Taking Stock while Making Stock: Thinking about your home at the holidays

If you’ve been thinking all year about changes that you want to make to your home, these wandering thoughts can all come to boil at the holidays. This is the time of year when we often do more than the usual hosting, cooking, cleaning, and celebrating. It’s also the time of year, especially here in the Pacific Northwest, where we tend to hunker down and ride out the blustery weather. Add some kids in the mix and you may be ready to blow the roof off! I propose that you use this time mindfully, to take stock of your home, pay attention to how it gets utilized this time of year and then go into the new year with some specific plans.

Here’s a couple things to keep an eye out for as you’re bustling about and some “short-term solutions” that may get you through the season.

You know the problem – you have extra people in your home and it seems inevitable that they are drawn to the same spot. At my house, we have one at the kitchen peninsula – the best place to hang out is also the spot where you have to squeeze through if you want to get to the back of the house (bathroom). When this happens, think carefully about why people gravitate to this spot, whether or not it annoys you and if it’s an occasional bottleneck or does it actually happen all year round?

Short term solution: if you only have this pinch-point during a party or gathering, set up some “honey pots” to draw people to other parts of your home. Set up a cocktails/drinks spot away from the bottleneck. Put your bowl of Chex Mix somewhere else. I did an experiment once and put a meat platter in the dining area and the cheese platter in the living room. People definitely kept circulating! If you have the room in your kitchen, set up a spot with read-to-chop or assemble items, that way if anyone lingers too long, they get put to work.

Our homes are our machines for daily living* and this can sometimes be messy – mail sorting, home office spots, toy collection areas, etc.. I think it’s great to try to stand back once in awhile, get a little perspective, and examine how our home looks and feels. An overwhelming view can make you feel overwhelmed. As you move through rooms, tidying up before hosting guests, take a moment to pause in those spots where you get a view into a space or through a room. Consider taking photos of the most common views so that you can examine and critique them more carefully. What do you see when you first walk in the door? Is it inviting? Are messy areas organized so that they are not presenting all their mess on first look? Could the layout of the room be changed so that views through are less cluttered and more pleasing?

Short term solution: To jumpstart better views, simply take note of areas which need more attention (or a complete re-thinking of the layout) and then try to walk through and do what you can. Hide or corral cords by gathering them together in a neater bundle. Put messy collections of things into baskets. Take those daily “dumping spots” and consider temporarily moving those things into a closet or storage area. I have a spot where we always put purses, wallets, keys. When I have guests over, I grab a bin, sweep all that stuff into it and hide it along my bedside. It cuts down the visual clutter so much! I also take almost all of our shoes that hang out by the front door and put them in the garage during a party. I make ample use of laundry baskets to stow messes temporarily away.

Kitchens are our hardest working rooms. As you dive in to do seasonal cooking, pay attention to what isn’t working. Is the prep space broken up in such a way that prepping is awkward? There are many articles out there about the efficient kitchen “work triangle” but it’s important to pay attention to your own patterns and then see if maybe there’s a change that could be made to make your kitchen more comfortable to you. How are the surfaces? Are they fun to work with and easy to clean? Just make note as you go and really pay attention to things that work in your kitchen and things that just don’t feel right.

Short term solution: As you pull things out from the depths of your cupboards to do some seasonal cooking, take a look at what else is lurking back there. What haven’t you used in a year or more? Pull it out and put it in a box or storage tub for re-thinking after the holidays. Pay attention to what glassware you offer to your guests and what stays behind gathering dust. If you have other storage areas in your home like a shed, basement or garage, consider dedicating a shelf or two to seldom-used but bulky kitchen items like crock pots, yogurt makers, etc.. If you use them just a few times a year, set them off somewhere so that your daily work in the kitchen is unimpeded.

Don’t forget! Any kitchenware that you are ready to part with would be embraced by local non-profit Community Warehouse, so keep them in mind if you’re ready to donate. They’ll find a new and grateful home for your items!

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Hosting often comes with a lot of anxiety and stress. Just remember that for the most part all of your guests are happy to not be hosting! Triage your space, think creatively, don’t forget to have that glass of wine yourself, and if you come out of the holidays with a better sense of what your home needs, you’ll be ready to tackle that in the new year!

*If you want some good architecture theory, see Le Corbusier’s, “A house is a machine to live in.” I have a feeling, though, that Corbu never put on a Thanksgiving dinner for 8 with 4 kids running around; he certainly would have been appalled at Pinterest.