It's easy to get bogged down with the stresses and strains of Christmas. But present-buying and food-shopping aside, if you get your home in ship-shape fashion and looking fabulously festive to start with, your Yuletide holiday will be less frenzied and more fun...which is what Christmas is all about, right? Here's six of the best ways to have a truly magical time. Happy Christmas!
With just a few weeks to go until Santa and his crew arrive for the big day, top priority numero uno should be cleaning the house. Pinpoint a weekend when the family is free and get everyone involved by allocating tasks: de-cluttering bedrooms, washing light fixtures, scrubbing skirting boards, cleaning windows etc etc. Don't stop before every item on your list is ticked off - and voilà, a sparkly, shiny home ready to be decked and trimmed to your heart's content. (And why not reward yourselves with a meal out to celebrate all the hard work?).
GET GUEST READY
If you have overnight guests staying, find out definite numbers so you can get your home guest ready. Spare bedrooms should be cleaned and aired thoroughly and beds laid with fresh sheets and duvet covers, with a pile of clean towels left at your guest's disposal. To luxe up the five-star experience, leave out a few mini toiletries, scented candles and a pile of recent magazines so guests are super comfortable (and won't want to leave!) Clear a section of wardrobe and drawer space for hanging up clothes and putting away other bits and pieces. If you don't have the luxury of a spare room, rethink existing sleeping arrangements now (can children bunk in together or sleep on your floor) and do an inventory of pillows, duvets and blow-up mattresses before they arrive.
FIND EXTRA SPACE
If this one hasn't already been dealt with under the big clean up above, make space in kitchen cupboards, freezers and fridges for the extra food and drink that will be making its way into your home over the next few weeks. Try and use up food now that you won't need over the festive season to make even more room. This way you can stock up on early Christmas bargains (don't forget to check use-by dates though) and bulk buy discounts at the supermarket.
DO A TABLEWARE CHECKLIST
Hands up if, like me, you're guilty of this one and have found yourself on many a festive occasion ringing around frantically on Christmas Eve to scrounge spare cutlery, more dinner plates and extra wine glasses. A fortnight or so before the big day, take stock of your dinnerware (plates, side plates and dessert dishes), cutlery and utensils and, of course, big serving bowls, tureens and platters. This is an opportunity to get your dining table looking as festive and fabulous as possible too - after all, friends and family will admire your creative décor as much as they will your culinary expertise (particularly after a few too many sherries). You don't have to spend a fortune decorating your dinner table either as the high street is filled with beautiful charger plates, coloured champagne glasses, jewelled napkin rings and pretty crackers.
TIME TO DECORATE
Call me an old softy, but decorating the house for Christmas is perhaps my favourite interiors task of the whole year. Trimming the tree and festooning the house with garlands, fairy lights and tinsel instantly casts a magical glow over every room in the house and will certainly get everyone in the festive mood. If you fancy a new colour scheme (I'm thinking of trading in my colour-pop theme for copper and white this year) you can pick up budget-happy baubles, lights and paper pom-poms very easily. And don't forget to get the younger members of the household involved by making their own home-made decs and cards (head to Hobbycraft for a treasure trove of inspiration). I'm a big fan of real Christmas trees but faux versions and pre-lit white trunks are just as beautiful (and can be used year after year). Check your lights are in good working order early on and if not it's easier to buy new these days than to fiddle around with spare bulbs.
EXTRA SPECIAL TOUCHES
There's still time to sprinkle your home with another layer of festive magic with just a few simple touches. Put up a mini Christmas tree and a string of lights in children's bedrooms to rev up the festive vibe and hang a beautiful wreath on your front door (or even try your hand at making your own). Forage in the local park for pine cones, which can be sprayed silver or white, and fill jugs and vases with simple arrangements of crimson and emerald holly boughs and foliage. And there's nothing like infusing your home with the smell of Christmas so light clusters of scented candles and tealights (with top notes of chestnut, orange, pine, berry and fir) and let the festivities commence...