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From corralling kids' toys to sprucing up your decor, we'll show you how to get your home looking company-ready in no time with these quick household spruce-ups.
Toys, like dust bunnies, seem to multiply when you're not looking. This is particularly true during the holidays, when children have lots of time on their hands to play with new toys and rediscover old ones.
Fast fix: Designate labeled areas in your mudroom or children's bedrooms for toys, and encourage kids to clean up every day before bedtime. Create a chart that rewards each day's good work with a star.
Even if dedicated toy storage isn't available or practical for your family's lifestyle, it's important to corral children's toys when guests are on the way.
Fast fix: Give each child a plastic bin with his or her name on it, and send the kids through the rooms to put toys into their bins. Stash the filled bins on a low-lying shelf for easy access.
Ready for a new look this season but don't have the time or budget for large-scale redecorating?
Fast fix: Give your room a colorful jolt of visual interest by covering an accent wall with patterned wallpaper or a bold paint color.
Fast fix: Choose a color-coordinated selection of pillows, throws, rugs, and lampshades to enliven your space in a jiffy. Having a hard time choosing a color palette? Take a look in your closet to see which colors and patterns you wear most. Chances are that if you love to wear certain colors, you'll be happy' living with them, too.
Fast fix: Give old furnishings a face-lift with a few yards of new fabric. The results are much more economical and eco-friendly than purchasing brand-new furnishings. Plus, reupholstering is easier than it sounds.
Although reupholstering is a manageable furniture update, it might be a little daunting for nonsewers.
Fast fix: Instead, opt for simple slipcovers to revitalize worn-out furniture or coordinate mismatched pieces. Less time-consuming, less costly, and more adaptable than new upholstery, slipcovers provide an instant style update and can create a fresh face for your room from season to season.
It's challenging to provide a welcoming atmosphere at the front door if your entry is dull and lifeless.
Fast fix: Warm up the floor with a plush rug, and add a chair or a cushioned bench to create a comfy spot to remove boots or shoes. Hang a mirror above the seat for a quick primp and to bounce light around the small area.
Don't let a tiny or nonexistent entry area stand in the way of keeping your home neat and organized.
Fast fix: If your entry area is too small for furnishings or a coat closet, hang a row of hooks on the wall to collect coats, bags, and scarves. Place a basket below the hooks to corral smaller items such as gloves and keys.
Do you walk in the door only to trip over shoes, boots, book bags, and coats?
Fast fix: Get ready for company by cleaning out your coat closet and removing anything that doesn't belong there. Use baskets on shelves to hold small items, and include extra hangers for guests' jackets. Add boot trays to the entry to catch melting snow from shoes.
If a full-on reorganization of the coat closet isn't in the cards, simply do a quick assessment of what's in there.
Fast fix: Put the items that don't belong into bins, label them clearly (so you're not scratching your head over the contents later), and stash them somewhere out of sight to be sorted and edited after company departs.
Cleaning can seem like such a chore when company's coming and you're busy with other preparations.
Fast fix: Hosting last-minute guests won't stress you out if you make cleaning quick and easy by keeping all your necessary supplies handy and portable. Gather cleansers in a bin along with brushes, sponges, and cloths, and stash it all in a readily accessible cupboard. If you have small children in the house, put a childproof lock on the cupboard door.
Sometimes, particularly around the holidays, guests seem to come over on a moment's notice.
Fast fix: If you only have a few minutes to clean your kitchen before company arrives, cover the basics such as sweeping the floor and wiping down the cooktop and countertops. Then add freshness with fruit and spices. Boil a saucepan full of water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange slices to fill the air with seasonal scents. Grind lemon and lime peels in the garbage disposal to eliminate other odors.
When you're entertaining a crowd, it's important for meal prep to be easy and efficient.
Fast fix: Do a quick organization attack on your pantry and tidy kitchen cabinets. Clean out each shelf, discard expired items, and line the shelf with paper before restocking food, serving pieces, and small appliances. Consider labeling shelves to make it easy for guests to help with prep and cleanup after meals.
If the arrival of guests always seems to sneak up on you, don't despair. You can still bring plenty of order to your kitchen in a hurry.
Fast fix: Clear off your countertops as much as possible -- holiday preparations and hosting are much easier with a clean work surface. In the mornings, keep a tray on the counter with basic coffee- or tea-service items so guests can help themselves. At lunch and dinner, fill the tray with condiments and seasonings.
You don't want overnight guests to be turned off by a not-so-great bathroom.
Fast fix: Give your guest bath or powder room a face-lift with a new faucet, towel bars, cabinet hardware, mirror, and robe hooks. If space permits, add a convenient wall rack for towels, and freshen the whole room with a vase of flowers.
Time and budget constraints often become a concern around the holidays. But don't let that stand in the way of giving a tired bathroom a fresh look.
Fast fix: Let new linens do the heavy lifting in a modest bath face-lift. Hang a new, patterned shower curtain with a freshly laundered curtain liner. Add color-coordinated towels and a small area rug, and you'll have a whole new look in no time.
Sometimes you don't even want to look in your messy linen closet -- let alone let overnight guests poke around in there.
Fast fix: Use fabric storage totes to keep stacks of towels and sheets neat and separated. Label the bins and closet shelves for easy organization. Inside drawers, stock drawer dividers with extra soaps, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, and lotion.
After you've taken the time to organize the linen closet, you'll be less hesitant to show it off to overnight guests.
Fast fix: Fill a basket with necessities such as bath and face towels, washcloths, and soap, as well as luxury items such as slippers, robes, lotions, and loofahs. Place the basket in the linen closet along with a personal greeting to make guests feel especially welcome.
Last-minute overnight guests knocking at your door? A few quick fixes can make them feel well-tended.
Fast fix: Fill a vase with fresh flowers (even faux flowers can add a cheery note) and include an alarm clock or music system on the bedside table. Add a collection of books or a stack of magazines for leisurely reading.
Many people don't have a room exclusively for guests or a budget big enough to add one.
Fast fix: Tweak the room you do have by making it as guest-friendly as possible. Place a desk and chair in a corner for writing notes or using a computer. Include stationery, writing implements, stamps, local maps and information, and a spare house key. Keep fresh linens in a drawer and an extra pillow and blanket in the closet.