I am excited to write up this guide outlining how to plan for Thanksgiving – that is, how I plan. I took on the responsibility of hosting Thanksgiving from my parents after they moved a few years ago. Even though I had always been around to help during those many years that they hosted, I can’t overstate how much you don’t think about when you aren’t the one actually hosting!
I know how overwhelming it can feel: grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, entertaining, and more – who wouldn’t be overwhelmed? It doesn’t have to be a nightmare. If you are hosting Thanksgiving this year, allow me to offer you my best tips for getting it all done without losing your mind.
Define your goals
When I say “define,” I don’t just mean “think about.” Write them down! It is the most obvious step that everybody I know skips, deceiving themselves into believing they can keep it all straight by memory alone. Don’t fall into the trap!
What goals a person sets will be unique to them, and there are no wrong answers. Getting them down on paper helps you keep track and makes it less likely that you will compromise on any of them. Here are some goals I always use:
- Prepare food ahead of time (I encourage writing the complete list of your desired dishes on a list dedicated to your food plans!): Turkey, stuffing, corn, pumpkin pie…
- Clean the house.
- Maintain space for games/quality time with family
- Ask for help!
Budget your time
Once you know what you want to achieve, then budget your time. Time gets away from us fast, so planning how you spend it is the best way to avoid running out!
Start by listing your tasks, labeling each with how long you expect it will take. Add an hour for safe measure! For example:
- Clean house – 3 hours
- Grocery shopping – 3 hours
- Cook pies – 4 hours
- Decorate – 2 hours
- Quality time – 8 hours
Once you have everything you want to accomplish written down, look at your calendar and assign tasks where you have space for them. Many dishes – especially deserts and sides – can be prepared a day or two ahead, which will help you keep space available for time with family during Thanksgiving day. The same goes for cleaning and decorating!
I encourage you to leave space available for rest! If you plan to accomplish your tasks ahead of time in the hours after you get home from work, try to reserve an hour or two to relax. If you cram every spare moment you have leading up to Thanksgiving with chores, you will probably burn out!
Ask for help
As I implied a paragraph ago, many of us balance preparing for and hosting Thanksgiving with a busy work schedule. Even for those who don’t, there is a lot of work that goes into hosting Thanksgiving. Being a good host does not mean doing everything on your own. It is as they say: “Many hands make light work”!
With that in mind, return to your list of goals and notice tasks you have difficulty fitting into your schedule. Maybe there are one or two you loathe to do, but which you know your friend or sibling wouldn’t mind. The more tasks you can delegate to your guests, the less burden hosting will be on your time and wallet.
Even guests flying in from far away can pitch in! If they arrive early, they can give you a hand cooking or cleaning. If they come close to the meal after you’ve already finished everything, ask them to wash dishes afterward! I recommend asking them early rather than springing it on them at the table. For me, it is a phone call to my son a few days before: “Hey son, I know you won’t be able to bring anything to share since you are flying in – no problem! Would you please wash the dishes after dinner? That would be a big help to me!”
I must confess: I am lousy at keeping my fridge organized. Even though I’ve written about great ways to do it on this blog, it’s one chore with which I am not very diligent. So believe me when I tell you that if you don’t organize space for the dishes you prepare, you will run out of it!
Thanksgiving provides an excellent opportunity to rummage through your fridge and purge it of expired food, combine condiments you accidentally bought extra of (I have a silly habit of forgetting we already have enough mustard), and generally optimize for space.
Once you’ve made plenty of space, look back at your list of planned dishes and designate where in the fridge you want to put them. Use your as-of-yet empty pie and casserole dishes as placeholders to map it out. If you want to go above and beyond, label dedicated space with painter’s tape and Sharpie!
Make it fun!
I offer this advice with all of my cleaning tips – link the chore with something you love. That might be listening to your favorite musical artist or a gripping audiobook. It might be putting on your favorite sitcom to glance at while you work.
In the short term, doing this helps the time pass and diminishes the fatigue of all the work. In the long term, linking activities you enjoy to chores like cooking and cleaning helps create a positive association with those tasks. Over time, we begin to enjoy them!
I know how much work it is to host Thanksgiving, and I hope these tips help you. Are you hosting and need some help cleaning up before or after your gathering? We at Master Clean can help! Give us a call today to schedule your Thanksgiving home cleaning!