The year-end holiday season shouldn’t really sneak up on anyone. It’s been on the wall calendar, looming there at the end of those 12 months of cute puppies or scenic photos of Ireland.
But somehow, it’s easy to forget to prepare. And when the holiday season is upon us, it’s often hectic, full of commitments and social demands. Who has time to shop?
So take some time now, and do a little stocking up on some items that will really reward you for being prepared.
It’s nice if you have a variety of individual toiletries on hand, such as toothpaste, shaving cream, lotion and dental floss.
But the No. 1 thing that will win you the Host With The Most title? Have a few individually wrapped toothbrushes in a bathroom drawer. Guests always forget them, and while you can share toothpaste and floss easily enough, no one wants to use a toothbrush that’s been in someone else’s mouth.
You don’t need to have designer pillows, sheets and blankets, but you don’t want to be scrambling to stock a guest bed at the last minute. Even if you have a fully made guest bed, at least have a few extra bedding supplies somewhere.
Certain guests – you know the ones – will always complain of the cold, even when visiting Florida, and some people like to make a Princess-and-the-Pea-style tower of pillows.
If we learned anything during the pandemic, it’s that few things make people panic more than a low supply of bathroom tissue.
Pick up a few extra rolls now that you’re thinking about it, and stash them in an easily accessible bathroom cabinet or on a toilet-paper storage stand. Guests would rather not leave the bathroom and come find you to ask where the extra TP is hiding.
Cellphones are an indispensable part of modern life. You don’t have to spend a mint stocking up on chargers for all phones, but it’d be a courtesy if you left an iPhone charger (or Android, if that’s how your guests roll) beside the guest bed.
Variety of beverages
Not everyone drinks coffee, and some who do prefer decaf. Some only drink tea, and kids love hot chocolate or lemonade. And while tap water is great, sparkling flavored waters are a huge hit these days.
You don’t have to have fridges packed full of all these beverages, but if you try for a variety, your guests will be raising a toast to you.
I always thought I had a hefty number of forks until I began hosting our National Night Out block party. Suddenly, I was frantically gathering up dirty forks and speed-washing them mid-party, so my guests didn’t need to eat cake with a spoon.
You can simply keep an inexpensive set of extra flatware handy. I like to stock up on compostable flatware for big parties, though, because unthinking guests sometimes accidentally toss their dirty paper plates in the trash without saving the flatware for me to wash and reuse.
I host a giant cookie swap every December, and guests are encouraged to take home as many cookies and sandwiches as they’d like.
Before the party, I hit up my local restaurant-supply store and load up on compostable containers. This way, I can generously give away as much food as possible, never once worrying about getting my Tupperware returned to me.
Host or hostess gifts
When you’re not the one hosting the party, you should at least thank your host. But some of the stereotypical gifts (booze, flowers, chocolates) aren’t for everyone these days.
So take some time now and shop around for something creative. I like vintage-looking drink coasters, tasteful kitchen towels, or a small inexpensive cutting board. I have one shaped like my home state of Washington, and it makes me smile every time I use it to slice pickles or make a sandwich.
Even if you only give a few presents, you’re likely going to want some gift wrap on hand. I’ve learned over the years that it’s not worth cheaping out on the dollar-store wrap, as it often tears while I’m trying to tape up something like my niece’s new video game.
Thankfully, gift wrap is still pretty affordable, and I try and remember to buy a bunch at the end of the year when stores are discounting everything just to clean out their seasonal-stuff aisles. Don’t forget gift bags, which come in all sizes and designs, and are fun to reuse.
No matter how much you sweat over your yearly gift list, you’ll forget someone. Stash a few simple things away to pull out when you realize you forgot to get anything for a teacher, coach or that kind neighbor who always takes in your trash cans when you’re away.
The host gifts mentioned above are good, but gift cards for coffeehouses or popular stores such as Target are slim and easy to store in a drawer until needed.