Stress-Free Holiday Entertaining


Stress-Free Holiday Entertaining
by Bridget Messino
Clutter Free Living

The holiday season is upon us! It is a time when family and friends gather together. Some people love to entertain and enjoy bringing people together. Others feel stressed with these obligations. Whether it is a large gala for everyone you know, hosting the family holiday dinner or just having a few close friends over for a meal, planning and organization can make the difference between feeling stressed and being able to enjoy your event. The following simple tips can help you prepare your house, prepare the food and handle the final details. 

Preparing the House 
So how organized is your house right now? So often people become overwhelmed with the idea of entertaining; they get stuck as to where to start. Think about how your house will be used. Will this be a sit down meal in your dining room? Will groups separate into different rooms to talk or watch TV? Will your guests be staying overnight? Start early enough and focus first on the rooms that will really be used. Donít worry about the ones that you think someone may wander into if they get lost on the way to the bathroom. Go through each room, one at a time. If there is a room that hasnít been de-cluttered in awhile, sort through everything by dividing items into toss, donate and keep piles. This is a great time to make your donations and get that tax deduction in before the end of the year. Throw out items no longer needed and put away the items to be kept in their appropriate place. 

Think about who is coming to your house. If you have items that are breakable or valuable, consider simplifying the items in the main gathering room so you and your guests (and their children) donít have to worry about accidents that could put a damper on the evening. These items can be put up or wrapped up and stored in a plastic bin, which can be hidden in a basement or bedroom during the party and brought out easily the next day. 

Depending on whatever else is going on in your life and if the budget allows it, treat yourself to a cleaning service before your event. If funds wonít stretch that far, get the whole family involved and divide the tasks up. Another option is to trade blocks of time with a good friend. Also make sure you have enough supplies on hand (toilet paper, disposable hand towels for the powder room, paper towels in the kitchen, etc.) and that they are easily accessible if needed during the time your guests are in your home. 

If you give yourself enough lead-time and work at picking up and cleaning in manageable increments, you wonít get burned out and will only need to do a quick tidy the day of your event. 

Preparing the Food 
Now that your house is ready for guests, itís time to focus on the food. Many people dread the food preparation that goes along with entertaining. Whether it is because they are uncertain of their cooking skills or they just donít have the time to devote to it, the solution is the same. 

- Select menu items that can be prepared in advance 
- Simplify wherever possible 
- Clean up after yourself as you go along 

Donít spend the hours before your event (or worse yet the hours of your event) racing madly around the kitchen. Many dishes can be partially or completely prepared in advance Ė take advantage of that! 

Simplify your task list wherever possible. You can pick up some wonderful side dishes from the deli section of your grocery store or local specialty shop. Serve them in your own bowl or platter Ė no one needs to know. This way you can focus on making one or two impressive items and wow everyone without stressing yourself out. 

Determine which serving pieces youíll be using and get everything ready to go. Rinse pieces that may not have been used in a while. Make sure you have all your glassware (or for informal events - plastic ware!) ready. If you must use silver, allow enough time to give it a polish. If it is a sit-down dinner, iron the tablecloth, get out place settings and, if possible, set the table. Note: if you have pets that might jump up and investigate, throw an extra tablecloth over the table until shortly before your guests arrive. When selecting these items, try to balance putting on a great presentation with the amount of work it will take to set up and clean up. 

It is so disheartening to spend hours preparing great food for your guests, only to be faced with a kitchen that is a disaster area. Clean up after yourself each step of the way. Wipe down counters, rinse your prep items and put them straight into the dishwasher, throw away any packaging. Try to have the dishwasher empty at the start of your party so as dishes are finished being used they can be immediately put in the dishwasher or easily at the end of the night, reducing the amount of time you need to spend cleaning up. 

Handling the Final Details 
As mentioned before, go around and tidy anything up that may have gotten messy since your big cleanup. Consider setting up a drink area where guests can help themselves to refills on drinks. Rearrange any furniture to encourage conversation among guests. 

Decorating your tabletop or buffet can be as simple as moving some of your existing home dťcor to the party table or main room of the gathering. If your holiday decorations are out, use your extras or purchase some inexpensive evergreens. Candles of all sizes make a great filler. Use containers you already own, take it to your florist and let them do their thing. 

Your house is clean, the food is prepared and there is time to spare! You have done all the prep work. You can relax now and enjoy your event. Who knew entertaining could be so simple?

©2004 Bridget Messino 

About the author: Bridget Messino is a Professional Organizer, speaker and co-owner of Clutter Free Living, Inc. Her work frequently appears on many Internet sites, on her own organizing site Clutter Free Living (, as well as in her monthly Home Organizing Newsletter How to Be Clutter Free. Subscribe to the FREE monthly e-newsletter by sending a blank e-mail to 

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Stress-Free Holiday Entertaining


Stress-Free Holiday Entertaining