As we drift into holidays most of us know that our workload is about to increase significantly — thanks to the upcoming holiday seasons. There are just so many details to take care of from deciding on menus, preparing the house for overnight guests — not to mention for the big feasts and casual get-togethers to come. Then there’s brainstorming a gift list, shopping, wrapping decorating —- aaagh! It can all feel overwhelming if you let it. The secret is to make a concise list and then take care of each item on it over the coming weeks. Here are 5 things to be sure to put on that list …

1. Clean the House

Whether you’re just having local family and friends over for a holiday feast, or you’re expecting overnight guests, or casual drop-in visits over the next several weeks, you’ll want to make sure that your house is clean, bright and welcoming. If you can manage it, now’s the perfect time to spring for a professional deep cleaning. It’ll cost you, but it’s worth it considering what a super job they do!

Once the house has been deep cleaned, you’ll only have to do some light cleaning to keep it looking company-ready for the duration of the holiday season.

2. “Winterize” Your Decor

Replace warm-weather decor with things that are more in keeping with the season. You might switch out pastel or floral throw pillows for some with richer, spicier colors in heavier fabrics like corduroy or velvet, for example. Ditto for your window treatments. Billowy sheers are wonderful with summer breezes, but winter’s chill may call for an insulated window treatment like a cellular shade in the guest room, for example, to keep drafty windows from making your overnight guests uncomfortable. You might also think of layering a rich drapery over woven window blinds for a warmer look as well as some added insulation. (If you’re in Central Alabama, be sure to check with the experts at Just Blinds for the very best in window treatments and installation. Feel free to contact us to learn more about our products and services.)

Don’t forget to add a little ambience with candles for instant atmosphere, and bowls of potpourri to get your home smelling as good as it looks!

3. Plan Your Menus

If you’re cooking for a crowd, start planning your menu now. Include things that you can make ahead of time so you’re not overwhelmed by trying to do it all at once. (For example, you can freeze cookie dough and slice it for fresh-baked cookies for unexpected guests who drop by unannounced. You can also freeze pies before you bake them, so they’ll only need baking the night before or the morning of the big dinner party.)

4. Rethink Your Gift List

Instead of wracking your brain trying to come up with the “perfect” gift for each person on your list, consider themed gifts like cozy knit hats for nieces and nephews or gift cards for the bookstore for your siblings. We all get so caught up in the retail frenzy of gift-giving that we tend to forget that the gifts we give one another are really meant to be symbolic of the good will and sharing spirit of the holiday season.

5. Have a Plan for De-Stressing

Between work, household chores and duties, and the super-rushed pace of the holiday season, it’s no wonder that many of us feel frazzled at this time of the year. That’s why it’s so important to squeeze in small but meaningful treats for yourself like a massage at a local day spa, a soothing soak in the tub, or a drive through a neighborhood that’s beautifully decorating with shimmering lights. After all, taking time to “smell the balsam” is essential to actually enjoying this special time of year rather than just feeling like it’s one big blur of things you’ve “got” to do!

And in the end, there’s only so much you can do, so instead of striving for a “perfect” holiday season, concentrate instead on opening your home to friends and loved ones, and accepting that your best effort and a welcoming home is all the perfection you need!