When you’re hosting for the holidays, you may envision a happy extended family gathering full of cheerful conversation, bonding over board games, and deliciously satisfying meals. Making this vision a reality, however, requires a lot of hard work beforehand: Holiday organizing that makes every room look cozy, effort to declutter and put everything in its place, and thoughtful holiday home design so there is room for everyone — especially overnight guests.

Don’t get overwhelmed, though. You don’t have to be an expert at holiday organizing or even hosting for the holidays to pull off a great event. Simply consider the following advice, and guests at your get-together just may end up feeling like they were at the party of the year.

How do I host my family for Christmas?

It starts with a plan — a list of things to do and specific dates to do them. First, figure out how many people are going to be there. Let’s say your home is normally just right for a family of four, and six more people are planning to come to dinner. That means you need double the amount of food or more than you normally serve, six more chairs, a table that you can extend or another place for the kids to sit, as well as more plates, napkins, and serveware. This also means you need to clear all countertops, do a quick vacuum, and grab those dishes that you’ve saved since your wedding to use. 

Better yet, this may be an ideal time to go through your house and declutter those items you aren’t actively using. Don’t worry about things like those stacks of paperwork that the school sent home, unless you can quickly go through them. Otherwise, just pull them off of your kitchen desk or end tables temporarily. If you need to, call a company that takes donations, schedule a driveway delivery of a PODS portable storage container, or find a place that helps you remove your clutter

A dog sleeping on the rug in a room decorated for Christmas

How do I get organized for the holidays? 

The idea of home organization starts at eye level and goes as far as you want it to go in terms of buying lots of containers, label makers, and endless “how to” books. But for the purpose of hosting a holiday meal, you only need to start with some simple organizing tips, for the sake of time. 

Go into the main rooms of your house where people tend to gather — likely the kitchen and the television room — and remove anything that isn’t immediately necessary. This means gathering the pet toys off of the floor, removing kids’ toys, and putting those stacks of unread books onto a bookshelf, preferably in an unused bedroom. Once you’ve cleared all surfaces, give everything a quick dusting or a wipe down. 

Then, prepare the bathrooms by making sure you have a large stock of the basics, such as toilet paper and clean towels, and clean everything you can reach. Your home will look clean and neat for your guests — just like a professional organizer had been there. 

For the meal, focus on recipes you’ve made before or use the ones that are searchable by the terms “easy” or “quick.” This is not the time to experiment with new ideas or ingredients — use recipes that taste good and you know how to make. 

Insider Tip: Cleaning and organizing will only get you so far when, in reality, you may simply have too much stuff. If this is the case, consider if there’s anything you can get out of the way for your holiday guests — bulky furniture, appliances that won’t be used, and wall decor that won’t match the festive vibe. Items like these can be easily stored in a PODS portable storage container kept right in your driveway or at a secure PODS storage facility, giving you and your family the space you need to make the season merry and bright. Need something you stored at the PODS facility? No problem. Just give us a call and we’ll have your container ready for you to access.

How do I make a comfortable guest room?

Sleepover guests are great, except when you’re not prepared for them. But hosting for the holidays frequently means people may need to stay the night or you may want them around for a few days to catch up. 

If you weren’t expecting Grandma to hang out until morning or your sister’s family to stay the weekend, you can easily be ready, though. It’s as simple as having a freshly made bed with clean linens and an air mattress or two for the kids. Even a sleeping bag can be comfortable if you make room on the couch by removing the back pillows, for example. For the most comfortable experience, consider going to a nearby store and buying new sheets, fresh guest towels, and a bouquet of flowers beforehand, if you have time. 

If you can, also make sure there is a place where people can put their clothing, like a space in a closet, or even a dining-room chair in the corner. It’s wonderful if you add a nightlight for people to make their way to the bathroom in the dark. Throw a couple of extra blankets into the mix, and you have the makings for a warm respite after a large holiday meal that anyone would enjoy for a good night’s rest. 

A happy grandmother cooking a holiday meal with her granddaughter

How do I handle holiday meal prep and cleanup?

Groceries are one of the most expensive things about hosting a party, and you may feel tempted to order everything in so you can avoid the hassle. But a home-cooked meal is one of the great pleasures of hosting, and making it yourself can save you hundreds of dollars. Stick with food that you know, and follow the recipes to the letter — this is a time when you want to feel confident in your cooking and happy that the flavors are right. 

Enlist all of the hands there to help, whether they offered to or not. Get someone assigned to clearing the table and washing the dishes before they all disappear to watch football or a classic holiday movie. Then, take it easy on yourself — that’s the best gift to give yourself and everyone around you. Most people enjoy when someone else makes the meal or takes care of the desserts, and they’re happy to help with the cleanup.

How do I make sure everyone has a good time?

Well, that’s more complicated. The best hosts are the ones that encourage conversation, bring people together with snacks so no one gets too “hangry,” and makes sure everyone’s glass is filled at key times. It’s a big job, and you will likely feel exhausted by night’s end. But one look around the room at those smiling faces will make the hard work of decluttering, home organization, and finding extra seating ideas all worth it. 

Most of all, take time for yourself during this mad race. Grab a cup of hot cocoa, perhaps do some holiday gift shopping, and let the dishes sit overnight if that means you can enjoy your company, as well. You may have a few confusing days ahead of you as you try to find the car keys that you hid in the closet or the cat (who may seem like he never wants to emerge from the basement again). But if anything makes you feel good about hosting for the holidays, it should be that you have 364 days to recover and plan the next one. And in the meantime, check with the PODS blog for tips on keeping your home neat, organized, and ready for family and friends. 


Karen Dybis is a freelance journalist and a frequent contributor to the PODS blog. Her work has appeared in Time magazine, U.S. News & World Report, The Detroit News, and more.

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