No matter how organized you thought you were, the final days before the holiday are often the busiest. We are encouraged to be extra social, to eat too much, to buy and wrap gifts, to entertain guests, or to pack and leave the comfort of our home and travel. During the holiday season, we also feel obligated to be happy, generous and cordial with family and friends.

At this point, it may be too late to clean the house to perfection, bake a variety of holiday cookies, and address a hundred Christmas cards. Time is short, so let’s take these last few days to pull things together, so that we can relax and enjoy the celebration to come.

Make a schedule of the next few days and what you need to be prepared for. For example, list all the gifts and when they are to be given. Wrap all presents and place them under the tree, preferably in the order they will be presented. Thoughtful last-minute offerings may include bottles of wine, specialty food items, boxes of candy, poinsettia plants, boxed candles or pretty tree ornaments.

If you are welcoming guests, give your home a quick once-over. Pay special attention to the entry, powder room or guest bathroom, and the kitchen or living area. Clean the mirrors, wipe down the counters, and sweep the floors. Then rest assured that the combination of filtered December light and the flickering fire or soft candlelight will minimize any of your home’s imperfections. The addition of fresh fruit, flowers, plants or evergreen clippings from the yard will bring a touch of seasonal life and color to any living space.

Welcome children to your home with board games on the shelf, access to holiday movies, or coloring books and crayons waiting on the table. Take out Christmas books and have them available for people to enjoy. Family photos or albums can be left on the coffee table for your guests to peruse at their leisure.

Determine the groceries list, and stock up so that you will have everything you need for overnight guests. Coffee, juice, lox and bagels, an assortment of cereals, lunch meats, breads, fruits, and a one-pot dinner would be a safe and easy menu. Remember to have plenty of beverages and snack items on hand for unexpected visitors. Champagne or sparkling cider, crackers and cheese, or a bowl of cashews or candy are easy offerings.

When you receive a holiday card from someone that you want to respond to, place the envelope with the return address in a predesignated place. After the busyness of the season diminishes, you can take your time and respond in a leisurely fashion. Meanwhile, enjoy displaying the cards and photos you received, and share them with others.

If you are leaving home to spend time with family, plan to pack clothes and gifts carefully, and be a considerate guest. Then, simply sit back and enjoy the beautiful faces of the people you most cherish.

Happy holidays to all!

Linda Lawrence is the owner of HouseCalls for Redesign. Contact her at housecalls4redesign@comcast.net or (209) 728-2732, or visit housecalls4redesign.com.

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