Holiday entertaining made easy

A few days ago, in the midst of a conversation about upcoming celebrations, I overheard someone whisper to a friend, “You say holidays; I say hellidays!”

I just had to chuckle because I completely understand the sentiment. When you’re staring down an already long laundry list of things to do and then add on top of that another list that is just as long related to holiday celebrations — it can seem, well, a little daunting. It can seem even more so if you are hosting a holiday gathering yourself. Happily, following these six organizational tips can help you deck the halls without losing your mind…or the spirit that inspired you to host a party in the first place.

Tip #1: Make A List…Check It Twice

When you leave the organization of lots of moving parts completely up to your brain, you’re asking for a double dose of stress. Why? Because your working memory, which allows you to manipulate and prioritize information, and remember the thread of an argument, is easily overwhelmed by the million-and –one distractions in your environment. In a herculean effort to commit those party to-do’s to memory, one of the tools your working memory uses is repetition: “Don’t forget to buy crostini. Don’t forget to buy crostini.” But it isn’t likely to repeat the items in any order, so you are left with a stressful buzz of “gotta remember” to-do’s randomly zipping in and out of your consciousness. This can make you feel like your list is longer than it actually is AND incredibly stressed you are going to forget something (which you probably will). Do yourself a favor and grab a pen and paper or a tablet or your smart phone and start a list. Start with menu items, then add décor, guest list, RSVPs, etc. Once you see everything you need to do written down in front of you in black and white, it’s a straightforward exercise to create an action plan so that you tackle it all in time.

Tip #2: Ask for Help, Please!

We know that we probably sound like broken records on this front. But honestly, delegating can make such a positive difference – to both parties! Instead of looking at your list and assuming that everything on it must be done by you, look at it and from the start figure out what you absolutely must do yourself and then what can delegate – to family members, friends, or service providers like caterers. For example, if you have children, ask them to help decorate the tree or lend a hand with holiday baking. Give them something to brag about! Each person you ask for help not only gets a sense of significance and accomplishment – but is also given an opportunity to play an important role in an event, which makes it that much more meaningful to them.

Tip #3: Host a Brainstorming Pre-Party

Sometimes when you try to do the planning yourself you get overwhelmed…and stuck. A fresh perspective or two is often just the ticket to getting unstuck and back in an energized, party-throwing kind of mood. Schedule some time with a few family members or close friends who will be attending your event, crank some tunes, pour a couple of mugs of hot chocolate and brainstorm some fun. Dream up yummy foods to serve and a few decorations to create. If you don’t have time for a gathering, chances are you have at least one or two friends on Pinterest – you could also set up a Pinboard for your party and invite good friends to pin their ideas.

Tip #4: Fit In Exercise

When you have a lot to do, it’s even more critical that you find the time to fit in exercise. Why? Because medical research shows exercise is better at boosting energy and fighting fatigue than stimulants. We know, it may seem a bit counterintuitive. But studies consistently show that exercise lifts your energy in the long run, even though it takes energy to do. Get the standard 30-minute moderately brisk workouts by walking, swimming, cleaning the house, or even moving furniture. You can divide the 30 minutes into more doable 10-minute segments, if needed. If you find yourself with ten minutes to spare and haven’t done your workout yet for the day, head on over to YouTube and search for “ten minute workouts.” There are literally hundreds of free, guided workout videos just waiting for you!

Tip #5: Put Free Printables to Use

There are literally hundreds of free printables out there in the blogosphere for everything from holiday coasters to place cards that are perfect for decking the halls on a budget. All you need is a printer. Start at {Printables pictured above via: Pizzazzerie}

Tip #6: Shop Fast

Most people we know, ourselves included, don’t have an army of sous-chefs to help them cook each dish from scratch. Save yourself some time by using convenience products like cooked cocktail shrimp or prepared pizza dough where you can. Trust us, nobody will know the difference.

Of course, another way to stay a step ahead of the chaos is to participate in our December Challenge.

{feature photo via: catch my party}

Are you hosting a gathering this year, big or small? What’s your plan?