Sometimes people wait until everything is perfect to host the holidays, their in-laws, overnight guests or neighborhood dinner club. Which is, never. There will always be a messy linen closet, rings on the table or less than spotless carpet. We live here everyday, it’s not supposed to look magazine perfect.
That’s not to say you can’t have style and make your guests feel relaxed and comfortable. Do the things that mean the most to you and let the rest go. Or use these host-hacking tips and shortcuts to help you cheat a little . . . and save your energy for enjoying the afternoon, evening or long weekend.
1. Make food ahead of time.
An oldie but goodie. If you can bake, mix up or prepare anything in advance of your party, holiday dinner or pitch-in, do! You can do this in your sweats or pjs sometimes days in advance, when you’re not trying to get yourself and all the finishing touches done.
2. Ask people to bring something.
On that note, don’t try to be the party martyr, pretending to do it all with ease . . . and no resentment, whatsoever. Unless you entertain for a living, asking people to bring something is an excellent way to share some of the work. Plus, people normally want to help and will ask to bring something. Let them.
3. Use what you have.
Sometimes we’re tempted to run out and buy a big galvanized tub for chilling drinks or a gravy boat, when we’d never use one otherwise. Resist the urge and use what you have. A large bowl, your utility sink, even your washing machine (seriously!) filled with ice makes a great place for chilling drinks. The refrigerator works too if you have the room, ahem. And a gravy boat? A small pitcher will do or creamer will do.
4. Or borrow from friends.
There are plenty of friends who have invested in party pieces who would be glad to share. You can always return the favor with that box of 24 water goblets you got on clearance last year.
5. Clean only what you need to clean.
If you have limited time and you’re just having guests for the evening, don’t get lured into cleaning your linen closet or organizing your pantry. No one will see it and who cares if they do? You can run the vacuum in high traffic areas, close some doors, drawers and cabinets and call it good. And see #6.
6. Give your kids their own To Do list.
Delegate, delegate, delegate. Give your kids the feather duster, dust mop, vacuum and let them get to work. Let them choose some jobs they like, like brushing the dog, setting out the silverware or putting together little party favors or decorations. The point is, don’t try to do it all yourself. Little jobs will help them feel important, keep them occupied and, dare we say it, out of your way.
7. Use your dimmer switch.
Everything looks better on a dimmer.
8. Stock your guest room now, before you need to.
We love the idea of stocking your guest room for overnight guests with some essentials and tiny treats. Then you won’t feel the need to scramble last minute. Things like an alarm clock, comfy throw, water pitcher and glasses, toiletries, candles, magazines and books, and essentials for babies and toddlers. Then all you’ll need to do is throw your guest towels and sheets in for a fresh wash when you know guests are coming.
9. Scout out some activities for all ages.
Don’t go to too much trouble, but create a list of some of the things your group can do together and even some things people can go off and do in smaller groups or on their own, including restaurants, movies, seasonal activities like apple picking, the pumpkin patch, hiking, etc. You can also make up a basket or shelf of games, including cards, dice and board games, puzzles and art supplies for some spontaneous fun.
10. Do it for the right reasons.
How lucky are we that we have friends and family who want to join us for food, fun and conversation? How fortunate that we have food, a comfortable space and our time to share? Being grateful is one of the best gifts we can give our guests and ourselves. Enjoy.