There's a period around the beginning of December, when for most parents, Christmas hostesses and busy festive planners, that time seems to tip into a vertical descent. Like a ski slope that is a lot steeper than you first thought, you can find yourself hurtling to the bottom without quite knowing how it happened.
You may have planned your to-do list well in advance, but is your Christmas "must-do" list so long that it will take you until February to complete? Instead of stressing out about everything that has to get done, take these 5 practical tips and outsource them - either to a new home helper, or your current one.
This is when your cleaner, babysitter or regular housekeeper can come into their own. Your housekeeper should be able to do everything around the house that is cleaning related... and often more. In fact, some helpers will be more than pleased to help with extra jobs in the days leading up to Christmas to earn extra cash, and this is when you can happily rely on their skills in food preparation, laundry and household management.
The good news is, there are plenty of seasonal tasks your housekeeper can take over for you, and we have a few suggestions to ease the strain.
1. Give the Kitchen Special Attention
The kitchen is the centre of Christmas preparations, so give it extra attention in the days leading up to the big celebration. Ask a housekeeper to clean the inside of the fridge, freezer and oven, wipe down the tops of the cabinets and sweep under the cooker and the fridge. In addition to organizing the cupboards, ask if your housekeeper can help with holiday food preparation that can be done ahead of time, either cooked and frozen or put into cold storage -- for example, sauces, stuffing, vegetable prep and baking.
2. Bring Out the Decorations
Asking your housekeeper to recreate the Selfridges window display is not really on. However, getting the decorations out of storage, unwrapping them, dusting/cleaning them and then packing them away after the season, are certainly acceptable tasks to ask your housekeeper to help with.
3. Prepare the Guest Room
If you're expecting festive visitors, ask your housekeeper to help you get a room ready. This might involve clearing wardrobe space, cleaning a mattress or laying out fresh bedlinen. Prepare the guest bathroom by stocking it with extra towels, toilet paper and travel-size products. During the visit, your housekeeper can refresh guest areas as needed.
4. Maintain a Festive Look
Talk to your housekeeper about some additional holiday chores to keep an eye on:
• Sweeping pine needles around the Christmas tree
• Watering the tree or any holiday plants like poinsettias
• Making sure that you have enough giftwrap, tags and sellotape
• Dusting the Christmas card display
5. Get the Table Ready
Your housekeeper can also get the table ready for Christmas dinner. Ask her to go through the cupboards, get the crystal out, wash it and - key to sparkliness - dry it thoroughly. A housekeeper can also polish silverware, take stock of candles, iron tablecloths, fold napkins, wash serving trays and arrange place settings.
Of course, there are some jobs you shouldn't ask your housekeeper to tackle. These include things like moving heavy furniture, climbing high ladders or hanging lights. Keep the chore list reasonable and always ask if your housekeeper would mind helping out with these areas -- don't simply demand extra chores.
Bear in mind, your housekeeper wants to enjoy the festive season, too. If you're going to need additional help, mention it early. Like much in life, planning ahead always helps, so the housekeepers can reserve the extra time for the tasks.
And if you're asking for extra help, don't forget to pay more for that work. Plus, if you have a housekeeper you work with regularly, don't forget a Christmas bonus. That way, you are more likely to keep the same housekeeper for the New Year as well.
Your holiday to-do list might feel unending, but with your housekeeper's help, you'll tackle it in plenty of time to enjoy a relaxing cup of tea by the fire with the ones you love.