridge. You don’t have to do a thorough scrub-down of each shelf, but tossing old or expired items eliminates odours. It also leaves room for any food and drinks your guests might bring, not to mention delicious holiday leftovers!
Organize Your Bathroom
After you have cleaned your bathroom, it’s always a nice courtesy for your guests if you keep your toiletries in plain sight. Spare your friends the trouble of searching for common items such as toilet paper, hand towels, tissues, and even lotions or soaps by putting them neatly on display. Consider picking up some cheap wicker boxes from a dollar store – this not only adds a nice décor to your throne room, but also keeps your toiletries easily accessible!
Create Food & Beverage Stations
If you are hosting a larger group, carve out a little nook or space for people to serve and place drinks (especially if you get some bottles of wine as a thank you gift). A bucket of ice and non-alcoholic beverages are great to have on hand, for kids or those who don’t drink. If you’re having a potluck dinner, set up all the dishes in a buffet-style on your dining room table. It takes the pressure off of everyone having to choose or assign seats, and encourages your guests to mingle and serve themselves at their own leisure. Alternatively, if you are having a more formal dinner with assigned seats, you can turn your coffee table into an appetizer station. Guests can socialize informally while they wait for dinner to be served.
Mood Lighting: Spark a Cozy Atmosphere
Ambience is another important factor in hosting a great party, and lighting certainly helps set the vibe! Best to avoid super bright, harsh lights. If you have dimmers installed, opt for a softer setting. Or, for a more diffused look, balance out your room with some lamps. Even twinkle lights will add to the holiday spirit, keeping your company cozy and comfortable.
Festive Décor: Less is More
You don’t need to go overboard with decorating your house, especially if you are short on time. Flowers add a touch of class for any occasion, and can be placed as an elegant centrepiece on your dining table, or even off to the side. Avoid tall vases and long stems if you are placing them directly on the table – everyone should have a clear view. If you really want to dazzle your guests, pick flowers of the same colour for a monochromatic style, which will complement any theme you have planned.
Be Prepared for Overnight Guests
If you plan on hosting visitors from out of town, tidy up that guest bedroom. Make sure the bed has fresh sheets, fluff those pillows, and go the extra mile by laying out spare towels and a mini toiletry set on the bed. For brownie points, place a mint or a chocolate on the pillows. Being a responsible host also means taking care of guests who have had a few too many drinks. If someone should not be driving home, offer your guest bedroom, or your couch, so they have a safe place to crash. Keeping a few extra toothbrushes is always a good idea.
Sign Language: Polite Notes
There might be areas in your home you don’t want your guests to explore – your bedroom, or home office, for instance. Maybe you piled all the mess into a closet in a pinch, and don’t want anyone to open it. For new families, your child could be sleeping and you’d prefer if guests didn’t ring the doorbell. A politely worded note taped to a door can solve this problem, advising guests on rules, not to enter rooms or open doors, cupboards, etc. If you are a crafty or creative person, you can have fun by adding a festive flare to your note.
One final take-away: make sure to gather a clean-up crew (family members count!), and get organized at least a few days in advance, so you’re not stuck doing everything on the big day! No matter how you choose to decorate, arrange your furniture, or set the table, it all comes down to spending quality time with family and friends. The details are just icing on the cake.
However you celebrate, happy holidays, from HomeStars!