5 Ways to Prep for Holiday Guests & Minimize Holiday Stress

The holidays are supposed to be magical. The sights. The sounds. The smells. It’s why we use words like “wonderland”, “miracle”, and “merry”.

But maybe, for you, the holidays just aren’t that great. Maybe you’d rather lie on the couch than go searching for the Christmas lights. You’re not alone.

Think Finance reported that “45% of Americans would prefer to skip Christmas than celebrate it.”

However, aren’t making new memories with loved ones important? Even when it requires allowing people to see the clutter in our homes?

If you’ll be anticipating visitors this season, here are 5 things you can do to minimize stress when it comes to the clutter. 

1) Set a Timer & Focus on High-Priority Areas

In an ideal situation, we’d have plenty of time to clean and organize the house before guests come over (assuming this is important to you). 

While this isn’t always an option with competing priorities, the next best thing is to set a timer and focus on clearing clutter from the high-priority areas where guests are likely to hang out. Areas include: couches / chairs, the bathroom, main walkways, and horizontal surfaces such as a table where you plan to eat (kitchen table / dining room table / coffee table). 

Save low-priority areas (where guests likely won’t go) for later – the bedroom, office, basement, garage, etc.

The timer will help you stay focused. Concentrating on the high-priority areas (as opposed to organizing the entire house) will make the job feel less overwhelming, while also allowing your guests to feel more comfortable in the places where they’ll be.

To get started, set a timer for 20-minutes and just focus on the bathroom. Your only goal is to make the space better than it currently is. Repeat as needed with other high-priority areas 🙂

2) Avoid Randomly Shoving Things in Cabinets

When cleaning up for guests, your first instinct may be to make a mad dash to randomly shove things in drawers or cabinets. 

Or… to box everything up and put the box out-of-sight in the garage or basement. 

While this is one way to clear the clutter, it tends to make the clutter more difficult to find later. In other words, it can make the problem worse! 

Instead, generally speaking, try moving things (one-by-one) closer to their homes… 

For example, move the stack of papers from the kitchen countertop to the office (even if the papers don’t have an exact home in the office). 

Move the piles of clothes from the couch to the bedroom (even if there’s no space in your closet for the clothes). 

Move all the toys from the family room to the playroom (even if the playroom is a huge mess). 

Moving items closer to their “ideal homes” TODAY will make finding these items easier TOMORROW while also clearing clutter from your high-priority areas. 

When time permits, go back to each of these areas (office, bedroom, playroom) and incorporate the items into your systems (which may require decluttering and/or tweaking / setting up new systems).

3) Ground Yourself Before Guests Arrive

If you’re the kind of person who tends to feel anxious before hosting a gathering (e.g., What if Barbara sees my mess? What if she opens the closet door?), take a few minutes to ground yourself before guests arrive. 

Remind yourself of what’s true. Here are some realities to consider – see what feels true for you:

  • My house isn’t where I want it to be but I’m working on it one day at a time.
  • My guests are here to see me – not my mess.
  • Clutter is a part of life. My loved ones have clutter too. I’m not alone.
  • My ego cares about others seeing my mess. Today I choose not to operate from ego.
  • I’m good enough as I am. The state of my home (messy or organized) doesn’t affect my worthiness. We are all equals regardless of the amount of clutter we have.
  • My loved ones don’t know my full story about clutter or how far I’ve come. Only I know my truth. 

Reminding yourself what’s true before guests come over will allow you to show up more authentically.

4) Judgmental Comment? Respond From The Heart

Judgmental comments can be hurtful. Especially the ones we believe to be true about ourselves.

Here’s what I’ve learned – When it comes to things that are subjective (which includes how organized or disorganized our house is), a person’s judgment is simply a reflection of their values and beliefs – not actual facts. 

Meaning – when a loved one says something along the lines of: “this place is a mess” – as hurtful as it can be – their words are simply an extension of their values and beliefs, verbally expressed. 

In the case of clutter, it has less to do with us and more to do with them. 

Rather than immediately reacting from a place of anger. Pause. Take a deep breath. And if you can, respond from your heart. 

Here are some ideas – see what feels true for you:

  • I respect how you feel. I see things differently.
  • Messy or organized, I’m just grateful for our time together.
  • Thank you for sharing. I’m doing my best. 
  • Interesting that you see my home as messy. I feel proud of how far I’ve come.
  • I know your intentions were positive but I feel hurt by your words. I would appreciate if you kept comments like this to yourself.
  • I’m working on getting organized. I’d love to hear your advice if you’d wanted to share more. (only use this one if you’re comfortable continuing the conversation!) 

After the conversation, take a bathroom break to ground yourself (if needed). Or step outside for fresh air. 

Going forward, set a boundary such as meeting outside your home or briefly meeting at your house before attending something which is at a scheduled time (i.e., a movie, dinner reservation, etc.).

Or if it’s safe, consider having an honest heart-to-heart conversation with the person whose words were hurtful.

5) Remember What Matters Most

From the list-making, to the shopping, to the gifts, to the cards, to the wrapping, to the side dishes, to the cookies – it’s all so much!

In case you need the reminder – here it is: 

Focus on what matters most.

What do the holidays really mean to you? 

Not what does the world tell you about what you should be doing for the holidays. But what does this time of the year really mean to YOU?

Do things your way – a way that aligns with your ideal expression of the holidays. 

  • Maybe that means buying the extra side dish (instead of cooking it) so you can spend more time with family.
  • Or throwing the towel in on the holiday cards so you can have time to volunteer.
  • Or eliminating all the bells and whistles of hosting and instead keeping things plain and simple.
  • Or opting out of presents so you can put the money toward experiences you’ll remember. 

At the end of the day – it’s easy to lose perspective with all the frantic energy of the holiday season. 

If you find yourself feeling stressed, I hope this post serves as a reminder to pause and remember what matters most.

Whatever the holiday season brings you, whether it’s a celebration at your home or an unexpected house guest dropping off cookies, I hope these last days of December are filled with peace, love, and joy – all in good health. 

Wishing you a warm holiday season,

About Alejandra

About Alejandra

Since 2008, organizing expert & certified life coach, Alejandra Costello has taught thousands of students in 132 countries how to get organized through her video-based training programs. Her YouTube videos have been viewed 100+ million times. Named 1 of the 5 most organized people in America by HGTV and “The Decluttering Queen” by Good Morning America, Alejandra’s expertise has been featured in The New York Times,, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Parents Magazine, and CBS. 


Want to join our next FREE organizing challenge?

Sign up to get notified when our next organizing challenge rolls out so you can get the kickstart you need to tidy up!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.