From Spotlight: Tips For Your Home That’ll Put More Happy in Your Holidays

5 Holiday Cleaning Mistakes Experts Know to Avoid

Steer clear of bulk shopping and other don’ts in your holiday prep.

unhappy woman sitting on white kitchen floor with spilled food on the floor and white kitchen cabients
Image: AndreyPopov/Getty

When you’re cleaning for the holidays, you want to make every minute count. Home cleaning professionals see firsthand where mistakes are costing us nonpros. Debbie Sardone, owner of, shares hosting tips that will dodge some holiday prep missteps.

5 Don'ts in Home Cleaning for the Holidays

#1 Bulk Shopping

We’re not judging all those Costco runs, but maybe think twice before packing that shopping cart to the max. “Hold off on those super-duper giant size jars — at least for right now,” Sardone says. Bulk items will clutter closets and your refrigerator just when you need that space the most. So, save that purchase of a 10-pound roll of paper towels for a post-New Year’s shopping trip. 

#2 Overlooking the Refrigerator

Along those same lines, reduce items in your fridge. “You will need room in your refrigerator for what you bake, make, or need to store this holiday,” Sardone says. Clear out half empty jars of condiments or outdated, crusted over items you never intend to use. Wipe down shelves, and make sure there’s open space. That’ll also help avoid awkward encounters with guests who bring food, causing you to try to make room by hauling out jars of mustard and jelly.

#3 Not Asking for Help

Your family members would likely be happy to pitch in, but they may need you to be specific about what they can do. “Too often we get frustrated that others don’t offer to help us. But they may not know how to help,” Sardone says. “‘Will you vacuum in here for me?’ is much more specific than ‘Can you help me clean?’”

#4 Ignoring Smells

You may be nose-blind to your own home’s scent, but your guests won’t be. The smells can get even worse as you start cooking, especially if you fail to prepare. Run the oven cleaner on automatic before tackling the heavy cooking of the holidays, Sardone says. “It’ll help rid the oven of a year’s worth of spills and avoid any lingering smells from taking over,” she says. Other tips: Keep up with the trash to avoid odors; before guests arrive, light a scented candle.  

#5 Failing to Have a Plan

Set a timer for 20 minutes and target one key area to clean within that time frame. Then, repeat. “You’ll be amazed at how much you can clean in just 20 minutes,” Sardone says. Prioritize key areas where your guests will spend time. “You don’t need to spring clean every room in the house if your guests won’t be in them,” Sardone says. 

All five don’ts are easy to avoid. You’re on your way to problem-free holiday prep.

Melissa Dittmann Tracey
Melissa Dittmann Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey loves to talk real estate and is obsessed with the design of other people’s homes (but in a noncreepy way!). You can hear her weekly on the syndicated radio show and podcast, Real Estate Today, in her housing trends segment “Hot or Not?” She is also the creator of the Styled, Staged & Sold blog and host of The Housing Muse podcast. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter @housingmuse