It’s October, y’all! That means the big “hosting” holidays begin next month. Are you ready?
Because my family lives in a college town, our hosting duties are not limited to Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have overnight guests for just about every home football game, as well as other big events like festivals and concerts and other sporting events. Also, because we are geographically located halfway between my parents’ house and my brother’s family’s home, we are frequently the host site for any family gatherings that come up during the year.
I just looked over my calendar to try to calculate how many days we’ve had overnight guests so far this year, and I came up with 40 as a rough estimate. That’s 40 overnight guests since January. So you could say I’m kind of a pro, although I don’t get paid—except in memories and countless bottles of wine. (Which I’m not knocking! Please don’t stop bringing me wine as a hostess gift!)
I’m no Martha Stewart. I mean, for one thing, I’ve never been arrested for insider trading; and I also don’t leave little chocolates and towel origami on my guests’ beds, and if you’re staying here, don’t expect to wake up to the smell of cinnamon buns made from scratch coming from my oven. But I have learned a few things over the years about the best ways to get ready for overnight guests. If you’re planning on hosting guests this holiday season, here are a few tips.
Actually, I lied. I only have ONE real tip. And that tip is:
Seriously. That’s the tip, and it is absolutely crucial to being a good host or hostess. So if you want to know how I go about getting organized, I’m about to fill you in.
First of all, I am a huge believer in lists— and I mean the good, old-fashioned, written on lined paper with a pen kind of lists. When I have guests coming for a weekend, I start several different lists the Monday before. One is a menu, one is a shopping list, and one is a to-do list.
Even if you are not planning on hosting a big dinner for your guests during their stay, you need to think about this. This part is not always easy for me, because I have some dietary restrictions and I tend to forget to stock my kitchen with foods that normal people can eat. So I really have to think this one through systematically. Think about what people might like for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and beverages, and write it all down, even the smallest, most obvious detail.
Then, go through your kitchen and take inventory. Which of the things on your menu do you already have, and which do you need? If you’re going to be cooking, look at your recipes and take inventory of any ingredients you might need. Next, go through your guest bedrooms and bathrooms and take inventory of any supplies you might need there. Do you have enough toilet paper? Tissues? Shampoo? Soap? This kind of inventory-taking should naturally lead you to completing list #2: The Shopping List.
But think about other things while taking inventory. What else could you include in the bedroom or bathroom to make a guest’s stay more comfortable? Do you have clean towels and sheets? Do you have any magazines or books they can flip through? Do any light bulbs need to be replaced? Do you have coffee mugs at the ready in the kitchen and Dixie cups by the bathroom sink?
The To-Do List.
Now you’re ready to make the to-do list. Include every little thing that needs to be done in order to be ready for your guests, from grocery shopping to doing laundry to making the beds, and try to put it on some kind of a timeline.
The most important things on your to-do list will probably involve cleaning. You want to make sure your bathrooms are spotless, your floors are swept, and there’s no dust gathering in the guest room that may not have been used since *last* Thanksgiving.
Call Immaculate Clean
When you’re focusing on the menu and the shopping as well as whatever else takes up your time during your regular daily routine—like going to work, or running kids around, or whatever—cleaning for company, and doing it well, is not always easy to fit in. This is a perfect time to call on Immaculate Clean! Even if you do not have them on a regular cleaning schedule, they are available for one-time cleans and will do a great job of getting your house company-ready so you can focus on everything else that goes into being the hostess with the most-est.
Once you’ve checked everything off your lists and your house is clean, there is only one thing left to do—and this is perhaps my most important tip: Relax and ENJOY your time as host or hostess! It’s a privilege to be able to host friends and family. You’ve done the work; now don’t forget to cherish your time together!
For the past year, I’ve been paying $187 per month on a storage unit. Based on the number of storage places around town, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one wasting money to keep old junk we just can’t seem to part with. But, enough is enough. It’s time to let go of the past.
The past means something different to each of us. For some, it’s memories of our own childhood. We’re not ready to give away our high school varsity jacket or the single bed we slept in. Others of us are holding on to baby items from our children who are now in their 20s. While some of us are holding on to a life that no longer exists.
I recently dragged my son and a few of his former football-player friends to my storage unit. There wasn’t much left. Mostly just the big stuff that I couldn’t throw in the back of the car during one of my frequent visits to the unit. This time I had a truck and brute strength with me to get the job done.
The boys—or should I say, young men—filled the truck with the items. I let them organize everything, not wanting to micro-manage the situation. Nothing was so valuable that I’d cringe at it getting damaged. So, I let them have at it.
I knew the toughest item would be the large, wooden desk/hutch that sat in the middle of the unit. It had taken five other young men to get it in there. I wasn’t sure three were going to be able to manage it. Then again, it’s not as hard to move things when you don’t have to worry about their well-being. And, for the first time in 20 years, I wasn’t worried about what happened to this particular piece.
I remember when we bought it. It was one of the first “fine” pieces of furniture my ex-husband and I had shopped for. We found it at a store outside of Denver. It was the perfect thing for our new house.
Back then, computers took up a lot of space. You needed a shelf for the monitor and one for the keyboard, as well as a place for the awkward hard drive tower that had to be attached. I didn’t have an office space so I wanted something that could hold everything but also hide it when company came. This piece did exactly that. It had shelves and drawers for everything, but doors to close and cover it all up. It was perfect.
That furniture followed us everywhere we went; one house after the next. It eventually morphed from a desk to a television cabinet that was kept in our bedroom. And, when I moved out during our divorce, it was one of the first items loaded on the truck.
Since then, however, I’ve moved again. My current house is too small to hold such a large item.
And, so, it sat in the storage unit along with all of the other items that would never find a place in this new home. Until recently.
When I lifted the door of the storage unit, it all of a sudden hit me. It was time to let go of that desk/hutch/television stand/oversized item. Fantasies of posting it on Craigslist to find a new owner vanished. It finally appeared as it actually was—a large pile of wood that needed to be disposed of.
When the boys started inspecting the item for how they would carefully get it on the truck, I suggested we get a sledge hammer and break it to bits.
They looked at me a bit bewildered and then one of them said, “Well, if you don’t care what happens to it, we can just scrape it along and push it into the truck.”
“That’s fine,” I said. “We just need to get it out of the unit.”
They got it onto the truck rather quickly after that. We drove home and I backed the truck to the edge of the curb.
“Just drag it out and put it there,” I said, pointing to the curb. “Someone will take it.”
And, they did.
I was out for the evening and came home after dark. I didn’t notice it until I got out of the car. That piece of furniture that I had held on to for all of those years was gone. Taken away by some faceless, nameless person. I had no idea where it went or what would happen to it. It was just gone.
Strangely, I didn’t shed a tear. In fact, I was relieved. Somebody else could deal with that huge, heavy item from now on. It was gone from my life. It was in my past, and my future seemed that much brighter.
As for the rest of the items, they will hopefully be sold in a yard sale. It’s the perfect way to get rid of a lot of junk at once. And, with no more storage unit, I now have an extra $187 per month to spend on a cleaning service. Life really is good.
My kitchen remodeling project is complete. It only took about four weeks, but it has felt like an eternity with a constant flow of workers in and out of my house. And, it’s a small house. Each person takes up a lot of space so I’ve been relatively confined to my bedroom. As has my daughter. Needless to say, we’re ready for some space to move around.
I am thrilled, however, with the result. My kitchen went from “Hunting Lodge” to “Joanna Gaines Inspired” in just a few weeks. Here’s the pics to prove it:
So, now comes the fun part. I get to move back into the kitchen and get everything organized. And, I’m determined to do it the right way. (Actually, I decided to write about it and thought I better make it worthy.)
Where does everything go?
Most kitchens have some sort of pre-determined layout of where things will go, but it doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. You might find the silverware drawer should be closer to the dishwasher than the sink. Or, the dishes are fine in the overhead cabinet until the kids start getting their own and you realize they can’t reach them. And, when everything is brand new, it all seems a bit confusing.
It helps to stand in the kitchen and think about a flow of what you use and when you use it. Remember to make things easy to grab, and put away. It doesn’t make sense to put the KitchenAid mixer in the cabinet above the refrigerator. It’s too heavy to get down, and put back up. Believe me, I used to have mine there. And, the spices should be near the stove. That’s where you’ll be using them. Live in it a bit, and figure it out. If it doesn’t work, move it.
A lot of today’s kitchens come with drawers and cabinets for every purpose. A pull-out trash cabinet with a recycling bin. Slotted drawers for silverware and utensils. Appliance hutches, cabinet doors with spice racks, and vertical dividers for cookie trays. You name it, they make it. But, not everyone has a new kitchen. Or, if you’re like me, you just didn’t want to add the cost for all of the bells and whistles. Don’t fret, you can still make everything functional.
Everything was floating around an open space until I purchased this wooden divider that expands to fit my drawer. Make sure to measure your drawers before purchasing the dividers. They vary in expandability and length.
With limited cabinet space, I knew it would be hard to find an easily accessible place for my coffee necessities. I decided to use the open shelves above my Keurig, and bought a basket to hide the coffee and sweetener boxes. It sounded nice to buy one of those fancy displays, but I knew I’d never take the time to take each pod out of the box and continue to restock it. Hiding the boxes in a basket made more sense for me.
Like most things in life, the more time you put in up front, the better the results. Therefore, the more thought you put into organizing the kitchen, the easier it will be to keep it that way. It short, put things where you know you will put them away. It’s one of the reasons I opted for some open shelving. It just seemed like an easy way to put away my everyday necessities.
It also helps to get rid of the things you don’t use. The more junk you have, the harder it is to find a place for everything. And, more and more things get pushed to the back of the cabinets. This is true of pantry items as well as pots and pans. Throw out the box with a few strands of spaghetti left. And, get rid of the cake decorating kit that’s never been opened—despite your plans to someday learn how to use it.
In terms of your house, there’s nothing better than a brand new kitchen. But, even an old kitchen can feel new again if you get it organized. Take the time to do it right and you’ll enjoy the benefits. Have fun!
If you are thinking about renovating your kitchen, bath or any other room(s) of your home, we recommend GRS, Inc. For over 45 years, General Repair Services has been providing professional residential repair and renovation to homeowners in the Metropolitan Washington area. Owner Mike Hrones and his family have been residence of Eldersburg for the past 21 years”. GRS is currently renovating (building) two homes in the Carroll County area for you to check out!
House cleaning is a necessary evil that just needs to be done if you want to maintain a healthy, happy home. So how do you make this chore less dreadful and more fun? Our Maryland cleaning crew has a few ideas:
Play some music
There is something about music that boosts your enthusiasm and makes whatever you are doing more fun. You could blast your iPod via a portable speaker or turn on one of those music channels on your TV.
Put cleaning on your calendar
No one likes to spend weekends cleaning, so why not spread your chores throughout the week? If you clean one room a day, they’ll never get messy to the point of a weekend-long cleaning ordeal. And unless you live in a mansion, you’ll be done by the end of the week, which means you’ll have the weekend all to yourself or to spend with your family.
Use a timer
How much cleaning can you get done in 20 minutes? It might not sound like enough time to do anything, but you’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish if you just stay focused on cleaning. Set your kitchen timer to a short interval and don’t stop cleaning until it goes off. In just 20 minutes, you can put away surface clutter, load your dishwasher, gather laundry in the basket and even vacuum one room.
Make a to-do list
Cleaning may feel overwhelming, especially if you treat it like it’s one big chore. Try creating a check list. Do the laundry—check! Put away clean dishes— check! Organize the pantry—check! Clean the bathrooms—check! Wash the kitchen floor—check! Dust—check! Vacuum—check! This way, you will feel more accomplished as you cross each item off your list. And house cleaning won’t feel like it’s never-ending, because you’ve just itemized it on a piece of paper. If you love apps and gadgets, you can use a to-do app on your phone—there are plenty to choose from. Some apps even allow you to assign tasks to family members, which is a great way to get everyone involved in maintaining a clean home.
For some people, just having a clean house is rewarding enough. If you are not one of these people, then come up with something to make cleaning more rewarding. Go out to your favorite restaurant after cleaning, sneak in an episode of your favorite show or take a power nap. Whatever your guilty pleasure is, indulge in it after you are done cleaning—you deserve it!
Hire a cleaning service
A live-in maid might not be a viable option, but you can certainly afford a weekly or biweekly professional cleaning service. As a Maryland cleaning company, we help many homeowners like you maintain a healthy, happy and more harmonious home. Just let us know what your top priorities are and you won’t have to worry about anything. It’s not the lazy approach—it’s a smart way of cleaning for people who value their time. Consider hiring a service if you have a busy schedule. We all know that life is busy and we need time to relax, and time to spend with family and friends.
Live in Maryland and tired of cleaning? Contact us to work out a cleaning schedule that will meet your cleaning needs and fit into your budget.