It’s October, y’all! That means the big “hosting” holidays begin next month. Are you ready?

Because my family lives in a college town, our hosting duties are not limited to Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have overnight guests for just about every home football game, as well as other big events like festivals and concerts and other sporting events. Also, because we are geographically located halfway between my parents’ house and my brother’s family’s home, we are frequently the host site for any family gatherings that come up during the year.

I just looked over my calendar to try to calculate how many days we’ve had overnight guests so far this year, and I came up with 40 as a rough estimate. That’s 40 overnight guests since January. So you could say I’m kind of a pro, although I don’t get paid—except in memories and countless bottles of wine. (Which I’m not knocking! Please don’t stop bringing me wine as a hostess gift!)

I’m no Martha Stewart. I mean, for one thing, I’ve never been arrested for insider trading; and I also don’t leave little chocolates and towel origami on my guests’ beds, and if you’re staying here, don’t expect to wake up to the smell of cinnamon buns made from scratch coming from my oven. But I have learned a few things over the years about the best ways to get ready for overnight guests. If you’re planning on hosting guests this holiday season, here are a few tips.

packed vintage suitcase with a surprise- muffin and a love letter note

Actually, I lied. I only have ONE real tip. And that tip is:

Get Organized.

Seriously. That’s the tip, and it is absolutely crucial to being a good host or hostess. So if you want to know how I go about getting organized, I’m about to fill you in.

First of all, I am a huge believer in lists— and I mean the good, old-fashioned, written on lined paper with a pen kind of lists. When I have guests coming for a weekend, I start several different lists the Monday before. One is a menu, one is a shopping list, and one is a to-do list.

The Menu.

Even if you are not planning on hosting a big dinner for your guests during their stay, you need to think about this. This part is not always easy for me, because I have some dietary restrictions and I tend to forget to stock my kitchen with foods that normal people can eat. So I really have to think this one through systematically. Think about what people might like for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and beverages, and write it all down, even the smallest, most obvious detail.

Take Inventory.

Then, go through your kitchen and take inventory. Which of the things on your menu do you already have, and which do you need? If you’re going to be cooking, look at your recipes and take inventory of any ingredients you might need. Next, go through your guest bedrooms and bathrooms and take inventory of any supplies you might need there. Do you have enough toilet paper? Tissues? Shampoo? Soap? This kind of inventory-taking should naturally lead you to completing list #2: The Shopping List.

But think about other things while taking inventory. What else could you include in the bedroom or bathroom to make a guest’s stay more comfortable? Do you have clean towels and sheets? Do you have any magazines or books they can flip through? Do any light bulbs need to be replaced? Do you have coffee mugs at the ready in the kitchen and Dixie cups by the bathroom sink?

The To-Do List.

Now you’re ready to make the to-do list. Include every little thing that needs to be done in order to be ready for your guests, from grocery shopping to doing laundry to making the beds, and try to put it on some kind of a timeline.

The most important things on your to-do list will probably involve cleaning. You want to make sure your bathrooms are spotless, your floors are swept, and there’s no dust gathering in the guest room that may not have been used since *last* Thanksgiving.

Call Immaculate Clean

When you’re focusing on the menu and the shopping as well as whatever else takes up your time during your regular daily routine—like going to work, or running kids around, or whatever—cleaning for company, and doing it well, is not always easy to fit in. This is a perfect time to call on Immaculate Clean! Even if you do not have them on a regular cleaning schedule, they are available for one-time cleans and will do a great job of getting your house company-ready so you can focus on everything else that goes into being the hostess with the most-est.

Once you’ve checked everything off your lists and your house is clean, there is only one thing left to do—and this is perhaps my most important tip: Relax and ENJOY your time as host or hostess! It’s a privilege to be able to host friends and family. You’ve done the work; now don’t forget to cherish your time together!