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

Home Cleaning Tips for Every Hosting Vibe

Put the happy in your holidays by working with the home cleaning style that’s the real you.

A group of friends taking a selfie at dinner party toasting the celebration with holiday vibes.
Image: Andrea Migliarini/Getty

Your hosting style shapes how you do your home cleaning for holiday entertaining — and the challenges you might have along the way. Whether your approach is perfectionist, relaxed, or balanced, you can use related cleaning tips to focus on what's most natural and productive for you. That way, you'll simplify your holiday cleaning, de-stress — and max your enjoyment.

Which Style Is Most Like You?

Style 1:  ‘Everything has to be sparkling clean and in place.’

Cleaning personality: Strives for perfection, wants the home dressed to impress 
If there was an award for the most effort and the highest standards in home cleaning for a holiday gathering, this personality would win hands down. These hosts pay attention to every detail in every area: intensive housewide cleaning, extensive color-coordinated decorating, and anticipation of everyone’s preferences. Kind of like running a five-star boutique hotel with no housekeeping staff.

Watch out for this: “With a perfectionist, there can be a lot of frustration, because you never feel finished or satisfied, even after all the fabulous cleaning you’ve done,” says Debbie Sardone, owner of and former owner of Buckets & Bows Maid Service in the Dallas area. 

Tips for a less-stressed holiday:

  • Block and chunk up tasks. Set a timer for 20 minutes and focus on one room at a time. “When the timer goes off, be OK with how much you did in that room and move on,” Sardone says. “This can be so important for a perfectionist, because it sets boundaries and forces them to not lose time by, say, dusting the knobs off a blender. When you’re on a timer, you’ll be more productive rather than obsessive. Perfectionists need to  give themselves permission to move forward and say 'good enough.'”
  • Clean as you go. As guests arrive, a perfectionist may get sidetracked cleaning instead of enjoying. Prep beforehand as much as you can and embrace a clean as-you-go strategy, Sardone suggests. For example, if you made a giant pot of spaghetti, scrub out the pot, dry it, and put it away before sitting down for dinner. Don’t clean when it’s time to be visiting or entertaining, she adds.
  • Limit yourself to a few extra touches. To be happy, perfectionists need to first soothe that inner desire to impress. Add a few special touches, but don’t go overboard. For overnight guests, have a tray or basketful of toiletries, such as hand soaps, shampoos, and toothbrushes. They’ll appreciate the extra thought, but it's not a heavy lift for you.

    Or, try an origami tissue design on the edges of tissues or the dinner napkins (Google “origami tissue designs” to learn how). “This is a great hack to set yourself apart from other perfectly clean homes,” says Obi Ukwu, founder of Maidattendants, based in Nashville. Plus, once you master the technique, it won’t zap your time.

Style 2: ‘Focus on the key areas, but let’s not go overboard.’

Cleaning personality: Aims for balance in home prep, seeks shortcuts
The hard part of balance is maintaining it. It’s so easy to lean too far in either direction — cleaning too much or too little or being distracted by things that aren’t that important. And before these hosts know it, a shortcut or miscalculation results in something like a fridge with a funky odor. They overlooked it, but their guests looking for milk for their morning coffee got a noseful. Eww.

Watch out for this: "Because people with this style aren’t obsessed with every detail, they tend to do surface cleaning only,” Sardone says. “They may have tidied up the home and put items away, but the floors may still be dirty and tables dusty.”

Tips for a less-stressed holiday:

  • Try a one-a-day approach to deep cleaning. Leading up to the holidays, “plan on tackling something dirtier than you normally would, just one per day,” Sardone says. “By the time the holidays get here, you’ll be all ready.” One day, you might focus on wiping down all the kitchen cabinet fronts; the next day, concentrate on cleaning the baseboards. That way, besides just focusing on tidying up, you’ll also be squeezing in deeper cleaning chores.
  • Prioritize. Identify where and what needs most of your attention. Often, it’s only about three rooms. “When you have guests over, zero in on the rooms your guests are sure to use, like the entryways, living areas, bathrooms, and for overnight guests, bedrooms,” says Alicia Sokolowski, president and co-CEO of AspenClean, a chemical-free cleaning service based in Canada. Don’t get bogged down cleaning areas like the laundry rooms that they’ll never see.
  • Get creative in simplifying tasks. If pressed for time, try squeezing in cleaning while waiting on everyday tasks — like for your morning coffee to brew. “Use those five minutes as you wait to unload the dishwasher from the night before to tidy up the living room,” Sardone says.
  • Find help and a shortcut or two. Enlist other family members to pitch in and assign everyone a cleaning task. Be specific — like “vacuum the living room” — to maximize participation, Sardone recommends. Look for other shortcuts, like adding a cleaning disc inside the toilet tank to help it self-clean day to day, suggests Johnny Pallares, owner of De La Rosa House Cleaning in Phoenix. Or, call in the pros to prepare your dinner table. Companies are popping up that allow you to rent picture-perfect table settings for a dinner party, from the linens to the dishware and glasses. Bonus: You don't have to store them later.

Style 3: ‘A relaxed vibe is just right to make everyone feel at home.’ 

Cleaning personality: Seeks to do the bare minimum, embraces casual hosting
It’s great to make your guests feel at home. These hosts are relaxed and casual, which can put everyone at ease. But an extreme hands-off approach spells trouble. Super-laid-backed hosts may not do enough activities like decluttering — and that can invite stress. Now that's a holiday guest you don't want.

Watch out for this: Relaxed hosts may not have the most clean houses, but they aren’t about being pretentious. “Work smart, not hard” is their motto, Sokolowski says. They want guests to feel welcome and right at home, even if a little clutter comes with the territory.

Tips for a less-stressed holiday:

  • Preclean. Arm yourself with an empty laundry basket and and collect all loose items throughout the house. “This isn’t cleaning; it’s precleaning,” Sardone says. “This is pick up, tidy, and then organize.” Put everything (like dirty towels, shoes, kids' toys, clothes on the floor) in the basket. Sort directly from it, returning each item to its rightful place. Better yet, if others live with you, give them each a laundry basket of their items to put away. “It’s amazing how a space can look like an absolute disaster. Then you start this process, and within 10 minutes, it doesn’t look as bad. All you did was pick up and tidy,” she adds.
  • Address the eyesores. Identify the key areas that need to be deep-cleaned several days before guests arrive, usually the bathroom and kitchen, Sardone says. Wipe down the countertops and appliances, and run a vacuum or mop to remove dirt and crumbs. Ask family members to help.
  • Ask for pro help. If cleaning isn’t your thing, it’s OK to call in the pros. A housekeeping service can deep-clean your house so you can focus on entertaining your guests. A professional cleaning company may charge $221 for a deep clean. You don’t have to commit to weekly service either. But book in advance; they tend to fill up fast before the holidays.

Make your holiday cleaning style work for you. Once you know your problem areas and plan some workarounds, you’ll accomplish more with your home cleaning time and be happier with the results — and the holidays.

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