If you were to ask the average homeowner if their home was “company ready” right now, they’d likely laugh out loud while picturing the stained toilet bowl, overflowing kitchen sink, and piles of dirty laundry (and clean laundry in laundry baskets waiting to be folded, if we’re keeping it real).

 But autumn is creeping up fast and with it a slew of holidays that typically involve guests and hospitality. So, we want to help you rethink what “company ready” really is. Yes, you should maybe swirl a brush around in your toilets. And yes, your loved ones really will be less cranky when they’re not diving in laundry baskets for clean underwear or looking for the one clean fork in the house. But being company ready is about more than not having a panic attack at the prospect of anyone figuring out that maybe you, like all humans, don’t always have your act together. It’s about being able to open your door to guests and making them feel welcome and at home. And the best place to start is in your kitchen.

 Your kitchen is the heart of your home. Sure, you do meal prep in there. But it’s also the snack stand, homework station, grocery drop-off spot, and more. And that’s when you’re not entertaining. Bring holidays into the equation and you’re running around like crazy. All the burners are in use. Every ounce of counter space is covered with herbs, gourds, and poultry. There’s a teetering Jenga-like formation of pots and pans on your dining room table because there’s nowhere else to put them (the same dining room table that’s supposed to seat twelve people in about an hour from now). And then your doorbell rings, because Aunt Mabel either can’t tell time or just lives to up your stress level. Aunt Mabel isn’t about to make herself comfortable in the living room that you spent all day yesterday cleaning. Nope. Aunt Mabel is hovering in your too small, too hot, too messy kitchen and making “helpful” comments about how you make your cranberry sauce wrong.

 Now, you could barricade Aunt Mabel from your kitchen, or you could decide this is the perfect time to do that kitchen remodel that you’ve been dreaming about for forever. Your future holiday-hosting self will thank you. And it’s nowhere near as difficult as you think if you’ve got the right plan of action.

 Enlist the right people. Before you start looking at appliances and fawning over tile for your backsplash, make sure you bring in trusted professionals. You want someone who sees your vision and is committed to executing it to your specifications. Someone who is trustworthy and reliable. When you start here first, the rest is a piece of cake (that you now actually have room to make in your beautiful and functional new kitchen).

 Prioritize your spending. You may have grand ideas but a less-than-grand budget. Decide what is most important to you—that’s where your dollars should be focused. Don’t spend just because it’s trendy or because it’s what the neighbors are doing. Make decisions based on what you’ll really use and love (or need). If you like washing dishes by hand, for instance (although, why?), then the top-of-the-line dishwasher probably isn’t a priority for you. If you bake five billion cookies a year, maybe the Viking oven is.

 Choose function over form. Sure, you want a gorgeous kitchen. But it’s more important that your kitchen work well for you. Picture yourself walking around the kitchen, going about your kitchen-y tasks. While the size and shape of your kitchen will impact what you can put where, you want to think about how you typically maneuver in the space. Flow is key here. You should be able to move quickly and efficiently about the room. Do you want that dishwasher ninety steps away from your sink? Probably not. Does it make sense to keep your dry goods and spices near where you plan to house your stand mixer? Yes. Yes, it does. Need some ideas for potential layouts? Start here.

 Speaking from an aesthetics perspective, your kitchen design should flow with the rest of your home (or at least the adjacent rooms). Medieval living room with a contemporary kitchen? Confusing, no?

 Maximize your space. “A place for everything, and everything in its place” isn’t just an annoying saying drilled into your head when you were a child. It should be your mantra. That applies both now, when you’re in the planning and designing stage, and when you’re happily using your beautifully remodeled kitchen years from now. Think now about where you’ll store the muffin tins, cutting boards, and Grandma’s old Tupperware. If need be, take inventory of what must fit in your kitchen and make decisions about storage and cabinets accordingly. Check out these creative kitchen storage solutions for inspiration.

 In no time at all, you could be comfortably hosting your next holiday soiree in the kitchen of your dreams. And Aunt Mabel? She’ll be too busy oohing and ahhing to mention that you put too much rosemary on the turkey.