It’s great to have family and friends stay with us over the holidays, but it can also strike fear into our hearts.

How will we ever get this house clean? There’s so much clutter! And, worst of all: They’ll see how we really live!

Some people are so overwhelmed by the condition of their homes they never invite guests. Start now, and you can organize your house so it’s not only more comfortable for your holiday guests, but also for you and your family year round.

1. Make a Schedule, Stick to It

Ellen Delap, owner of Professional-Organizer.com, suggests you make appointments with yourself to work on certain areas.

“Work consistently for one to two hours to declutter and let go of items,” she says, “and then organize things into categories and assign them a home depending on how frequently you want to access them.”

2. Get The Whole Family Involved

Delap reminds us that we don’t have to do it all on our own and suggests looking at the strengths of our family members, including kids, to note who can help with what.

“I recently worked with a family where one daughter was great at cleaning, one was great at decorating and one was great at cleanup,” she says.

3. Eliminate Excess Stuff

Start by decluttering your home’s most visible areas, perhaps beginning with the living room.

“There’s no point in organizing things you don’t need to keep, and simply having less in your environment magically makes the space feel more organized,” says professional organizer Monica Ricci of Catalyst Organizing.

Easy starting tasks include: going through stacks of mail and paperwork, returning anything that needs to go back to a store and recycling boxes from online purchases.

4. Freshen Up The Guest Room

Many people use their guest bedroom as a catchall, so leave plenty of time for this job. Put away (or donate) anything that’s on the bed or floor. Make space in the guest room closet, empty a dresser drawer if possible and clear the bathroom counter. Be sure there’s fresh bedding, a bedside lamp and a place to charge devices.

5. Organize Your Kitchen

Guests often congregate in the kitchen, so clean out the refrigerator and freezer, stock your pantry and clear any kitchen counter clutter.

“Organize by keeping things together that you use together,” says Delap. “Set up zones for your different activities: a baking zone to keep all your muffin tins, Bundt pans and cookie sheets together, and a coffee zone with your coffee maker, pods or whatever you use to make coffee and mugs.”

6. Set The Table

Clear away anything that shouldn’t be in the dining room and be sure you have enough seating, place settings, silverware and glasses.

“I always set my table a few days ahead of time,” says professional organizer Adonna Braly of Clutter Roundup.

7. Add The Final Touches

Think about what you’ll fix for breakfasts and lunches and make sure to stock your pantry and fridge appropriately. Put some bottles of water and individually wrapped cookies or other snacks in the guest room, as well as extra blankets and perhaps some magazines or books the guest will like.

And above all, says Braly, remember that everything doesn’t have to be perfect.

“People aren’t going to come to your home and not have a good time because it isn’t perfect,” she says.

Delap agrees: “A well-organized, happy home should be one that’s as full of laughter as it is of labels.”

Leslie Lang