Management

11 Must Have Items Before Your Holiday Guests Arrive

Having friends and family over can be both an exciting and stressful experience. Here's a list of 11 must have items before your holiday guests arrive.

Having friends and family over for the holidays can be both an exciting and stressful experience. I love having guests but I certainly wasn't born a natural hostess. Taking care of additional people requires a little bit of footwork (if you want them to come back, that is).

I've welcomed a lot of people in my home in the past couple of years and have worked my way through plenty of mistakes and uh-oh moments. I've run out of toiletries, burned a meal, and been short on pillows. It's a good thing I'm a fast learner!

Having friends and family over can be both an exciting and stressful experience. Here's a list of 11 must have items before your holiday guests arrive.

Here's a list of must have items before your holiday guests arrive.

1. Kleenex

Please keep at least one box of Kleenex or any other off brand facial tissue in your home. A relative of mine never buys it and only offers her guests paper towels. As a guest, it's a little uncomfortable to say the least.

Having friends and family over can be both an exciting and stressful experience. Here's a list of 11 must have items before your holiday guests arrive.

Decorated tubs, like these adorable Kleenex Perfect Fit Holiday Canisters, keep your home looking festive. I keep one at every end table and in the vehicles' cup holders so we're never short on tissues!

2. Toilet Paper

This is embarrassing to list but oh-so essential if you're having guests over.

I once had a guest suffering from allergies who refused to use any of the Kleenex I owned and insisted on using tp only. Another time, a guest didn't care for the brand I had on hand and insisted I go out and buy another. Sure, these requests were a little odd to receive but we all want our visitors to be comfortable and happy. Prepare for the unexpected (and awkward!) and keep two different brands on hand, such as Cottonelle and Scott.

3. Paper Towels/Napkins

Spills and sticky surfaces are going to happen, even if you don't have little kids staying with you. Guests naturally gravitate towards a paper towel to wipe up a mess instead of grabbing your holiday towels on display. Viva paper towels are my favorite right now because they're super strong and can wipe up any amount of wine I've accidentally spilled.

4. Air Freshener/Candles

I try to mask the Clorox wipes and microwaved leftovers smell that usually graces our living area. I'm personally burning plenty of sugar cookie and other holiday candles right now. Walmart has some awesome Better Homes and Gardens candles that are less than $5. I've been using them for months now and have no complaints!

5. Snacks/Drinks

You know when you are a guest and your host says, "Raid the fridge at any hour! Help yourself!" (I love these people, by the way.) It's great to hear but how many of us actually sneak into the kitchen because we want a sandwich at midnight? I keep a cute basket of snacks out on display so that my guests stay full without having to check in with me.

Here are some of the items I always pick up when guests are coming over:

  • coffee/tea
  • water bottles
  • fresh veggies
  • fresh fruit
  • deli meat
  • cheese cubes
  • croissants/rolls
  • chips
  • applesauce pouches (for the kiddos)
  • cookies
  • crackers
Having friends and family over can be both an exciting and stressful experience. Here's a list of 11 must have items before your holiday guests arrive.

I also keep a lot of easy recipes on hand so I can spend more time with my guests and less time slaving in the kitchen. Remember these 2 Ingredient BBQ Chicken Sandwiches? Easy and worry free!

6. Alcoholic Beverages

Does this really need a description? Hosting is always much easier when I have a glass of wine in my hand. If you have non-drinkers on your guest list, keep hot chocolate, apple cider, and other specialty drinks instead.

And while you're shopping in the food department, pick up a bag of ice. We all know that an ice cube tray only lasts for 3.42 seconds when you have people over.

7. Disinfectant Supplies

I once had a guest come down with the flu at my home during the holidays. It was terrible for both of us, trust me. Thankfully, I had plenty of disinfectant supplies like spray and wipes. I think I've said enough.

8. Spare Pillows/Blankets

Be sure to stock up on extra pillows and blankets if you're having more people over than your guest room can handle. We had littles camping out on the floor once and completely forgot to buy extra pillows. Thankfully, I'm addicted to buying decorative couch pillows so we had plenty of those. Kids are so forgiving but I felt so terrible!

9. Toiletries

The last thing your guests want is to be stuck in the shower only to realize there's no shampoo or soap!

My family and I travel a lot throughout the year and we always have some partially used shampoo or body wash bottles laying around. I hate to see things go to waste so I place them in a pretty, clear vase in the guest bathroom.

Here's a list of the things I make sure I have on hand in every bathroom, even if they're only in travel size:

  • shampoo
  • conditioner
  • body wash
  • bar soap
  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • mouthwash
  • floss
  • deodorant
  • lotion
  • q-tips
  • nail file
  • chapstick
  • mouthwash
  • hand sanitizer
  • shavers
  • hairbrush

10. Back-Up Entertainment

Maybe the guests you're having are friends you've known for a decade or perhaps it's your new sister-in-law that you've only met once before. Either way, have some backup entertainment like board games and movies, just in case the conversation dies down.

11. Fresh Flowers

Last, but not least are the fresh flowers. They brighten up a room and say, "Look at your host! Isn't she so pulled together and organized?" Your guests will never know the bouquet was only $4.95 at your local Walmart or that you threw them in a vase 5 minutes before everyone arrived.

Whatever you do, don't panic about having people over. Nine times out of ten your guests will be understanding and gracious, regardless of what happens. Just relax and have a good time!

P.S. As you purchase these items, be sure to submit your receipts to the Ibotta app to get some cash rewards! If you've never used it before, you just enter your retailer's loyalty member phone/account number into the app. As you shop, Ibotta will search for rebates with that store and apply any credits to your account. Awesome! (Thank you, G, for sharing this app with me!)

Having friends and family over can be both an exciting and stressful experience. Here's a list of 11 must have items before your holiday guests arrive.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Go From Stressed to Happy in 5 Easy Steps {FREE Printable Link!}

There are yesterday's dirty dishes in the sink, crayons scattered all over the living room floor, and I'm still in my pajamas. Oh, and I'm not really in the mood to clean anything either. You've been there too, right? I have so many things on my to-do list and all of them are regular chores that I shouldn't be neglecting. No one's breathing down my neck but I'm still feeling frazzled and overwhelmed.

My son just went down for a nap so that means I have less than an hour and a half to get my house and my sanity pulled together. Here's how I go from stressed to happy in 5 easy steps.

Step #1: Brighten Your Space

It's all psychology when we talk about brightening our home. If your working space is dark and gloomy, you're more likely to slow down or fizzle out of energy. Put a little pep in your step by placing some extra light in your life.

Turn the lights on and throw open the shades. Brighten your area so you have a renewed sense of perspective and can see where you're walking. Avoiding Legos will save your poor feet and you'll be more likely to feel like can take on the world.

Step #2: Check the Calendar

I have missed doctors appointments and playdates by not paying attention to my schedule. Sometimes it isn't enough to check it the night before. Personally, I have to comb through it each morning or I will definitely forget what appointments I have that day.

My friend Emily over at My Love for Words is offering a FREE CALENDAR PRINTABLE if you subscribe to her newsletter. I'm currently using it myself and am in love because it provides a nice Notes section that I can use for all those little reminders that don't fit in the date boxes. You're missing out on some good stuff if you don't hop on over there right now!

(P.S. Emily also has a fantastic Declutterathon series that you don't want to miss if you're trying to get your life organized.)

Step #3: Make a List

Oh lists. You lovable, wonderful tools of organization! If you've read more than one of my posts then you already know that I have a special relationship with lists. The reason behind this is that I love clarity. It provides you with the visual direction you need to make sure things get accomplished.

Tip: I'm a huge fan of this list-making method: Make your to-do list, then write either A, B, or C next to each item. A means this task must be completed ASAP, B means this task is important but not urgent, and C means you would like to get it done but it doesn't really matter if you don't. Then, take your organization a step further by listing your items in order of importance such as A1, A2, A3, and so on.

Step #4: Indulge a Little

You would be right in thinking that this sounds like the opposite of getting work done. But I've found that the fastest way to get things accomplished is to make sure you're feeling your best.

Give yourself a 5 minute break. Go to your room, shut the door, and allow yourself the freedom to be alone. Sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to rejuvenate.

Afterwards, make yourself a cup of tea/coffee and take the time to get out of those pajamas and into a fresh set of clothes. Personally, I even go so far as to put on a little mascara. If I feel pulled together, then I'm more likely to hustle through my work.

Step #5: Decide What's Important

Sometimes the stuff that's stressing us out isn't even that important at all. Are you frazzled because you've over-scheduled your day with power cleaning, making meals, and spending time with the family? What's most important? Take the time to identify what tasks are no longer necessary.

I used to stress about making multiple playdates each week, working for my clients, keeping the home clean, and fitting in quality family time. I had to tell myself it was okay to let go and say no to additional clients or multiple playdates. Family comes first. Everything after that is optional.

It's easy to get overwhelmed but it's just as easy to turn things around and find your inner calm. Following these 5 easy steps so you can catch your breath and get things done.

How do you control the chaos in your home? 

Beat the Heat with the Energy Savings Superstar Contest

This post is sponsored. Please read my disclaimer for more information.

Are you smothering in the heat this summer like I am? As many of you know, we currently live in Houston but are originally from Kansas. Texas summers are not like the summers I'm used to from the Midwest. They are so HUMID! But that just means I get to enjoy the swimming pool and eating ice cream every day a little bit longer, so I'm not complaining.

Today’s post is all about giving you the chance to cool off a little as the month of August brings even higher temperatures. Lennox® is one of the leading names in home comfort, providing air conditioning and heating units. To give you some relief from the heat, they are throwing their annual Energy Savings Superstar Contest!

Contest Details

It's easy peasy to enter. All you have to do is submit

  • An energy-saving tip you use during the summer
  • A photo that illustrates this tip

Four finalists will be chosen by Lennox® and participants can vote on their favorite tip/photo to determine the winner.

Prize Details

I have to admit that these prizes are awesome and can make all ages in the family pretty happy. I saw "a year's supply of ice cream" and jumped at the chance to enter. It just doesn't get any better than ice cream, people!

Timing Details

Submission window, July 1-August 31 Four finalists are chosen, September 1-13 Voting opens on Lennox.com, September 14-20 WINNER ANNOUNCED! by October 2

Be sure to scoot on over to this page or click on any of the photos above to enter!

Good luck!

How are you beating the heat this summer? 

13 Ways to Decorate Your Home on a Budget

Looking for the best ways to decorate your home on a budget? Painting an accent wall or hanging your child's artwork are a few cheap options to start.

Interested in starting a blog and making money from home? I earned my first $200 within 3 months of starting Frugal on the Prairie then went on to earn a full-time income from home about 6 months later! If you're ready to get started, I have a step-by-step tutorial for setting up your domain and hosting here, which can be a headache to figure out by yourself if you've never done it before! I also highly recommend and use Bluehost for my hosting! (<---That's an affiliate link but girl, I never recommend something I don't love or use ;) 


Looking for the best ways to decorate your home on a budget? I have a lot of experience in that category! We've lived in three rental properties since my husband and I got married. Each time I've wanted to try out a different look in our new place (we're still figuring out "our style") but my budget has always kept me in check. I can't afford to completely redesign each new place! Here are my best ways to decorate your home on a budget.

Related Post: 15 Ways to Make Your Home Cozy

This post contains affiliate links. Please read my Disclaimer for more information.

1. Pull out what you have.

Repurpose old furniture by cleaning, sanding, and painting any wood pieces or throwing sofa covers over old sofas. If you feel like you're sick of something and just want to throw it out, give yourself a few days before you decide.

The biggest mistake I made in college was thinking that I had to buy brand new stuff and get rid of all of my old furniture. It was a huge waste!

Now I'm not saying you should become a packrat. Ew! Just try to repurpose the items you already own and if you can't, throw them out.

2. Paint your favorite color.

Paint your favorite color on an accent wall or even in an entire room. Our favorite shades can really cheer us up and turn a bad day into a good one.

While I'm fond of going bold it's wise to paint swatches on a well-lit wall before you commit to a particular color. Paint is cheap but the effort it takes to paint over a red or a dark blue is not worth the headache.

3. Shop at thrift stores, Craigslist, flea markets, and the Dollar Store.

You don't need to spend full price on brand new merchandise to give your home a facelift. I found a beautiful coffee table once in mint condition for $20 at Goodwill . After a good scrubbing it was as good as new.

These stores are also great for picking up knick knacks and miscellaneous decor. All of my flower vases have come from the Dollar Store or Goodwill.

4. Ask for Grandma's old stuff.

Does your Grandmother have a garage full of stuff she no longer wants but hasn't gotten around to throwing out? Try not to be a moocher but if she or anyone else has a donation pile, offer to drop everything off in exchange for first pick at any items. You'll be doing a good deed while getting a opportunity to buy decor at a discount.

5. Arrange colorful pillows and throws.

Pillows and small throws are cheap and easy to rotate throughout the seasons. Purchase the cushion alone at stores like Ikea and then add in some bold patterns and textures in the actual covers. In fact, if you're looking for anything in the textiles department at a cheap price, Ikea is the first place to stop.

If you have access to free shipping on Amazon, HOSL is a seller on there and they also have a cute selection of cheap covers too. Their black bear in a red hat and three colorful feathers pillowcases are my favorites and they are cheap!

Looking for the best ways to decorate your home on a budget? Painting an accent wall or hanging your child's artwork are a few cheap options to start.

6. Family art and prints.

Let your kids do the fancy artwork for you or even do some yourself. I filled a Pinterest board with DIY projects, a lot of them being canvas-type.

We bought a pack of canvases with a 40% off coupon from Hobby Lobby. Then we grabbed all the acrylics around the house, placed a old giant sheet on the ground, and painted away. I loved how this DIY Family Handprint Tutorial turn out so much that hung it where everyone can see. We get compliments on it all the time and is really precious to us.

7. DIY some linens.

Are you handy with the sewing machine? There are handy tutorials from Pinterest or free books from the library where you can find some interesting ideas.

Try a simple pillow tutorial if you're just starting out. They are surprisingly easy. Trust me, if I can do it anybody can do it!

8. Show off your family photos.

The first item that turns a house into a home is the family photo you proudly put on display. Does it really even feel like your space if you can't easily see pictures of the people you love?

Start with a collage wall or a blown up version of your favorite shot. You can use either option to fill up those boring blank spaces in the hallway or living room. And hey, it doesn't have to be expensive. This photo display is less than $20 (as of February 2016) and is adorable!

Looking for the best ways to decorate your home on a budget? Painting an accent wall or hanging your child's artwork are a few cheap options to start.

9. Warm the room up with some candles.

Even if they're not lit, candles give the impression of a room that is warm and cozy. In fact, I never actually light ours because of our son running around. I've had the same Dollar Store candles sitting on our mantle for a couple of years. But I like the perception that the room is just a bit cozier.

10. Color coordinate your book collection.

So you have a lot of books scattered around the house and in no particular order? Bring out your creative side by color coordinating your own little library.

So you have a lot of books scattered around the house and in no particular order? Bring out your creative side by color coordinating your own little library.

I separated our mini library by the color of the spine years ago and I haven't gone back to anything else. I have a terrible memory when it comes to book titles. But I always remember the cover image and color. Try out this trick if you have the same problem. Here's what ours looks like. (Please excuse the iPhone quality image and over-filtering of my 22 year old self...)

11. Add some pretty mirrors all around the house.

I know what you're thinking if you have young children or pets. "I can't have breakables in my house, Allison!" But yes, you can. They just need to be hanging high on the walls.

Reflection throughout the home will make the space appear larger. It's also awesome for filling up those blank spaces you don't have any art for.

Add some extra personality to your home by choosing pieces with additional textures or patterns. You can even DIY the project by buying an old mirror from a thrift store and painting the frame.

I personally like these from Amazon. The shabby chic mirror is girly enough for me without making my husband cringe, and this entry way mirror is nifty with it's extra storage features.

Looking for the best ways to decorate your home on a budget? Painting an accent wall or hanging your child's artwork are a few cheap options to start.

12. Change outdated fixtures and hardware on cabinetry.

Set a budget for yourself and head to the local hardware store. Changing out the handles on kitchen cabinets or a light fixture in the bedroom is one of the quickest ways to update a home. You can spend all the money in the world on furniture and accessories but if there's a dome light from 1985 in your living room, it'll still look outdated.

13. Paint your dated cabinets and crown molding.

We painted the horrible blue (yes, blue) crown molding in my parents house years ago and the change was dramatic! It brought the room back into the 21st century with just a can of primer and white paint. There's a lot of sweat that goes into updating crown molding. But if you're willing to put in the elbow grease you'll be pleased with the results.

Try to repurpose the items you already have if you want to redecorate your home. Just moving the furniture around and throwing on a new softcover will make you feel like you've spent $1,000.

And if you find that your junk is really...well...just junk, then head out shopping with a list and a budget so you can keep control of how much you spend. It does not have to cost a penny more than you want to spend to get a good looking room makeover.

How do you decorate your home on a budget?

Looking for the best ways to decorate your home on a budget? Painting an accent wall or hanging your child's artwork are a few cheap options to start.

15 Ways to Make Your Home Cozy

Interested in starting a blog and making money from home? I earned my first $200 within 3 months of starting Frugal on the Prairie then went on to earn a full-time income from home about 6 months later! If you're ready to get started, I have a step-by-step tutorial for setting up your domain and hosting here, which can be a headache to figure out by yourself if you've never done it before! I also highly recommend and use Bluehost for my hosting! (<---That's an affiliate link but girl, I never recommend something I don't love or use ;) 


Everyone wants to create a place where they can relax with their family and read a good book on the weekend. Maybe you've moved into a new house or have just hit a creative roadblock with your current one. Here are a few easy ideas to make your space a little more homey and special!

This post contains affiliate links. Please read my Disclaimer for more information. 

1. Keep the Memories Out on Display

Don't pack away your most loved items where no one can see them! You want guests to walk into your home and automatically know about the places and people you love more than anything else.

We have pieces of our little man's art all over the house as well as some silly knick knacks we picked up on our honeymoon. No one else can have the same items and it's what puts a personal stamp on our home.

2. Place Out Fresh Flowers

Flowers can really help warm up a room. They make me feel like I have a beautiful garden (I wish!) and that I'm a cheerful June Cleaver, with everything in its place.

3. Display Your Favorite Literature

I was a librarian for years and you can tell so much about a person just based on the books they read. We keep all of our books on a huge shelf in the living room.

To kick things up a notch (or because I am insane) I also organize them by the color of their spine. It looks adorable but it also helps me find the books I'm looking for. I will remember the color of a book 10x faster than I will remember the actual name.

color coordinated books home library bookshelf

4. Frame Your Family and Friends

This is a no-brainer but such an important part of your home. We lived in an apartment for weeks before I finally got around to putting up our photos. It instantly made the place "ours." Seeing the faces of people you love can make your house an area you love to be in.

We create a lot of family collages and use an array of traditional frames and displays like this cuuuute one from Target.

target photo display

5. Lay out the Extra Blankets

Keep a few throw blankets lying on the arm of the sofa or at the foot of the bed to provide extra warmth. I am constantly cold, regardless of the season, so I use ours all the time.

6. Keep Fluffy Pillows on Hand

Fluffy, soft, bright, or beige, it doesn't matter. Pillows will make your living room just a bit more homey. I always shop at Target for these because I can usually find an affordable 2 pack like the one below. I'm loving the bright colors and shapes!

Add a few spare pillows in the bedroom as well. My husband and I only sleep with one pillow each but we have at least four on the bed. It can really take a college student's bed and turn it into one for an adult.

target throw pillows

7. Put Out Candles or Coffee

A pleasant smelling home is a welcoming home. I personally love brewing a fresh pot of coffee, early in the morning and throughout the day.

I don't light too many candles with a baby in the house, but if I do I will use either a muffin or sugar cookie scent. Sometimes you just need to fake this whole perfect housewife thing.

8. Keep Yummy Food at Hand

We are definitely foodies in our family, and while we like to eat healthy, we really just want to have a snack at the end of a long day. I try to keep banana bread or oatmeal chocolate chip cookies on hand. We were given after school snacks as children and I find that it feels comforting to have an after work snack too.

9. Add a Rug or Two

Our home has functional beige carpet. Boring! We throw a small rug down in the living room and bedrooms to add a personal touch and make the rooms feel a little more welcoming. I personally like to choose relatively thick rugs like this gray one because it's comfy for the baby when he's crawling around.

target gray rug

10. Buy a Headboard

I swear the first time I ever bought a headboard I thought, "Oh now I am an adult!" There's just something about adding it that makes the whole bedroom really come together.

And it doesn't have to be expensive! We had a baby on the way and no extra money to spare when we found a simple frame at Ikea. You can also try to make your own if you're feeling brave enough. Pinterest is crawling with DIY headboard projects. I also like this headboard from Walmart because you can just attach it to your bed frame. It makes it a very affordable upgrade!

walmart gray headboard

11. Let the Light Shine In

Both natural and man-made lighting is so important in a cozy home! There is nothing welcoming or comforting about an under-lit, gloomy room.

I like to keep each area in the house with at least two lamps in addition to any overhead lighting. My desk has this lamp from Target and the quality is amazing for the affordable price. You don't have to spend a lot! I also use natural sunlight like it's going out of style. Keep things bright and cheerful!

target white desk lamp

12. Make Every Room Prepared for the In-Laws

I know saying you should tidy up sounds like the opposite of keeping things cozy. But clutter only causes stress! I have extremely laid back in-laws but I still wouldn't want them to see a messy house. I keep my home "In-Law Ready" by making sure the beds are made, the bathrooms are tidy, and all of the dirty laundry is hidden. I also use these 5 easy tips for making the kitchen sparkly clean.

13. Add a Seating Area in the Bedrooms

It doesn't have to be a large sofa or take up a lot of space. Just grab a little corner and add your favorite chair to it. This creates a comfortable area where you can read or relax. I like to use it in the early morning when I'm not quite ready to sit at my desk but am afraid I will fall asleep if I stay in bed!

14. Hang a String of Lights

We put up a sting of lights around our headboard (it's wood) during Christmas and liked it so much that it stayed there after the holiday was over. It gives such a warm glow to the room and even magically erases the tired look under my eyes at the end of a long day.

15. Add a Plant or Two

I'll be honest in saying that I have the worst green thumb you will ever know. But I can keep a sturdy fern alive if you remind me to water it! A little greenery, real or fake, will pull everything together in a very homey way.

Always remember that the best way to turn a house into a home is to incorporate the things you love most. If you love the Beatles, put their records on display. If you love to read, create a mini library in your living room. Use your own personal stamp in each room and you will create a space you love to be in.

How do you make your home cozy?