There are times in life, despite our best efforts, when things happen and we must just make the best. If you’re like me nothing dings the household budget like inviting guests over, especially around the holidays. Somehow the money you’d set aside for that new rug, throw pillows or a new piece of art gets tapped and you’re left feeling insecure about your home’s appearance just days before guest are scheduled to arrive. I’ve been there and I know that feeling. You look around and instead of seeing that thoughtfully designed living and dining room you see the same thing you do every day. And it doesn’t make you feel like the super-hero host or hostess you want to be.
Never fear. There are a handful of quick tips that cost zero (or almost zero) dollars but will help to transform you home into something about which you can feel proud when holiday guests start arriving.
Here are my 6 Zero-Cost Tips for A More Beautiful Home
1. Edit, Edit, Edit. Spares, simple and refined should be the goal in every room of the house. Edit out things that are not needed for the event ahead. Boxes, bags and piles of anything should be swept out of sight. Table tops should hold no more than three decorative items and secondary furniture (legged chairs, stools and ottomans, unless needed for extra seating) should be removed to the attic, basement or garage.
2. Clean Completely. Regardless of your budget, or lack thereof, there is no excuse for a dirty house. Set aside the necessary time, and enlist the assistance of every able-body in the house, to scrub, dust, vacuum and polish every inch. It won’t go unnoticed and it will say much about your hosting skills and abilities.
3. Create a Welcoming Moment. Step inside your entry door and take note at what your eyes rest upon when you first enter. Is it a blank wall, an empty table-top, a small bookcase or an old coat rack? Start with what you have and think carefully and creatively about how to make this moment as welcoming as possible. If it’s a blank wall (and you have nothing to fill the empty space) create an art project moment for the kids in the house (or adults for that matter) and fill that wall with home-made art. Not artistically inclined grab that the digital camera and printer the-beautiful-home and snap candid shots of people as they enter the house. String twine on the wall in a creative pattern and clip the digital images (I’ve used Polaroid’s back in the day) to the twine using gator clips purchased at Office Depo. If it’s a table top that needs attention send the family out into nature and gather leaves, branches and pine-cones and together create a beautiful still life that will great your guests. There’s no cost to this and it can be a fun family project.
4. Give them Something to Smile About. Aroma can be a powerful tool that creates mood and enhances experiences. This should not be ignored when considering how to impact your guests with little or no cost. If you have scented candles in the house (matching scents please) distribute them one per room and light them an hour before guests arrive. If you have no budget for candles then run by the grocery store and purchase a 5 pound bag of navel oranges and a container of cinnamon and/or nutmeg. Fill a large pot with water, cut 4 oranges into quarters (leave the skin on) and drop into the water. Add a table spoon of cinnamon and/or nutmeg and bring to a boil two hours before guests arrive. Reduce heat to a simmer and then check back from time to time. As needed add more water, oranges and spices while you enjoy this festive mix and the aroma it produces. So much better to welcome your guests with rather than musty gym socks and kitty litter; wouldn’t you agree?
5. De-clutter Everything. Yes, this repeats a bit the point made in Idea #1 above… but it stresses the importance given to the idea that less is more. You know you’ve edited and de-cluttered things to a point when you start to ask yourself is this room too empty. While it may seem that way at first when you add guests (always have seating for every guest), food, drink and music I promise you things will feel just right.
6. Music in the Background. Nothing feels more uncomfortable to an arriving guest than walking into a quiet house. Have soft, event-appropriate music playing before your guests arrive. Gently control the volume (raising it as more guests arrive; lowering it as guests depart) and provide an elegant background against which your guests can enjoy their time in your home.