3 essential elements to entertaining: People, Environment, and Planning.
It’s that wonderful time of year again. The season of entertaining, party-going, gatherings, lights, and sparkles has arrived. Thanksgiving is coming, and my husband and I are preparing to host 25 loved ones for the big feast. However, festivities can also bring us, humans, extra stress and unrealistic expectations. As someone that has hosted over 100 gatherings these past 35+ years, I’ve learned a few things that can help you shift your perspective so you’ll feel more love and gratitude and less stress. Are you ready to garner more happiness in your holidays? Keep reading.
Entertain with less stress by involving more people.
All parties start with the guests. As you decide who will be on your invite list for your next event, think of each person and what you love about them. Imagine how much you will enjoy talking with them, having them over, and seeing them connect with others. Will you include immediate and extended family? Will you only invite friends? Will you make it a combination event of family and friends? Choose how many people you are comfortable entertaining. We love small gatherings with just a few friends or family as much as larger parties with more people.
Once you finalize your guest list, create your invitation. It can be a casual email or text, a phone call, an electronic evite, or a more formal snail-mail paper invite. Be sure to include the four W’s- who, what, where, and when. Make it simple. Then track your RSVPs, so you know how many people to expect. It's fairly common that a few people won't respond to your invite, so you may need to follow-up with them.
Environment. Every gathering has a setting.
Every gathering has a setting. What feel do you want to have? Providing places for people to sit, stand, and mingle are the basics. Think about flow. You can decorate or not. I love having fresh flowers, but it’s not necessary. I clean up a bit, but I don’t go crazy. Most guests don’t care about that. It’s more about the environment you want to create and providing some beverages and food.
Think about if you want a casual potluck-type event or a more formal sit-down where you are providing all or most of the food. If you don’t like to cook, you can either ask people to bring dishes or buy premade food. You can have a gathering with just desserts and coffee, or appetizers and drinks. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Unless you adore cooking, the simpler you make the menu, the less stress and more fun you’ll have.
My husband and I are a good tag team. We like to cook for the events, but that’s not for everyone. So honor what you enjoy and do that.
While you are preparing the food, setting the table, or cleaning, focus on what you are doing and who you are doing it for. Practice mindfulness. Experience joy in the process of getting ready to welcome the special people into your home. One of my favorite quotes and beautiful reminders from Anna Quindlen is . . .
“I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.”
— ANNA QUINDLEN
Quindlen’s quote resonates with me. It’s something I’ve learned to do over the years. As an organizer, I tended to focus on getting things done. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, when I combine that with appreciating the doing, life is infinitely more enjoyable and less stressful.
Create a Plan.
For some, preparation is the aspect of entertaining that can be the most stressful. You’re anticipating all of the details and action items for the party, which can feel overwhelming. It’s ironic, too, because it is the planning that can reduce a lot of the overall stress. It's useful to know what you need to do and when you are blocking out the time to do it.
One strategy that works well for me is to work my lists. I save Word documents electronically so that I can easily update them from year to year. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. For example, with Thanksgiving, I have three lists. One is an overall list that includes guests, items people are bringing, the order of the meal, and overall to-dos. A second list consists of a day-by-day task list of what I need to do on a particular day leading up to the event. The third is my shopping list, which is organized by date and store. I invest 30-45 minutes in organizing and updating the files. Once I plan, my mind can relax and focus on the doing. If you want a copy of these lists, contact me, and I’ll be happy to share them.
Another strategy is key. I mentioned that my husband and I are a good party-throwing tag team. Early in the planning process, we sit down together to coordinate our lists, as in who is doing what. Even though we tend to do the same types of tasks each time (like he sets up the tables and chairs, and I decorate and set the tables,) we still talk about it. Since we both cook, we also coordinate who needs the kitchen when. We help each other.
And it’s in that helping one another, where there is the opportunity for more love. Instead of letting the stress of doing get in the way, it’s a chance to support each other. We also love to reflect on previous gatherings we’ve enjoyed doing together, the funny mishaps, and the joy we feel from opening up our home to our loved ones.
There can be those moments of “oh-no!” like when one year our turkey caught on fire and the fire department came, or another year when the EMS and police arrived because one of my family members passed out.
Things will happen. Expect the unexpected. But always keep in mind why you’re having people over. It’s a time for connecting, gathering, and sharing time with your loved ones. Life is made up of moments, and the moments shared with the special people in your life is a gift.
So as you plan, prepare, and gather this season, open your heart as you open your home. Forget about perfect. Find the humor in the stressful moments. Enjoy the love, the unexpected, and the positive energy that friends and family will bring into your home.
What helps you focus on more love and less stress during the holiday season? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Join the conversation!
Nest Advisor Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®, CVPO™,is a compassionate, enthusiastic Professional Organizer and Coach, founder of Oh, So Organized!, Executive Mom Nest Advisor, author of The Other Side of Organized, and blogger on organizing and life balance. In addition to organizing virtually with clients worldwide, Linda presents workshops, writes, and mentors other Professional Organizers. Media features include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, HuffPost, Woman’s Day, Westchester Magazine, Everyday with Rachel Ray, and Entrepreneur.com.Linda lives with her husband between two rivers 30 miles north of New York City, in a small, colorful home with a purple front door. They are empty-nesters as their children are in the world living their adult lives.