The Thanksgiving Host’s Complete Cleaning Checklist: 3 Weeks to Go

updated Apr 30, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Lana Kenney)

Thanksgiving, probably more than any other holiday, is all about the food and warmth of togetherness. If you’re hosting, though, the combination of having overnight guests, getting the house ready for them and for meal preparations, and then doing all the cooking can be overwhelming. Here’s how to plan ahead so you can enjoy the festivities too.

Prepare the Guest Room

By this point, you’re likely to know how many overnight guests you can expect. Now is the time to put the guest room in order, if you have one—especially if you’re anything like me, who tends to sometimes use it as an extra storage room for do-later piles. Freshen the bed and do a deep clean of the room (wash curtains, vacuum the mattress, dust thoroughly, scrub the bathroom) so you only have a touch-up to do prior to guests’ arrival.

Make sure you have enough places to sleep, even if it’s air mattresses or sleeping bags for kids. Sort out which linens will go where and make sure you have enough pillows, towels, and toiletries. If any guests with special needs, including babies, will be coming, ask your friends and family what they might need from you to make their stay more comfortable.

Preparing the guest room and organizing arrangements beforehand will save you from scrambling for sheets and washcloths when you’re also needed to baste the turkey. Take care of it now.

(Image credit: Nicole Baas Photography)


  • Make sure you have enough places to sleep
  • Sort out which linens will go where
  • Make sure you have enough pillows
  • Freshen the bed
  • Wash curtains
  • Vacuum mattress
  • Dust thoroughly
  • Scrub the guest bath
  • Make sure you have enough towels
  • Prepare toiletries for guests

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Get the Dining Room Spic-and-Span

If you’re going to be bringing out the fancy china and silver, you probably have some prep work to do. Make sure you have enough settings for everyone who will attend and decide if you need extra seating, such as a kids’ table. Polish silver and iron linens, if necessary. Keep ironed table linens hung so they don’t wrinkle again and fold napkins so you only have to place them when it’s time to set the table.

In addition, now is the time to deep clean your dining room. Again, if it’s a separate, rarely used room, it probably doesn’t get the cleaning attention that more frequented rooms get. This past weekend, I cleaned the light fixture, washed the windows, dusted the wainscoting, polished the entire dining table, and took all the chairs out to thoroughly mopped the floor. Make sure to clean top to bottom, especially important in a room you will eat in. Check out your chairs. If they are upholstered, spot clean anything you may have missed at another time and vacuum them if necessary to eliminate dust and pet fur.

Consider your tablescape and if you’ll want to purchase any decor items. Don’t forget the kids’ table! You have enough time to snag some items with coupons or on sale if you plan ahead now. Also consider simple crafts or activities for any children who may be at your gathering and plan accordingly.

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)


  • Make sure you have enough settings for everyone who will attend
  • Figure out if you need extra seating
  • Polish silver
  • Iron linens and hang them up
  • Fold napkins
  • Clean the dining room, top to bottom
  • Spot clean and vacuum upholstered chairs
  • Complete crafts to decorate tables

(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

Prepare Your Kitchen for Its Biggest Day of the Year

Starting the Thanksgiving cooking fest with an organized pantry and a clean fridge makes such a big difference in things going smoothly. You’ll be able to clearly see staples you have, staples you need to fill in, and you’ll be able to get to everything easily.

If you’re going to be in charge of making dishes you don’t usually do, make sure you have the necessary tools. For instance, make sure you have the requisite pie plates, roasting racks, thermometers, etc. If you need something, get these items now. You do not want to be running to the store for twine at the last minute, trust me.

If you have an extra fridge or freezer, start cleaning them out so you have plenty of room when you actually start your holiday cooking.


  • Organize your pantry
  • Clean out the fridge
  • Make sure you have the cooking supplies you need
  • If you have one, clean out your backup fridge or freezer

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)


As you’re assessing your tablescape, consider your home as a whole and if there’s any additional decorating you want to do, do it now. Not only will you and your family enjoy the coziness of fall decor for at least the whole month, but you you’ll have one less thing to do as the real work approaches.

(Image credit: Nicole Baas Photography)

Start Making Your Lists

Begin making your menu and your shopping lists. Also start planning your time. If you’re hosting, plan a few days out what you will do when, considering cooking times and the oven being in use by other dishes. You don’t need to finalize anything right now, but getting together a sketch of what you need to shop for and what you need to do when now allows you enough time to adjust based on additional things you think of.

If local family and friends are bringing food, touch base with them now so they have plenty of time to prepare.


  • Plan your menu and make shopping lists
  • Plan a schedule for the day, with cooking times
  • Touch base with family who are bringing dishes

(Image credit: Erika Tracy)

Finish Up Fall Cleaning

If you weren’t able to tackle all your fall cleaning tasks, now’s the time to finish up the ones you’ve got to do before family comes. For instance, my mom notices air intake grates — with hawk eyes. You can bet those will be dusted before she arrives. Pay special attention to your outdoor entryway. Wipe down the door and door frame, get some mums in a pair of planters or a wreath for the door, and make sure your guests are greeted with a warm welcome before you even open the door.


(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Here’s a list of practical things to take care of so your mind and heart are free to enjoy what matters most.