Stress and the holidays seem to go together. There is so much to do and so much pressure to do it well. You want to please everybody by making the holiday a memorable one. It’s tough, but in a year when you’ve recently PCSed or maybe you are in a temporary assignment, creating holiday memories are easier said than done.
If you are living away from family, they may want to visit over the holidays. Great, right? Maybe. You might feel torn. You want to entertain, but you have work responsibilities. It might not be possible to take time off to spend with visiting family. No worries. Invite the family to come and stay and use these tips to keep yourself sane while hosting during the holidays.
Holiday Guest Prep 101
In most military housing, you are lucky if you have enough bedrooms for your family, let alone an actual guest room for visitors. Many mil families use a kid’s bedroom as a temporary guest room. If you live off base, you may have an actual room set aside just for guests, but if you are like me, your guest room is also a storage room. To further complicate things, during the holidays my guest room is also my gift-wrapping room.
Honestly, your guests really don’t need much. A nice room to sleep in and a place to store their luggage. So to get that storage room, extra bedroom, or kids’ room ready, clear away any unnecessary items. Next, make room for your guest’s luggage, either in a closet or using a luggage rack. I keep the top two drawers of my guest room dresser empty so guests have a spot to unpack if they choose. Making a little extra space in the closet is also a nice gesture.
Stock one of the drawers with extra blankets and pillows. Make sure there are tissues on the dresser. Guests also appreciate things such as a phone charger, extra hangers in the closet, and in the case of families with small children, a pack and play.
In terms of getting the rest of the house ready, keep it simple. Give the guest bath a once over and then head to the kitchen, Next to the guest room, your visitors will spend most of their time in your kitchen.
Plan a Menu
The key here is to plan ahead. This time of year can be very hectic but you can save a lot of time planning menus during your guest’s stay. Head to the grocery store before your guests arrive. Depending on your menu, you may be able to pre-cook parts of the meal. I make marinara sauce and cook meatballs ahead of time and freeze them. All I have to do for an Italian dinner is defrost and cook the pasta, open some wine, add some garlic bread and you have a nice meal. Planning ahead means less time in the kitchen and leaves you more time to enjoy your guests.
Act Like a Social Director
Ideally, you want to take some time off from work to enjoy time with your guests. If this isn’t possible, you can still show visitors a good time by planning some activities for them. This time of year there are holiday light displays in most communities. Plan a route for your guests to drive around. There are also concerts and special activities such as holiday open houses. Your visitors may decide they want to avoid the holiday hustle and bustle and just relax at your house. Let them. Don’t feel like you have to entertain the whole time.
Let it Go!
Like the song says, let it go. You might be staying at a crash pad and all of your holiday decorations are in storage. This is a great excuse to buy some new things! If your beautiful faux tree is stuck back home in storage, take the family to chop down a real tree.
With a few simple touches, you can make your temporary home feel like home for your family and your guests. In our last rental, I had a Christmas tree in every room. Not an eight-foot tree, but some variation of a tree. In a small room such as a bathroom, you might have a small, handpainted wooden tree on a shelf. In the office, you can line up books in the shape of a tree. Get creative and let your imagination fly.
Invite your guests to help you decorate your temporary house. The memories you make will make your temporary digs feel more like home. Put on the holiday music, light some candles. and turn on those holiday lights. The pressure of making the holidays special for everyone can be a challenge. But hosting family and friends doesn’t have to be stressful. Do some pre-planning and prepping and then let the rest go. Your guests are not looking for five-star hotel treatment. They are there to spend part of their holiday with you. Take the pressure off and enjoy this special time of year with family and friends.
Written by: Carla Olivo