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Blog - home organization

How to prepare for holiday guests without losing your mind

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I hear this all the time: "I have holiday guests coming and my house is a total mess, where do I start? HELP!!!

The holidays cause everyone to go into overwhelm and panic mode. It is supposed to be the happiest time of the year filled with visions of sugar plums and presents under the trees or latkes and jelly donuts. Whatever your tradition if you are the host for the festivities you are filled with other people's expectations only exceeded by your own. You want everything to be perfect. The first thing to do is  breathe. Yes really. …Breathe. It’s all going to be okay. 

We can break it down into digestible bites.

Let's look at a couple of the entry points in your situation that may be at the center of the overwhelm. Let's see where you are in your plans so we can see how to simplify this for you: sometimes we paint ourselves into a corner simply by the way we start out our preparation. Then we spend so much time trying to react that we become even more chaotic and stressed. 

Guest list

When you invited your guests did you give thought to what having them to your home would mean? Or is it now dawning on you  just how MUCH there is to do to get ready. And you are SO busy with other commitments and obligations. EECK! You are excited but somewhat panicked and stressed. With everything on your plate right now you are almost wishing you hadn’t invited them.

Let's begin by remembering why you invited them in the first place. If you put yourself into the holiday festive spirit of love and gratefulness, you can see the bigger picture about spending time together and embrace what is to come. Visualize yourself already there so you have this feeling while you prepare. It will make it all seem less daunting. 

Guests who are coming that you didn't actually invite:

If you are in a couple your “other half” may have invited guests that you don't particularly like or care to see. This will make you feel a bit annoyed or even resentful and angry and it’s definitely affecting your ability to get into gear right now. Even if you would have enjoyed the preparations you are now thinking that they should be doing all the preparation for "their" guests. You might be in full on “blame” mode, resisting as forcefully as you can. Perhaps it’s time to have an honest conversation, share the load and get into gear now. All you can really change is your attitude. It is difficult to accept that the other person in the relationship has a right to have friends too. This can be an opportunity for compromise that can lead into a new year of better communication. 

Guests who have invited themselves:

People may perceive you as the best host and will ask to come to your gatherings. You may never feel that you can say no when in this situation. You secretly hoped they would change their minds and they haven’t. Darn it. Now you feel trapped, resentful, guilty and almost at the point of calling it all off. How dare they invite themselves anyway, you might be feeling? You might be huffing and puffing and feeling very sorry for yourself. It’s understandable, but at some level you agreed, and now it’s time to simply deal with the situation. It is a compliment if people feel welcome at your home. It is a burden but there is something in it for you if you plan it well. You will be providing warmth and love for others who may not be able to do it for themselves. Or you can learn to speak up at the time and get used to saying "no" when it is not convenient to accommodate everyone. 

It is your turn to host the guests this year

Many families rotate who will hold the holiday festivities. So there is potentially an element of resignation, as it had to happen, but you are comparing yourself to all the years before and wondering one of two things. 

  1. can you measure up because you feel your home, organizational skills and preparation of food isn’t up to scratch. Or
  2. your competitive nature is on full alert and want to prove yourself and out-do everyone else with your perfectionist tendencies. Not fun is it?

Or are you somehow a combination of a few of these scenarios above?NO matter what – it still ultimately boils down to the same process, even though specific situations change. So what do you do to stop these patterns that lead to emotional disaster. 

  • First: Take responsibility and be honest
  • Second: Decide what you really want to do
  • Third: Get your butt into gear to do whatever you decide is appropriate in your home. Sitting on this side of the overwhelm, panicking and harboring all the negative emotions is not going to make it all magically go away, and if anything will heighten all the stress.

REMEMBER this above all: 

Getting your home ready for guests and doing any clutter clearing is all about letting go. So can you let go of all the expectations you may have around the holidays? This is also your time to rest, regenerate and replenish. The more you stress about it, the less you will do, the worse you will feel and it can make the holiday visit go pear-shaped! No one wants that, do you? Let go of expectation, assumptions or comparing yourself to anyone else. Can you set your intention to let go of SOME of the stress? You will be amazed at the results. 

Here is what I call my holiday emergency clutter clear out. If you do the thinking ahead of time the doing will be a snap.

So how do you honestly and truly want to do it this year?

PRACTICAL PROCESS– use the following system to work though your specific situation.


Can you be brutally honest about what you are feeling and why? I suggest you grab a pen and paper and dump all your emotions down. Literally vomit them out. BAM. Perhaps you even find the capacity and willingness to share your feelings with the relevant parties. Be careful not to get caught in the blame game. Just acknowledge where you are at, as this is the first step to shifting it.

Next dump down onto paper all the areas of your home that practically need some attention, all the shopping lists and any other pesky tasks that are on your radar to do before your guests come. Put down every little thing bugging you and stealing your energy right now.

Great, let’s move on.


Next step is to be brutally honest and get crystal clear about how you want your home to look and feel when your guests arrive. We all have different levels as to what is and isn’t acceptable for us in our home. Don’t fall prey to comparisons. That’s not worth your health or sanity.

Perhaps for you it is simply to have your living room and dining room in order so you can have social time in peace and tranquility. For others it may be to have the kitchen in order so the meals get done with order and fun. For still others it might all be centered on the den so the kids have space to play, or the guests rooms to be in tip top shape.

Or you might decide you need your entire home ready.

This is where YOU decide what is and isn’t going to be done from your lengthy list above. How much is enough for you and what is the realistic picture in your head?


Your job is now to COMMIT TO IT, making the most of it, getting your home and heart ready to welcome that doorbell DING DONG. Often it is our own stubbornness and guilt that stops us from preparing and doing holiday chores with ease and grace. Set goals for yourself and don’t set yourself up for failure.

Put on some funky music, drink some water to stay hydrated, grab a black garbage bag and march super fast around your entire house JUST LOOKING FOR TRASH! Make a game of it by looking for 50 items. This alone can boost your energy and make a whole bunch of space.

Make sure every inhabitant of the house takes responsibility for their belongings and their space / rooms. Instantly that cuts down your chore level. Involvement by all is key. If you live alone- do you need outside help?

Next take all the dirty laundry to the washroom. Put on a wash load NOW.

Now round up any dirty dishes, glasses, coffee mugs  and cutlery to the kitchen.

Take everything out of the house that lives outside, back outside.

Already you should feel your energy has shifted and you can breathe.

Now let’s tackle that list.
What is your MAIN priority in the home, and do THAT first!
Then ensure you do the stuff in that space that will make the biggest impact FIRST!

For e.g. let’s say your living room area is the most vital for you before your guests arrive. Always start with the things cluttering up the floor – magazines, boxes, blankets, kids and animal debris etc. A clear floor space frees up space and untold energy. If an item does already have a proper home, great, it can go back to it. If not, perhaps some stuff can be put in the basement / garage to deal with after guests have left. You do not have to do it all NOW. Work towards the outcome picture you created about what feels acceptable and lovely for YOU.

Next tackle the stuff lurking behind the doors so that there is a flow of energy.

Next zap all the horizontal surfaces that always gather clutter. Aim for 80% free space. If you can!

Stay on track with your list. Small manageable tasks. If you want your entrance hall to make the biggest impact, don’t get stuck into folding short sleeve t-shirts in your dresser to procrastinate. DO WHAT MATTERS MOST, FIRST! It will have a snowball effect as you start gaining control of your home. Never underestimate how much you can do in 20 focused minutes.

Now what about the rest of your LIST?
What innovative and creative thoughts can you implement about food, shopping, gifts and entertainment etc?
Can you BATCH all the same tasks together to make implementing them easier?
Can you shop online or do 90% of the food shopping before guests arrive.
Can you outsource ANYTHING – to guests, neighbors, kids, a local business such as all your gift wrapping, catering, snow clearing, pool cleaning (depends on your hemisphere!).

Do you need some specialized help to get your home in order? An extra pair of hands to declutter, organize and clean can reduce a day’s tasks to a couple of hours. Be creative and willing to ask for help. This IS within your control.


If you have oodles of time on your hand, then of course you can do an entire process from start to finish to get your entire home and life ship shape. Then I suggest you grab CLEAR YOUR CLUTTER right now to keep you focused and learn my best tips and tricks.



Is this the year to implement sharing the load at last? If you are all going to be cooking, washing, doing laundry, then giving people some clearly defined responsibilities makes the time together less stressful and less chance of resentment building up. You can rotate chores daily, or share the tasks according to what people are brilliant at (I LOVE doing the cooking), or simply pull chores from a festive hat.

What about allocating everyone 2 towels only to cut down on laundry. That will make sure everyone hangs them up to dry!
Or asking overnight guests to bring their own bedding and towels.

Or how about getting guests to each take responsibility in totality for one day of the holidays- think food, entertainment, travel, costs etc.

The only limit as to how easy you make this are determined by you. If you get into the habit of doing everything yourself, well you are being a martyr and will loathe yourself, the holidays and your guests. I implore you to be kinder to yourself this year.


Watch for my new book "Ditch your Glitch" in time for those New Year's Resolutions. 

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