'Tis the season for house guests! Whether they're coming over for a party, a holiday hiatus, or a takeover of your home while you're out of town, you've likely got a human influx to deal with over the holidays. Don't get us wrong—we don't subscribe to that "Hell is other people" stuff (existentialists like Sartre were dark, man). We think having more people around can be a merry thing! But going hand in hand with all that merrymaking is the mess that they can make of your home.

Still, though, there's hope: With the right prep work, you can stave off many disasters and essentially guest-proof your house. Here are some tactics to protect your floors, furniture, and other valuables from harm. (Bonus: Many of these tips help safeguard your guests, too.)

Hack No. 1: Guard your entryway

It's important to start things off on a good foot, literally. Make sure your outdoor lights work and de-ice the path to your door if necessary to reduce the chance of slips, falls, and last-minute trips to the ER. Then shake out the welcome mat.

"A mud-catching entryway mat can help prevent a good amount of dirt and debris from getting tracked all over your floor or carpet," says Jamie Novak, author of "Keep This Toss That." In fact, you might consider placing two mats outside your front door—side by side or one in front of the other on the steps—so guests take more steps on the mat before entering your home. Double the fun!

Also, since your foyer is bound to get overrun with coats and shoes, put away any of your own that you don't need handy that day. Another tip to avoid falls is to tape down any extension cords (of which there may be many this time of year owing to holiday lights) in the entry or hallway, or camouflage them with cord covers. And rug pads placed under area rugs will help keep them in place against the holiday foot traffic.

Hack No. 2: Prep your kitchen

As the number of guests increases, so does the strain on the plumbing system in your home.

The kitchen sink is a revolving door during the holidays and is the most vulnerable to getting clogged.

"Be sure not to clean dishes off in the sink. ... Instead, dump all leftover food scraps into the trash before putting the dish in the sink to prevent clogs," says Mike Agugliaro, co-owner of New Jersey–based Gold Medal Service plumbing company.

Fortify your trash cans too: "Triple line the can so you can save time replacing the liner every third time," says Novak. "Also, place a few layers of newspaper at the bottom of the trash-can liner to soak up grease and liquid. That way, if the bag is pierced the liquid won’t leak."

Hack No. 3: Bolster your bathroom

Skip this part if you must. But otherwise, let's get down to the nitty-gritty. The bathroom is just a disaster waiting to happen, especially if Uncle Rupert overimbibes on the spiked eggnog. Again. Or a thousand other bad-case scenarios. But there are ways to keep your pipes from suffering the consequences.

"Today’s toilets use less water and are easier to clog," says Agugliaro. "Plus, plusher types of toilet papers can't flush easily. Instead, use brands like Scott, which are thinner and can more easily pass through drains. And never leave paper towels in your bathroom, or there will surely be a chance of a clog."

Novak also suggests creating a handwritten tent card that states special info for guests like, “Our pipes/septic tanks are antique, please flush only paper.”

Other smart bathroom moves? "Move medications up high in the cabinet, out of reach," says Novak. "Also prevent guests from rummaging through your closets and drawers by filling a basket with extra paper goods, hand towels, feminine products, and air freshener. You might even add a laundry stain stick to catch spills before they set."

Hack No. 4: Preserve your valuables

If you have precious items or heirlooms that would devastate you if damaged, hide or make them off-limits.

"Before the holiday season arrives, walk through your home and take stock of items you do not want broken or damaged—such as family heirloom pieces or a Tiffany vase from your wedding," says Jeffrey Weldler, interior decorating expert at Vänt Wall Panels. "Go with the old saying 'better safe than sorry,' and put these items in a box tucked into the closet until after your company has gone."

This also applies for your kids’ special toys or even sequined pillows or furry rugs that might be tough to clean.

Novak also suggests creating a sort of VIP area.

"Keep your guests in a few key areas by locking doors to others rooms or using decorations as deterrents to entering other parts of your home," says Novak. "A strand of lights across the staircase signals 'Please don’t go up there,' or you can hang a printed sign."

Hack No. 5: Create a cleanup kit

No matter how careful you are, you are bound to have at least one person spill wine or gravy somewhere that makes you shudder. For this inevitability, consider putting a few go-to cleaning items in a basket—a sponge, microfiber cloth, dustpan, brush (think broken glass), and all-purpose cleaner—and place it out. You might add a comical "oops" sign to the container so guests don’t feel awkward if they have an accident and need to grab it.

"Having a few essentials on hand means you save time should you need them, plus you or your guests won’t have to leave the party to rummage through your linen closet to find a rag," says Novak. In other words, just spray, wipe, and let the festivities continue!

Posted by Jay McDouall on


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