Whether you’re a seasoned hostess or are having your first in-home party, clutter can be the cause of great angst. It can creep up when least expected and make stress levels soar to unprecedented heights. And, it’s not simply physical clutter in the kitchen, dining area and other rooms of the house. Mind clutter has a way of working against even the most practiced party planners.
“Planning is essential,” offers Eileen Roth, organizing tour guide and author of “Organizing For Dummies.” “Begin by making separate lists for food, drinks and entertainment.”
When planning, think of the big picture. “Beyond planning invitations, menu and decor, make a plan for your home,” says Anna Maria Mannarino, award-winning interior and event designer and owner of Mannarino Designs, Inc.
“First identify the areas in the party space which appear to be the most cluttered,” adds Lauren Williams, certified professional organizer and owner of Casual Uncluttering LLC.
Together, Roth, Mannarino and Williams offer 10 must-have organizational strategies for entertaining. And the best thing about these systematic approaches in party-prepping is you can use them for both your home and mind palace.
When clearing clutter in preparation for a party, Williams suggests doing so in a linear fashion. “Clear those spaces one at a time, not in a zig-zagging pattern,” she says. “This makes it easier to track where you’ve already organized.”
A systematic room-by-room approach will also allow a host to take inventory of what alterations need to be made to accommodate guests.
“Determine if the furniture will need to be moved or removed from areas, as well as small items,” Mannarino says.
If items need temporary removal for party purposes, what’s the best way to store them?
“If it’s a lot of pieces, select an area, such as an alternate room, garage or shed where items and furniture can be temporarily stored,” Williams says.
If you’re looking for a quick fix for stashing smaller items, Roth suggests using boxes or bags to put things in until you have time to put them away properly.
To effectively think ahead in event planning, it’s often best to plan backward on the calendar.
“If the date of the party is on a Saturday, put it on the calendar, and then work backward,” Williams explains. “Note all the important steps for prepping the party. For example, if you want to bake a yeast bread for the party, you’d probably need to start that bread two or so days prior. ‘Baking bread’ would therefore go on the calendar on Thursday.”
Even if you plan on having an outdoor event, especially to avoid having to organize indoors, proceed with caution.
“Not having a plan B for an outdoor event, whether planning a small gathering or large event, can become problematic,” Mannarino says. “The reality is that perfect weather is never a guarantee. Preparations should be made ahead of time if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.”
If it’s a small event, Mannarino recommends clearing appropriate space indoors as your plan B. Larger events may need a backup plan that includes an outdoor tent.
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Part of why it’s essential to create prep lists is to make sure you don’t overlook commonly forgotten components of event planning. All our organizational experts encourage you to identify:
- Seating arrangements
- Color themes
- Menu items
- Cooking times
- Table settings
The more items on your prep list, the more organized you’ll feel.
Once you’ve identified the types of food, beverages, dishware and other party essentials, it’s crucial to make sure you have adequate supply to meet the guest count.
“I find my clients overbuy or underbuy for parties quite routinely,” Williams says. “So at least two weeks in advance, plan out what you’ll need and buy it or confirm that you’ve got enough.”
If the prospect of decluttering and organization is more physically and mentally demanding than you anticipated, consider delegating tasks. While hiring an organizational expert or caterer is a wise option, there are other ways to relieve yourself of event planning duties.
“Delegate tasks to other people,” Roth says. “Consider having a casual event where people can bring food — like a potluck.”
“Hire a helper! It doesn’t necessarily need to be a party professional,” Mannarino suggests, “but an extra pair of hands will ease the pressure. Someone can take coats, offer guests a beverage, assist in the kitchen and help with cleanup.
“People who are challenged by organization often forget the afterward,” Williams says. “There’s going to be cleanup — the dishes and laundry for tablecloths and napkins. You want to put the entire day after the party on your calendar to transition into back to ‘normal.’”
It may sound simple, and it is, but in a pinch, closing doors to cluttered rooms is one of the best time and organizational savers.
“Close the door to rooms that you don’t have time to declutter and that people won’t be in during your event, like a bedroom,” Roth says.
Seasonal themes are one of the best quick fixes for a host who’s short on time, organizational prowess and money. Often, home entertainers already have seasonal decor and party pieces on hand.
“Creating vignettes and decorating key areas can make a big impact,” Mannarino says. “Keep the theme throughout, starting with the invitation; placing small items (like flowers) on food trays or stations; even a little touch in the bathroom!”