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Organized Hosting Cuts Stress

Oct 15, 2013 04:38PM ● By Scott Blackwell

Katherine Anderson

Being organized to do your entertaining has many benefits, whether it is an informal get-together of two friends, a dinner for 20, or a celebration party for 100.

Topping the list of benefits:
1. You will feel less stressed.
2. Your guests will have a nicer experience as things run smoothly. Those who don’t feel planning is necessary for entertaining guests are often those who do very much the same thing with the same people every time. The organization is there, it’s just not as obvious. You can always, for example, count on Aunt Sarah to bring a homemade pie, and you know your cousin will bring that awful casserole that no one eats.

Just how much planning is necessary depends, of course, on the nature of the event. I used to host what were then called “Cocktail Parties” for 50 people or more, with only my very helpful husband and two reluctant teenagers to help me. There was always enough food so that attendees could make a dinner out of what was there and no one had to cook when they went home later that evening. And there were two punches and a wide variety of beverages. All that took a lot of planning and organizing!

Here are some general suggestions for you to utilize as-is or to adapt for the kind of events you host.
• Plan ahead. How far? I like at least a week if there is a meal involved. That way the shopping can be included in my regular shopping trip. Last-minute trips to the store can really throw off your schedule. Bigger events require more advance planning, both for your own sanity and to allow invitees to get the date on their calendars.

• Plan a larger event in a general way first. Decide on the type of event and think through how and where your guests will spend their time at your home. A sit-down dinner involves a lot more planning than serving beverages and snacks on the patio, for example.

What is the occasion – a particular celebration, a holiday or season, or just because? And whom will you invite? This is a good time to visualize your space and the people, decorations and food in it.  

• Create a timeline for your preparation as you plan the menu, ensuring that the most important things get done. Planning to do as much as possible ahead of time will keep your stress level down. What items can be prepared ahead and kept for a day or two in the refrigerator. Better yet, can anything be frozen even sooner? What needs to be done at the last minute? What other cooking appliances, such as a stove-top, electric frying pans or slow cookers, can you use to free up the oven for the roast? When can you set the table? Polish the silver? Rescue little-used items from their hiding places? Find those infrequently used table linens?

• As you plan the work, schedule actual times to do the activities, not just the deadlines. Plot out the times in your planner.

• Plan the table or the layout of the buffet area, the serving dishes, the table linens, 
seasonal or celebratory or other kinds of 
decorations. Recheck your menu to be sure you can accommodate in your serving dishes what you plan to serve. It’s annoying to wind up with three vegetables and only two appropriate serving dishes. Thinking ahead allows you to find alternatives.

• Plan whatever help you need or can afford. If not a fully trained chef, a high school student who would enjoy helping for somewhat less money might be the answer.

• Plan the day of the event in detail. Final food preparation, final arranging, final cleaning, final setup, all need to be given time slots so you know everything can be accomplished, guaranteeing a smoother event and less hassle. Who will prepare what and when? When will everyone get dressed? Who’s responsible for last-minute touch-up cleaning?

I even used to plan which people were working in the kitchen while others were taking showers – it kept people from falling over each other. When can you run the dishwasher so you have less after-the-fact work to do?

If doing this seems difficult, look at some of the events that you have hosted in the past. How did things go? What could have been done differently, either to create a better event or make the work less for you?.

 Next: Fresh Starts – At Any Time of the Year.
©2013 by Katherine D. Anderson, CPO-CD., Anderson Organizing Systems. All rights reserved.

– Katherine Anderson, CPO-CD, has been helping businesses, groups and individuals get better organized for more than 30 years. You can reach her at