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Organize to Entertain

11/15/2012 2:24 PM | Anonymous

by Terry Cooch of TLC Home

The holidays are the time to gather with friends and family. We enjoy conversation, laughter and togetherness. We reminisce about the past and reveal our plans for the future.  Being the one who brings this together offers great satisfaction and appreciation. Yet many of us hesitate to do so. Planning a party may seem too overwhelming, with too many hurdles to overcome. But once the desire to entertain is moved up the priority list, a strategy can be devised to achieve this goal.

Set a realistic goal: Determine what you love about entertaining, what you enjoy and do well. Consider your time, budget and energy level. Design a party around all of these considerations. If you love a creative menu, but hate to cook, then get theme-y and get to a gourmet deli.  You’re a talented cook, but not into details? Then skip the flowers and feed your guests well - that is what they’ll enjoy and remember. If making your house look its best is important to you, then focus on decorations and lighting and keep the menu and bar simple.

Develop a plan: Pick a date, make the guest list and send invitations, and decide on the mood and menu. If cooking, be sure to plan plenty of make-ahead recipes and keep to your comfort and talent level. Make beverage plans and prep the bar. Prepare the shopping list and schedule time to clean and decorate. Tip: guests have a great time when they feel they are being treated. Plan for one or two gourmet touches. Over-sized bowls of candy, special candles, or a glass of champagne are just the signal that your mission was to please.

Do, Delegate or Drop: Manage your to-do list by first evaluating your plan.  Prioritize by importance -calligraphed place tags add an elegant touch, but the evening can go on without them. If the ice is never picked up, that could put a damper on the fun. Decide when, where, and how all of your to-do’s will be carried out. If this is your first party, allow twice as much time as you planned to complete your list. Most importantly, delegate what you can. Plan early and communicate the help you will need. Be specific when it matters.  Assume nothing. Don’t ask for red wine if you wanted a cabernet. If the list is still too long, consider hiring help or letting something go, keeping the focus on sharing your home.

Short cuts are the new perfection: Gone are the days when perfection is expected. Knowing how to entertain simply is in. Having a friend that makes favors and place settings can set you free from doing it. It can be just as impressive to know where to buy something new and delicious as to prepare it yourself. Take advantage of that to enjoy the evening as much as your guests. Overlook what you missed, spilled, forgot or burned and everyone else will. 

Do it again: Plan for the next party while executing this one. Keep a list on party day and while you are cleaning up of all the ideas that come to you. Jot down the problems you encountered and how you could simplify further.  What could make clean-up easier? How could I get the costs down?  Take note as to whether you would consider hiring serving or clean-up help, if you still felt stress during the party. Include notes on serve-ware to purchase or fussy recipes to drop.  Be sure to keep a copy of the menu and shopping list in a party notebook and re-use all of your successful plans for a different group.

Hosting a successful party is enormously gratifying. It requires obtainable organizing skills to prepare for and carry out. Moderate goals and expectations and liberal use of list-making are instrumental in creating an atmosphere for all to enjoy.

© 2012 Terry Cooch, TLC HOME LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Terry L. Cooch is a writer and blogger for Nesting Magazine, a professional organizer and owner of TLC Home LLC Professional Organizing Services.

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