Living spaces are the common areas of your home, where friends and family come together during the holidays for gift-giving, well-wishing, and nap-taking with bellies full of turkey. If you’re having guests over to celebrate the season, you’ll want to prepare your living room well before the festivities begin. With the kitchen and bathroom out of the way, round off your holiday housekeeping with a little help from the final part of our guide.

Clear the Clutter

holiday decorations with evergreen branchesThe piles of old magazines and pairs of shoes under the table often go unnoticed as we go about our daily lives, and it’s only when a friend drops by unannounced that we find ourselves apologizing for the mess.

Take a look around the room: any items that are out of place should be put back where they belong, and anything disposable should be discarded.

To help with this, designate separate trays or baskets for items that habitually get left lying around—mail, remotes, blankets, shoes, toys, etc.

Store the larger receptacles in a corner or behind an attractive screen to keep them out of the way and out of sight. That way, you’ll be able to quickly stash your most incriminating clutter before answering the surprise knock at the door.

Clean the Slate

As the largest part of your home, living spaces are often the most time-consuming to clean thoroughly, and many features, like ceiling fans or baseboards, receive little—if any—consistent attention. A week or so before your guests arrive, set aside an afternoon to tackle this beast of a task. Don’t focus on how much there is to do—focus on how great it will feel starting off the new year with a clean house.

  • Ceiling fans and vents. Use a hand vacuum or a hose attachment to vacuum any dust from the vent grates and the tops of ceiling fan panels. Afterwards, wipe down all surfaces with a damp cloth, rinsing and repeating as necessary.
  • Windows. From outside, spray the windows with glass cleaner, and run a squeegee over the panes from side to side.
  • Curtains and blinds. If your curtains are dry-clean only, consider having them cleaned or spot- treat them with a sponge and soapy water. Otherwise, machine wash the curtains with cold water on permanent press, and tumble-dry on low. Remove them while slightly damp, and iron before hanging.
  • Wood furniture. Add a drizzle of wood cleaner, like Murphy’s oil soap, to a bucket of warm water, and apply the solution to your furniture with a rag. Once the wood is clean, apply an oil-based furniture polish to a damp cloth. Rub down all wood surfaces, and buff to a shine with a dry cloth.
  • Upholstery. Vacuum fabric upholstery using a brush hose attachment. If your seat cushions detach, remember to vacuum underneath as well, then spot-treat any marks with a rag dipped in soapy water. To clean leather furniture, wipe down with leather cleaner and a rag or leather cleaning wipes.
  • Baseboards. Begin by vacuuming along the baseboards with a hose attachment, and then wipe them clean with a damp cloth.
  • Rugs and carpet. Empty the vacuum bag or canister, and remove any debris from the rollers. After vacuuming, fill a bucket with water, dish soap, and stain remover—if necessary—then wet a rag to spot-treat any stray marks. To deodorize carpet, sprinkle it with baking soda and vacuum again after 20 minutes.
  • Hardwood floors. Before you start, move any furniture off to the side. Grab a broom, and begin making your way around the room, carefully sweeping any dirt into a pile at the center. Sweep the pile into a dustpan, and toss it out. Run a dust mop over the floor to pick up any stubborn dust or hair, and use a wet mop to clean up spills.

Deck the Halls

elegant living room decorated for ChristmasWith everything clean and put away, you’ll be able to start decorating in the spirit of the season. Bring warm browns, oranges, and yellows into your living space for Thanksgiving with pumpkins, mums, and a fall floral wreath above the fireplace.

For Christmas, cool down your color palette and arrange natural evergreen accents where appropriate, or take inspiration from other festive living room designs. Surface space will be precious, particularly if you’re hosting long-term guests with overnight bags, so keep any table decorations to a minimum.

If you’re having guests over for a holiday party, move your furniture against the walls to encourage mingling, and set up additional seating areas using fold-out chairs along the perimeter of the room. Set up a bar and snack area in a corner of the living room to keep guests from crowding the kitchen, or load the goodies on a rolling cart that can be easily moved from room to room. Wherever the food goes, your guests are sure to follow.

As much as everyone loves the holidays, preparing for and cleaning up after them can be a lot of work. This year, make it easier on yourself and still pull off an impressive holiday party by preparing your kitchen, bathroom, and living spaces ahead of time.