Your Holiday Home Prep Checklist

By Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza
Photo by Ostap Senyuk

Late October to early November is that last sweet spot in the year where things will settle down one last time before they speed up again. The kids have settled into the new school routine and the holidays aren’t quite here yet. In order to maintain some mental and household peace during the upcoming holiday season, take a weekend and get your home in order. Consider a home warranty for those systems and appliances that you’d rather let the professionals take care of. Even some of the cheapest home warranties can save you money in the long run. 

This simple prep work will help you reduce stress before all the fun of the holidays begins to bubble up.

Purge the pantry and fridge

If your home is like mine, the holidays mean a lot of cooking and a lot of hosting. If you can do some pre-planning in the kitchen, you’ll likely save time when it matters most. Here’s your kitchen checklist:

  1. Clean out the fridge, throwing away anything that’s expired and pulling to the front anything that needs to be eaten sooner than later.
  2. Wipe down your shelves and put in a fresh box of baking soda.
  3. Don’t forget the fridge door. Check expiration dates on condiments and anything that lives in the refrigerator door. Toss what’s old, combine the two half-used ketchup bottles, wipe down the shelves, you get the drill.
  4. Clean out the freezer. I usually end up with a lot of leftovers around the holidays, many of which won’t get eaten in time, so into the freezer they go. Make room for that extra casserole or gifted pie.
Photo via transForm

“If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the pantry is its command center,” says Shari Baldie of custom storage brand transFORM. “A fully-stocked kitchen pantry is a must during the holidays so allotting areas for your appliances, supplies, and food helps keep it organized.”

  1. Purge the pantry in the same way you did the fridge. Wipe down the shelves and toss what’s expired or stale.
  2. Take inventory of staples like sugar, flour, baking soda, and baking powder, and stock up on what you don’t have. Also check for spices like cinnamon, cloves, and ginger that might get used only around the holidays. Make sure everything is clearly organized and labeled.
  3. Baldie recommends optimizing your pantry’s functionality with “additions like a wine rack, corner carousel, baskets, and a pull-down shelving system.” This will make finding what you need easy in a pinch.
  4. Pull out any appliances that make a cameo only once a year. Test your crockpot, immersion blender, turkey fryer, etc., to make sure they’re still in good working order. Store them in easy-to reach places.

Organize your closets

If you live in the Southeast like most of the House Method team, then you’re just now turning over your wardrobe for the colder weather. Even if you’re already in your winter coats, now is a good time to make sure all closets in the house are in order.

Don’t forget the utility closets and coat closets. Get these in order and in the process locate those decorations, the tree stand, wrapping paper, the candles—all those things that have you wondering, now where did we store that last year?

Now is also a great time to go through the kids’ closets. Donate what’s not being used to non-profits or charity drives, store what won’t be used for the winter, and decide whether a new coat or boots should be on their wishlist.

Prep your guest room

Take a good look at your guest room to make sure it’s ready for overnight guests. Bed clothes should be in good shape and warm enough for cold weather and everything should be cleaned and dusted.

Baldie also recommends making plenty of space for guests to hang and store clothes. “If you have plan to have visitors stay overnight during the holiday season,” she says, “creating space for them in your closet, drawers, and nightstands will make them feel right at home.”

Photo by Ashley Gallerani for House Method

If you have dresser drawers in your guest room that are seldom used, make sure they smell fresh. Pop a few drops of essential oil (we like scents from Way of Will) in the corner of the drawer or even drop an unused bar of natural soap in there—wrap it in wax paper and secure it with twine.

If you don’t regularly use your guest room, it’s always a good idea to spend a night in there yourself. Make sure the temperature is comfortable, the mattress supportive, the noise level low.

Stock up on a few key items

Save yourself a few trips to the grocery store by stocking up on a few things you’ll inevitably need.

Coffee

We’ll all need our caffeine fix between November and January, so stock up on the very best. Order a few bags from our favorite small batch roaster, Casa Blanca Coffee.

Carpet cleaner

Spills are going to happen, so grab a bottle of carpet cleaner and throw it under the sink. See our recommendations for the very best carpet cleaners.

Paper towels and toilet paper

The more people in your home, the more you’ll need of both. Additionally, ask your septic warranty provider to check on the health of your septic system before you have guests over.  

Extra toiletries

If you’re going to have overnight guests, you’ll need some extra toiletries in the bathroom. Stock bamboo toothbrushes (plastic toothbrushes don’t biodegrade), toothpaste, hand soap, razors, moisturizer, plenty of shampoo and conditioner and body wash, and make sure you have enough towels and washcloths to go around.

Stock your bar

The holidays mean parties, so stock your bar for the festivities. Always stock your bar with what you like to drink, don’t stock it to impress guests. And keep it simple—gin, bourbon, and vodka are versatile crowd pleasers that factor into plenty of holiday cocktails.

If you’re not sure where to start, here’s our bar stocking shopping list for plenty of simple and crowd-pleasing cocktails.

  • Hendrick’s Gin
  • Belvedere Vodka
  • Elijah Craig Small Batch Twelve-Year Single Barrel
  • Veuve Clicquot Brut NV Champagne
  • Dolin Dry Vermouth*
  • Club soda in single-serve bottles
  • Tonic water in single-serve bottles
  • Cranberry juice
  • Spectacular Ginger Beer (Spectacular is the brand)
  • Angostura Bitters
  • Simple syrup
  • Lemons, limes, and oranges

*Vermouth is best when it’s freshly opened. So if you already have an open bottle on your bar, toss it and start fresh.

Recommended cocktails: gin & tonic, hot toddy, French 75, old fashioned, martini, mimosa, Moscow mule, dark & stormy, gimlet, vodka cranberry.

Childproof your home

If you have guests with young children, make sure your home is appropriately childproofed. Not sure where to start? We’ve got you. See our complete guide to childproofing your home.

Test your smoke detector

  1. Use a clean cloth to dust off the smoke detector itself.
  2. Press and hold the test button.
  3. You should then hear a horrible ear-piercing siren while you’re pressing it.
  4. If there’s no sound or if the sound is weak, it’s time to change the batteries.

Smoke detector batteries should be replaced every six months, and if you don’t remember the last time you change them, go ahead and do it anyway, regardless of the test. And FYI, smoke detectors themselves should be replaced every 10 years.

Test the generator

Make sure your generator is ready to go. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck with no power, especially when there’s a turkey to cook and hot chocolate to be had.

If you do use a generator, make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector and that you follow all appropriate safety precautions.

Have a pro look at your furnace or heater

Have an HVAC pro come and inspect your furnace or heater to preempt any problems that might arise as temperatures drop.

While you’re at it, check the weather stripping on the windows to make sure you’re not letting in any drafts.

Keep reading: See our furnace and heater troubleshooting guide

Check your vacuum cleaner

Oh, the vacuum. The holidays would be the worst time for this to fail.

  1. Go ahead and change your filter if you haven’t recently.
  2. Clean the brush head: use the point of a pair of scissors to remove tightly wrapped hair from the roller and use a clean cloth to carefully wipe down the roller itself and its casing.
  3. Make sure the cord isn’t frayed. If it is, have a vacuum repair shop replace it.

If you tend to be short on time, consider investing in a robotic vacuum. Just turn it on and let it do the work because let’s be honest, you have enough to do as it is.

Read more: See our research team’s recommendations for the best robotic vacuums.

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