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Thanksgiving is two days away. THANKSGIVING IS TWO DAYS AWAY. No way! I am (you guessed it) not prepared. This year, several relatives are coming to my house for Thanksgiving. For about 20 years, I travelled on Thanksgiving. And now it’s my turn to stay home! No more will I listen to ALL 100 of the top 100 songs from 1978 while going from exit 7a to exit 7 on the New Jersey Turnpike! I will not be drying my hands with a blower in a public restroom! I will be sleeping in my own bed with my own pillow and I like it that way.

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Yep, those are crumbs from a terrible mishap with melty ice cream cake from several weeks ago.

I would love to say that a month ago, when I decided to host Thanksgiving, I confirmed with all ofthe guests that they were indeed coming and checked on their dietary restrictions (still playing phone tag with my siblings). After that, maybe I organized all of the closets so visitors could hang their coats and we could find our winter garb easily, because of course the weather was ripe for a change (the kids went to school with socks on their hands today because we can’t find any gloves and it was 12 degrees this morning). And my cupoards, pantry, freezer and refrigerator, not to mention that dishwasher a recent guest noted “stinks really bad” (have I turned into a bitter old thing or is it not proper etiquette to tell your host something in their house stinks?) have been cleaned, sanitized and otherwise organized as necessary.

Well, dear reader, none of those things happened.  Instead, I hosted two family birthday parties, had my middle-schooler’s friends over to recreate the TV show Chopped for her birthday party, took the bikes to the bike shop 75 times and attended one Yoga class. I may have also gotten my hands on the new season of Downton Abbey early (Lady Edith, history tells me this isn’t the happy ending you think it will be!) and started writing this blog.

So, what to do? I have a number of easy steps not divisible by five that will get me on track by turkey time, and they’ll work for you too!

  1. Triage the trash. If you have guests coming, think first about the areas they will be and get them in ship shape. Obviously, guests who aren’t staying the night need never see your bedroom, and if you have a powder room near the entertaining areas, why worry at all about second floor? Just don’t forget and offer to take everyone on a tour of the place only to literally air your dirty laundry.
  2. Once you know what you aren’t worried about, pick the three or four most embarrassing messes and fix them. Bathrooms are probably number one here.  You don’t want your guests calling out for toilet paper from within the bathroom and you certainly don’t want them saying “What’s a NuvaRing?” if you haven’t really tidied up in there. The dishes are always a close second for me. Crumbs on the table or counter area where you will be hanging out are next. Then I’ll get into the tangle of coats and shoes that often overwhelm our mud-room. It’s good to welcome guests somewhere that you don’t come into the house if possible to keep the regular madness out of site if possible.

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    Once you turn your attention to making sure there is toilet paper you can also make it fancy.

  3. Don’t get stuck on fixing everything perfectly. Unless your guests are realtors for an open house, clean doesn’t have to be more than a façade. Yes, that bin of scarves has become clogged with mismatched gloves and a few My Little Ponies rigged with hair ties to a Barbie, but now is not the time to dump everything on the floor and weed out the bad. There is another adult who lives with me who is great at making a giant mess while cleaning up, which is great for ANY OTHER TIME THAN RIGHT BEFORE COMPANY ARRIVES but will start my left eyeball twitching every time. Which leads me to number 4.
  4. Put the right person on the right job. If that person really loves to pull everything apart to put it together, let them work on the area that is already all out there. I have had great success putting that person on dishes – they are usually already out and dirty and there are not a lot to throw out or put somewhere new. I have another person in the house who loves to put puzzles together and has a short attention span. Her job is often to fit all the shoes on the mud-room floor onto shelves.
  5. Know when your guests will arrive. It sounds obvious, right? Ask the family to come for dinner at 2 and see them at 2. Not in reality! There are two sides in my family, the chronically late and the chronically early. On a holiday, you usually have an idea of your guests timeliness and you can adjust. I have been known to tell some guests that dinner is at 3 because I know I’ll see them a little before 2, whereas others are told to be there at 1 and will meet the first group at the door.  If you aren’t sure, you can always ask them to call or text when they are on their way. It is also a great help to ask early arrivers to pick something up for you on the way if you are comfortable enough to ask.

So that was actually divisible by 5 but they truly are the five things that I will be doing to prepare for my guests on Thursday, no more, no less. What are your best last-minute ideas to prepare for company?

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