Preparing your home for the holidays — with little fuss or stress

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The holidays are upon us — first Thanksgiving, then Chanukah. They’re times of festivity, food and sometimes an unusual amount of company.

Children may be home for the holidays, and company may be arriving from out of town requiring accommodations.

How do you prepare your home for the onslaught in between work, family responsibilities, volunteerism and anything else you’re involved in?

Getting the house clean is an obvious component. But sometimes cleaning is the last thing you have time or inclination for, especially if cooking ahead for guests seems like more of a priority.

It’s time to turn to a professional cleaning service.

If you don’t have much time ahead of your guests’ arrival, Yaakov Elfassi, owner of Y and Y Natural Cleaning Services in Rockville, recommends having a professional service clean the first floor only – and wherever the guests are going to be.

Look for a service that charges by the hour rather than a minimum flat rate — that could help keep the price down, said Elfassi, whose company operates in the District and Maryland. And, if you’re uncertain about which areas to concentrate on, the service should be able to guide you.

“The kitchen and powder rooms are the high-traffic areas you’ll want to be [particularly] well cleaned,” Elfassi said. “A quick dust of other surfaces and cleaning the floors will also help. Of course, cleaning up clutter helps too.”

That’s where a professional organizer, or just your own ingenuity, comes in.

Rather than become overwhelmed straightening up every room in the house, it’s advisable to focus on one room at a time, said Jill Katz, a professional organizer.

When it comes to the kitchen, it’s vital to freshen and organize the counters.

“Also, a family always needs a place to throw things, but that room can become messy quickly,” Katz said. “And five years later you may have to try to unearth something you didn’t remember putting anywhere.”

As a countermeasure, she suggested placing things in closet space under the stairs, in the basement or in a cabinet you buy for that purpose. Katz has used a decorative ladder to hang clothing on.

You can also involve children. Establish rules, such as the expectation that when a clean-clothing basket reaches a certain fullness, they will put its contents away.

What about carpets?

There are many reasons to keep carpets clean on a regular basis, including enhancing their appearance and prolonging their life.

Eddie Suengas, owner of Carpet Pro in Rockville, suggests that carpets be professionally cleaned at least once a year — twice in homes with pets.

“My advice is to make carpet cleaning a high priority before company comes,” said Suengas. “Everyone notices dirty carpets.”

Carpet cleaning also prevents the buildup of allergens and bacteria, and so protects indoor air quality.

If cleaning all the carpeting in your house sounds too expensive, you might want to zero in on high-traffic areas such as hallways.

Beyond cleaning and organizing, the services of an interior decorator can come in handy, especially if you’d like to declutter or update, said Rhonda Lehman, owner of Urban & Vintage Spaces.

How can you refresh and renew your space, quickly and inexpensively?

Try applying fresh paint or putting on wallpaper — even in a limited way — or changing the design of a room. This could mean adding new accessories or rearranging the ones you have, said Lehman.

“You can reaccessorize a room with new couch pillows or a throw over a couch or chair for the fall and winter,” she said. “You can add a new painting or mirrors — or print up photos you’ve taken and frame them.”

Other relatively quick changes are updating the vanity in your bathroom, placing toiletries for guests in a basket, adding flowers and keeping neat stacks of towels in the linen closet.

And just before guests arrive, Katz said, spray some fancy air freshener. “They can’t put their finger on it, but they will know the difference.”

Remember: the idea is not to have a perfect house, but one guests will find comfortable.

Barbara Trainin Blank is a Washington-area writer.

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