The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 15, 2012

Guesting game

With a week before Thanksgiving, now is the time to prepare homes for holiday visitors

By Joe Hadsall

JOPLIN, Mo. — Judging by the responses, many Joplin-area families won’t do too much work in anticipation of holiday visits. We asked readers of the Globe’s Facebook page how they prepare their homes for the visits:

“Turn the porch light off.”

“Lock the doors.”

“Nothing. If they don’t like how it is they can leave.”

“Jump in my big rig and work the holidays. That way they can’t find me.”

We get used to our messes. But company’s coming, whether we anticipate it or dread it.

Looking for tips on how to get houses ready for the holidays can be depressing, however. Who has the time to plan meals, bake cookies, cut fresh flowers and develop organizational lists for managing clutter? Besides, our friends and family know us, and if we got all Suzy Homemaker all of a sudden they would consider locking us up.

Did we mention that Thanksgiving is a week away? In order to help residents out with a list of manageable, reasonable tasks, we culled some good tips from a number of “helpful” household helpers.

B&B-style R&R?

Roneisha Mullen, of The Toledo Blade, compared hosting holiday guests to running a bed and breakfast by talking to the owner of a bed and breakfast — who recommended considering little things such as fresh flowers or fluffy robes.

“Most guests won't expect you to roll out the red carpet if it's not within your means to do so,” Mullen wrote. “But you can do a few special things to let them know how happy you are to have them.”

Some of the advice — specialty shampoos and lotions, full-length mirrors, welcome baskets and parting gifts — are way out there. But some of the practical points include:

• Prepare a spare bedroom. Whether you clean out your own bedroom or offer them the living room couch, it’s important that they have a designated space.

• Clean out the closet. Along the same lines, they need a space for their stuff. It helps to have a few spare hangers and an empty laundry basket.

• Childproof your place. Skip this step at your own risk — check around for valuables stored at low heights. It’s also not unreasonable to ask guests to bring along their baby gates if necessary.

• Do laundry. Some like to have extra toothbrushes and other toiletries, just in case their guests forget them. But towels are a must. Wash them before they come over.

• Stock the fridge — reasonably. There’s no harm in asking guests what kind of things they enjoy, and it should be mandatory to ask about things they shouldn’t eat. That way, you know about gluten-free, vegetarian or low-carb preferences before you bake that shepherd’s pie.

Tool time

A 4-year-old report from Popular Mechanics gave us great advice for making sure our appliances keep working. It has the bonus of getting more mechanically minded family members involved in the pre-holiday cleaning. Among their tips:

• Deep-clean the microwave. That means washing the rotating tray and interior, and cleaning the ducts and vents. Microwaves stay busy over the holidays, from pre-dinner prep to leftover snacks.

• Do not clean the oven. How’s that for scratching a job off the list? The editors argue that the cleaning cycle is so stressful that it might break a critical appliance at a critical time. Just stick with a quick surface cleaning.

• Check the refrigerator. This appliance is also going to be busy, so make sure the door gaskets are aligned, the vents aren’t blocked and the handles are tightened.

• Check the dishwasher. The strainer should be clean; clear it out if it’s not.

• Make sure toilets work properly. All that’s needed is a tune-up: Make sure the flapper valves and flush mechanisms work. And make sure there’s some air fresheners nearby, within easy reach.

• Change out light bulbs. We can feel our way around our own houses in the dark without a stubbed toe or bumped head. Guests, not so much. Replace burned-out light bulbs wherever you find them.