Home for the Holidays

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Preparing your home for holiday entertaining needn’t require an entire season or, for that matter, a big budget. Here’s advice from the pros for prioritizing tasks and working with what you have to deck the halls in style.
First things first
Going room to room, clear away clutter and stow any items not needed during holiday festivities, including kids’ toys, paperwork and extra furniture. Then, get some help with the next

Preparing your home for holiday entertaining needn’t require an entire season or, for that matter, a big budget. Here’s advice from the pros for prioritizing tasks and working with what you have to deck the halls in style.

First things first

Going room to room, clear away clutter and stow any items not needed during holiday festivities, including kids’ toys, paperwork and extra furniture. Then, get some help with the next round of cleaning. “Hiring a housekeeper during the holidays will really free up your time, and you’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes,” says home expert and Money Pit co-host, Leslie Segrete. “The service is surprisingly affordable, and a professional will clean things you hadn’t even thought of cleaning.”

From there, keep every room tidy, and work in easy touch-ups as needed. Keep a small arsenal of surface-specific cleaning wipes and a lightweight carpet sweeper on hand, and use a magic eraser sponge to remove marks from walls.

Furnish for holiday fun

Using the furnishings you have and a few strategic additions, you can easily create a welcoming and functional setting for your guests. The folks at Furniture.com recommend rearranging existing furniture to increase floor space and allow for freer movement. You can also build cozy conversation areas around space-saving nesting tables, and bring a new look to a room by updating the lighting scheme with lamps placed at equal heights and sharing the same shade color.

When it comes to dining, don’t crowd your guests and all the holiday goodies with a table that’s too small. Upgrade to a larger dining table, or spread out with a more casual buffet. Another popular party option is a bistro-style dining set, with a taller-than-standard table height that makes it easy for guests to serve themselves drinks, buffet dinner, or even assemble their own desserts.

Add a dash of seasonal color

Segrete recommends using such accessories as pillows and throws as the “decorative icing” in a room, and a key way to highlight the colors of the season. “Choose colors that speak of the holidays and your family’s traditions-rich jewel tones, silvers and grays for an icy, wintry look, or a palette of browns, coppers and bronzes. For extra impact, try colors that are a departure from those in your usual year-round décor.”

Simple arrangements of decorative objects are another means of highlighting your holiday palette. Segrete suggests filling a large glass hurricane with glass ornaments of different sizes from the same color family; also try grouping arrangements of filled hurricanes in varied heights, shapes and opacities.

Don’ts for your big to-do

Keep excess holiday stress at bay by avoiding projects that eat up time, resources and energy. Don’t choose this season attempt a home project you haven’t tried before, stay away from tempting touch-ups that take an excessive amount of time to dry, and don’t do anything that involves a busy contractor…In all cases, you could find yourself in the middle of a half-done mess as company arrives at your door.

Above all, forget perfection and remember that anything “out of place” makes a home more cozy and charming. It’s your house, so go for what feels right and enjoy the party!

Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show’s podcast or sign-up for Tom’s free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program’s website.

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