featured_wineglassThe holidays are a crazy busy time, so remember that all you really must do is B-R-E-A-T-H-E. Everything else is optional.

I love to entertain. But there’s always this added pressure during the holidays to have everything perfect. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, there are a few simple things you can do that will help you get through the holidays without pulling your hair out.

1. This is not the time to give your home a deep cleaning. Just clean where it counts. Focus your efforts on high traffic areas:

Entryway – think about first impressions (also think about what you will do with your guests’ coats)

Kitchen – it always ends up being the “hub” for hanging out

Bathrooms – make this your top priority with clean towels, countertops, mirrors, and floors (and to be sure you have enough hand soap and toilet paper!)

Living room – strive for neat and cozy (you can always dim the lights)

2. What’s on your menu? Look at it with a critical eye. Realistically, how much time do you need to prepare everything? What can you do to simplify one or more courses? For example: Maybe you planned to make homemade rolls, but that’s going to take an hour on the day of your dinner. What if you bought them instead? Also, whatever you do, don’t wait until the last minute to buy your groceries. Not only will you have to contend with crowded parking lots and long lines, you may find popular items like poultry seasoning are sold out. (This happened to my sister this past Thanksgiving and there was no time to go to another store, because that turkey had to get in the oven!)

3. Set your dining table a day or two ahead. That way, you won’t be frantically washing dusty wine glasses or ironing the table cloth when the doorbell rings. Added benefit: Having the table set will discourage family members from using the table as a dumping ground.

4. What if you have your tree up, but you’re running out of time to decorate it before guests arrive? No problem! Act as if you planned it that way. Put on some holiday music, serve some wine and crackers, and invite guests to add their personal touch as you catch up on each other’s lives.

5. If guests ask what they can do to help – and inevitably they will – bite your lip hand them a dish towel or broom!