The holidays are a great time to create new memories with your loved ones. However, preparing your home for the holiday season can be stressful, especially if you’re planning to entertain this year.

By doing some of the legwork ahead of time, you can enjoy a relaxing holiday season with your friends and family without the added stress.

Focus on your main spaces.

When decorating for the holidays, don’t worry about decorating every nook and cranny.

Instead, turn your focus toward decorating the areas of your home that draw the most attention from guests, like your front porch, entryway, living room, and kitchen.

Don’t deep clean your entire home, start by cleaning your floors and decluttering your main spaces with totes that you can hide away in your closet until the end of the season.

Decluttering rooms helps create the illusion of cleanliness, even if you haven’t had enough time to deep clean. Before bringing out your favorite decorations, be sure to give them a quick dusting.

When decorating outside, opt for simple, natural décor. For example, try accenting outdoor garlands with oversized outdoor ornaments and polyester ribbons for your front door.

Alternatively, hang large magnolia wreaths on driveway doors. Modern outdoor decorations add a hint of the holidays without overdoing it, and a touch of greenery is all you need to create an unforgettable scene.

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Start preparing your kitchen.

When Thanksgiving rolls around, it’s time to bring out the fancy dishes. Setting up a seasonal tablescape—complete with holiday place-cards and color-coordinated dinnerware—can help you prepare for holiday entertaining. All the while making your home feel more festive.

If you’re planning on hosting a holiday dinner, it’s a good idea to start decluttering your fridge, giving the oven a deep clean, and cleaning your dishwasher.

To make room for holiday leftovers, toss everything you haven’t used in the last few months, including jars and containers that are almost empty. Finally, be sure to wipe down your fridge’s walls and shelves with a mix of vinegar and water.

Before your holiday feast, set aside some time to plan your holiday menu and start going through your favorite cookbooks and recipes.

Testing potential recipes now can not only help you feel more confident, but it’ll also give you the opportunity to make any necessary adjustments.

Ultimately, there’s nothing more stressful than trying to prepare a holiday dinner for your guests in a single day. To ease the stress of holiday meal prepping, figure out which recipes can be made in advance.

In most cases, pies and side dishes can be prepped a few days before your holiday party, so all you’ll need to worry about is putting them in the oven.

Bring the outside in.

Don’t wait until the last minute possible to start decorating your home—you’re going to be way too busy juggling other projects to find the time.

For Christmas, consider trying to do your decorating the weekend after Thanksgiving Day or as soon as you can clear time in your schedule.

Remember: simple holiday decorating ideas shouldn’t break the bank. If you’re preparing your home for the holiday season on a budget, think creatively and find ways to bring nature indoors.

Simple touches—like a rustic wooden bowl filled with pomegranates, a garland strung on the staircase, or a glass vase filled with acorns—can help you create stunning naturalistic accents.

Traditional Christmas décor typically involves a large, statement-worthy tree, but you don’t have to follow the status quo.

For a more modern touch, try adding a few miniature trees to your mantel or hang a handful of simple wreaths on your living room wall. For bonus points, light some balsam- or cedar-scented candles to welcome guests as they enter your home.

Child-proof your home.

Between wrapping gifts, hanging up decorations, and cooking, the holidays can be chaotic. As a result, child safety hazards can be overlooked with the distractions of holiday preparations.

As you start preparing your home for holiday entertaining, it’s essential to make all child-safety precautions during the holidays before inviting any guests over.

On their website, the Mayo Clinic advises, “Do not leave children alone in a room with lighted candles, matches, lighters, fireplaces or any other sources of flame or heat. Keep decorations out of reach of children and secured to the wall. Any object small enough to fit through a toilet paper tube can obstruct the airway of a child.” Read more of the article “12 Tips for Child Holiday Safety.”

Even if you don’t have any kids of your own, your guests that do have kids will thank you for spending the time to make sure your home has been child-proofed.

To start, pull all window cords out of the reach of children and cover your electrical outlets. Make sure to keep younger children away from hot foods or liquids. And turn the handles of pots and pans inward to avoid potential accidents.

When decorating, avoid hanging sharp and easily breakable decorations within the reach of children, and make sure to hang electrical cords out of reach.

Additionally, ensure that your home has working smoke alarms in sleeping areas and on each level.

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Don’t forget about the lighting.

Your living room is the heart of your home all year long—not only is it the best backdrop for intimate holiday gatherings. It’s also the go-to location for most of your holiday decorations

String lights are a quick and simple way to dramatically transform your living room, add ambiance, and set the mood for your holiday gatherings.

For a more festive touch, add seasonal accents, like tree branches, pinecones, ornaments, and ribbons.

Another idea for dramatic holiday lighting includes dress up chandeliers. For holiday dinner parties, make your dining room feel cozier. Including decorating your chandelier with greenery and small bells around individual lights or adorning your chandelier with ornaments and garland.

Meanwhile, for a simple outdoor lighting solution, try suspending lanterns from the underside of patio coverings with fishing wire or ribbon.

Add natural elements—like holly berries and garland—and try to vary the lengths of each ribbon. Creative lighting solutions are a great way to tie your holiday decorating theme together.

Before your aunts, uncles, friends, and cousins come to visit, it’s imperative to set aside some time to prepare your home for the holiday season.

Taking steps to prepare for holiday entertaining in advance can help you avoid unnecessary stress, relax, and enjoy the holidays with your loved ones.

Lastly, be sure to make your house warm and cozy with our guide, “7 Ways to Make Your Home Warm & Cozy.”

So that’s how you get your home ready for holiday entertaining in a flash!