Make your cleaning checklist—and check it twice.

By Katie Holdefehr
November 08, 2019

If you're feeling overwhelmed by all the cleaning you want to do before the holidays, let this cleaning countdown be your guide. Rather than worry about getting it all done on time, we've broken down the long list of potential to-dos into little tasks you can tackle one at a time over the next three weeks. So instead of trying to make your entire home sparkle in one marathon cleaning session, you can deal with the kitchen floor one day and clear out the refrigerator another. Sure, you'll still have to do the final spruce-up the day before guests arrive, but all of the big chores will be done long before the doorbell rings. Then, relax and enjoy the holiday—without the morning-of cleaning frenzy. 

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For our holiday cleaning countdown, we've compiled a list of common cleaning to-dos that may be on your list, but feel free to customize your checklist according to your own home and priorities. To save you time and energy, we've focused on the rooms most commonly used when entertaining (living room, kitchen, dining room, and bathrooms), but expand the list if you plan to show off the bedrooms or other spaces around the house. While we may strive for a clean home, creating a home that makes our guests feel comfortable is perhaps even more important. 

The Holiday Cleaning Countdown 

Three Weeks Before: 

  • Stock up on essential cleaning supplies so you can skip the last-minute trips to the grocery store. 
  • Clean out your pantry. Start by removing everything from the shelves and wiping them down. Check the expiration date on each item before you return it. Organize one area for all of the ingredients you'll need when prepping the holiday meal. (This will also help you avoid buying ingredients you already own.)
  • Take stock of the dishes, silverware, and serveware you plan to use for the big dinner. Wash or dry clean the tablecloth and placemats. You may also want to give the dishes a quick wash—especially if you're using the good china that's been collecting dust for the past 11 months. 
  • Scrub the stovetop and clean the oven. As a precaution, you may want to skip the self-cleaning feature on your oven. There's a risk of malfunction that could put your oven out of commission during the biggest cooking holidays of the year (yikes!). 

Two Weeks Before: 

  • Clean out the refrigerator. First, remove everything from the shelves and give them a thorough cleaning. Check the expiration dates before returning each item to the fridge. Like in the pantry, make sure the ingredients you'll reach for when cooking holiday meals or baking Christmas cookies are front and center. 
  • Give the kitchen floors a deep clean. You'll need to vacuum or sweep again as the holiday gets closer, but any serious dirt and grime will be taken care of. 
  • Collect all of the extra dishtowels, hand towels, bath towels, and bed linens you'll need for your guests. Take the time to wash them all now so you're not stuck doing load after load of laundry the night before. 
  • If guests are staying overnight, give the guest room a quick clean by vacuuming the floor, clearing off the nightstand, and dusting. If you don't have the luxury of a guest room, check the air mattress for leaks or make sure the Murphy bed is in working order. 

The Week Before:

  • Clear the clutter from the kitchen counters to make space for food prep. For now, move small appliances you likely won't use to a cabinet or closet. Then clear off the bathroom counters too. 
  • Declutter the living room, relocating any piles of mail or kids' toys that have collected there. Leave a couple spare blankets in a basket near the sofa or side chair so chilly guests can grab them. 
  • Give the toilets a quick scrub, then wipe down the exteriors. 
  • Wipe down the tub or shower stall (now is not the time to tackle those grout lines). 
  • Stock the bathrooms with extra toilet paper, clean towels, and toiletries.

The Day Before: 

  • Wipe down the bathroom and kitchen counters. Clear off any clutter that may have collected there over the past week.
  • Empty the trash cans, focusing on those in the kitchen and bathrooms. 
  • Vacuum or sweep the kitchen and living room floors. 
  • Wipe down the bathroom mirrors (and remember to follow an S pattern). 
  • Pour yourself a cup of tea (or glass of wine, or mug of coffee) and congratulate yourself for not riding the procrastination train this year! 
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