You’ve spent the past couple weeks being wooed by Hallmark movies, falling leaves and cornucopia displays, prompting you to invite your friends and family over to celebrate Thanksgiving. Now you’re beginning to panic because you’re not exactly sure how to accommodate your guests. Whether you’re working with a small space or you have a generous living area but have extended too many invites, these tips are for you.
Do you really need candied yams, glazed sweet potatoes and mashed sweet potatoes? Pare down your menu by eliminating similar items, and try to make smaller portions if possible. Only cook what you have room to store. Take advantage of room-temperature dishes like dinner rolls, salads, cranberry sauce and veggie plates. That way you don’t have to worry about fridge space or oven room.
With a buffet, as opposed to chowing down family style, there’s no need for one large dining table (or several of them) to hold place settings, food, drinks and condiments. By instead hosting a buffet you can use multiple smaller surface areas and possibly fit more guests at a designated seating area than you would a formal dining table.
Where will you put your trash can so you (or your guests) can easily, quickly dispose of garbage? Do you have a dishwasher? If not, where will you stack the dirty dishes? Keep these questions in mind and consider having takeout containers on hand so guests can take leftovers.
When someone inevitably asks, “What can I bring?,” either tell them to bring nothing or tell them exactly what you need. If you leave it up to them, you could end up with too much food or duplicate dishes. When considering what to tell guests, don’t forget about napkins, ice or drinks, in addition to food. In dire need of a few extra chairs or a tray table? You could even consider asking a guest to bring one piece of furniture instead of food. (We know, this suggestion is not for everyone.)
Now that you have all the planning out of the way, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get moving. A little decluttering goes a long way. If you can temporarily store loose trinkets, get rid of old magazines, or use extra closet or basement storage space to hold small items you won’t need for the next week or so, why not take advantage of it?
You can use your desk chair as a seat at the table. Host standing hors d’oeuvres at your kitchen counter. Transform your credenza into a buffet stand. Use your storage chest as a table or chair. Seat guests on the couch with tray tables. The possibilities are endless.
Don’t have a coat closet? Stack guest coats on your bed. Don’t need your dessert trays till the end of the party? Stack them on your desk or dresser. Extend your dining area to your reading nook. Set up the buffet in your office or kitchen while you reserve the living and dining rooms for eating. You get the idea.
If you usually keep picture frames, plants or coffee table books around, move them for the time being. Sure, centerpieces are great but if you’re trying to conserve space, think small. Opt for a small vase with a few flowers rather than a giant display. Scatter a few leaves on the table rather than putting out that extra-large ceramic turkey heirloom you’ve acquired. Hang a wreath or other decorations instead of putting them on the table.
This is a celebration after all. Whether you overlook any of the above, you forget a dish, spill some gravy or end up with too many leftovers, remember that having a good time is far more important than sweating the details.