We all know what time of year it is. The stores are festooned not only with gobbling turkeys, seasonal gourds, and harvest time decorations, but I’ve also already seen hints of red Santas, sparkly snowflakes, and stockings waiting to be filled with gifts! The winter holidays are approaching fast, and on top of our daily duties like work, taking care of the family, keeping the house in shape, and many, many more, all the additional preparation can seem like a chore. Here are a few simple tips to help you prepare your dining room and keep the holidays on track with your spirit intact.
Start Planning Now: I know you have a million things to do. But believe me – a little planning now will save you a lot of hair-pulling later. Start with lists and ideas. How many people are coming to visit during the holidays? Are you going to have a sit-down dinner, or a buffet-style set-up? If you want to send invitations, go for it (Facebook and other online services do this for you fast, free, and without paper); no matter the method, just make sure to touch base with your guests, and even include them in your planning stage. What foods will be served? Are others going to bring their favorite holiday foods? If so, what are they bringing? Will any of your guests need accommodations or help finding them? Will you have any kind of entertainment in the dining room – music, after-dinner board games or cards, or a family circle full of talk and catching up?
Thinking about these things and writing them down will be the keys to knowing the ingredients you’ll need in the kitchen, how much space you will need in the dining room, and how many chairs you’re going to need. This is also a good time to think about decorations: What do you already have? How much space will the décor use up as compared with how much space you and your guests will need to dine and visit comfortably? Do you need (or want) anything new?
Clean Early: I think we’ve all done it – flipped out a little bit because family and friends were coming over for a big gathering. We’ve been on the cleaning frenzy, and it isn’t fun. Start setting aside a limited number of hours each week to do a major project and make sure to keep up with it throughout the holidays. Make sure to work for the pre-determined number of hours and no more; get things finished and give yourself time to relish the results. This will be easier on your stress and energy levels, and make you feel more comfortable as you accomplish goals in your dining room over time. You deserve to be able to enjoy the holidays even as you’re preparing for them, so don’t exempt yourself from the real festivities by wearing yourself out just before the main event begins.
Get the Family Involved: This is definitely the time to rally the troops. Ask about the schedules of the people in your household for the next couple of months. This is especially important if your dining room doubles as a home office or study station; you’ll have to plan your objectives around the normal activities going on in your dining room, and doing so will save you the frustration of getting geared up to clean the dining room ceiling only to find someone in there who needs to write up a report.
Find out everyone’s opinions on the matters of the decorations, the food, and the entertainment and get them on board with the preparation schedule. Schedule time to help each other clean and decorate, and make these times memorable and fun. Go to a favorite restaurant as work is getting accomplished or make a favorite meal. Play festive music together as you meet your goals, and be present – in the right now - with one another as you work together. Play! These moments are just as important as the holiday gathering, so don’t let them pass you by.
Make a Budget: Here’s another one I think we’ve all done – splurged around the holidays. Maxed out the old plastic cards or dipped a little too far into the savings account for extra goodies, just-the-right presents, new dining room furniture, or all-new decorations. The expansive spirit of the holiday and our desire to create a truly special event make it natural for us to want to go all out, but if you end up hurting yourself financially over the holidays, not only will you pay for it over the course of next year, you’ll also begin to resent the holiday “fuss.” So do what you can to make the holiday special, but don’t go overboard. Since you’ll be planning early, you can also begin to work on getting the things you’ll need a little bit at a time, so you’ll have everything ready without having to spend a massive chunk of your hard-earned cash all at once.
Relax: The whole point of gathering for a big family feast or a huge party with friends around the holidays is to have fun! If you’re the host, then of course this puts a big responsibility on your plate in terms of preparations, but your duties as host shouldn’t keep you from having a good time. Take the time to enjoy the preparation stages. Don’t take on too much at once, and give yourself the time you need to relax and rest. Enjoy hot baths or walks around town; take in a movie – whatever you need to do from now until the holiday events are finished to enjoy a little me-time. You won’t have fun if you’re a frazzled mess when the doorbell rings and the first guests arrive. Make sure you’re relaxed, well-rested, and in a good mood so you can actually enjoy their company and all your hard work.
A good friend of mine tells me that you don’t sit down to an eight-course dinner and try to figure out how to consume it all once; you sit down and eat it bite by bite, dish by dish – and if you’re smart you enjoy the food at the feast! Preparing your home and dining room for the holidays is like that eight-course meal; if you try to eat it all at the same time, you’ll make yourself sick. Follow these simple tips, and add your own, so you can enjoy every delicious moment of your life from now until the holidays are over – and beyond.
Do you have other Holiday Decorating Tips or experiences you’d like share? Or do you have a request for something you’d like to read about? Leave a comment below, and you might find your comment or suggestion presented in an upcoming blog. Keep reading for more about gardening, home décor and design, and outdoor living. Coming soon: Dream Bedrooms for Kids.