The holidays are a time for family and friends to gather, celebrate, reminisce, and look ahead to the New Year and a brighter future. For some homeowners, it’s also a stressful time as they cope with an awkward or inefficient home design, especially kitchens, exacerbated by the increase in activities during the holidays. In fact, one of the biggest remodeling motivations we hear from clients is to make their homes better suited for entertaining.
The purpose of this article is two-fold: to provide you with some tips to ease the stress of entertaining this holiday season while enabling you to use them to identify areas of your home that could be improved so that entertaining next year will be even easier.
Happier holidays: Tips for stress-free entertaining
The holidays should be happy, not harrowing. Nobody likes the stress of preparing to have guests descend on their home, only to have people under foot while they’re still trying to make room, prepare food, and clean up. To avoid that stressful scenario, here are seven tips for easier entertaining, along with some remodeling ideas to alleviate some problems you might identify as you put these tips to use.
1. Clean up and clean out
Dirt and clutter are your worst entertainment enemies. Nothing ramps up frustration like sticky counters and no room to put anything. Start by putting away anything you’re not going to use – small appliances, canisters, knickknacks – to make room for food prep and whatever your guests might be bringing. Then wipe down cabinets, countertops, and baseboards so all that freed-up space is fresh and clean. Don’t forget to get rid of expired consumables and questionable leftovers to make room for holiday meal ingredients and treats.
Don’t have a lot of storage space to put away those small appliances and other countertop occupants? Consider adding a pantry or more efficient cabinets and shelving to help get that stuff out of the way.
2. Assign tasks to family and friends
Despite what you might think, you can’t do it all yourself. Enlist family members and friends who might be co-entertaining with you to take on various assignments, such as taking guests’ coats; whisking away recyclables, trash, and dirty dishes; and managing pets to keep them out of the way so you can deal with everything else.
Don’t have dedicated pet space to keep Fido out from underfoot, or enough room for outerwear and stuff that comes into the house? Consider adding an out-of-the-way pet feeding station, more closet or storage space, or even a mudroom.
3. Keep your appliances clean
Nothing can defeat your best efforts in preparing and presenting a beautiful holiday meal than dirty, inefficient appliances. Even the tastiest of dishes can be ruined by an oven that is smoking and smells of old, cooked-on food. Or a cup of your special Christmas coffee that comes out bitter and acrid from coffeemaker build-up. A little cleaning goes a long way. Never mind the embarrassment it will save you when that unsuspecting helpful guest opens your oven door, only to be greeted by a horror show of charred food remains.
A second oven enables you to add flexibility and versatility to your cooking repertoire. You’ll be able to roast and bake at the same time, producing multiple dishes simultaneously. Also, adding a dedicated warming drawer can keep everything warm and ready so you can time meal-serving perfectly.
4. Plan your food prep
A surefire way to add stress to your holiday entertaining is not knowing what you’re going to serve until the last minute. Plan your holiday menus and purchases in advance so you know what you’re making and you have everything on hand to make it. Many people have little or no idea about what’s in their spice cabinet. And whatever’s there is often years – even decades – old. It helps to have a pantry or some kind of efficient food storage space handy and organized so you know exactly what you have and what you need.
Not enough food storage space? Turn an old closet or unused kitchen space into a pantry or storage area with efficient, pull-out racks or modular storage units that can help you keep everything neat and organized for easy access.
5. Determine all your dinnerware
Are you one of those households that has good china and silverware? Well, this is the time to get it out and get it ready. Pull down the platters and polish the silver. Make sure you’ve got everything you need – a serving dish, bowl, or tray for every food item and the utensils they require. Don’t wait until the last minute, when the food is ready to serve, to start looking for something to put it in or on.
Having enough storage space for china, serving dishes, utensils, and glassware is key for organizing efficient mealtime service. Being able to put dishes and other items away in a dedicated space such as a hutch, china cabinet, or storage pantry keeps everything together, clean, and ready for you to quickly set attractive place settings and create a beautiful table.
6. Set up serving stations
Entertaining at any time of the year goes smoother when there are separate, dedicated serving stations to eliminate confusion and congestion. It’s much easier to avoid snafus when you’ve planned ahead, set aside space, and have all your beverages, ingredients, ice, barware, glassware, serving dishes, utensils and any other items ready for cocktail time, hors d’oeuvres, a sit-down dinner or buffet, dessert, and coffee. And don’t forget Tip #1 – make sure your countertops are clean and ready for setting everything out.
If you do a lot of entertaining, consider adding dedicated areas and features for various tasks and activities, such as a wet bar, coffee and hot beverage station, ice machine, under-cabinet beverage refrigerator, even a wine room.
7. Make cleanup convenient
Once your guests have gone, it’s easy to call it quits and just say, “I’ll deal with this in the morning.” Instead, make it easy to get it done with trash bins that are already empty and ready to receive the trash your holiday party generated. Likewise, the dishwasher. That should be clean and empty before your party so dirty dishes can go right in without being staged in the sink or on the counter. To make clean-up go smoother, assign tasks to family members (and willing friends) beforehand so everyone can start to tackle clean-up right away. Better yet, make things easy for guests to clean-up after themselves, with readily accessible trash cans and recycling bins.
Nobody likes trash cans that are out in the open and in the way. Consider convenient, under-counter pull-out trash containers with handy nearby trash bag storage. Also, a dedicated recycling area with modular bins or other containers for separated items that can be easily removed and emptied makes recycling less of a hassle.
There's always room to improve
We hope you have found these holiday entertaining tips helpful. If your home is already capable of handling your entertainment needs, so much the better. However, if upon reading these tips, you realize that your kitchen, dining, or other spaces aren’t suitable for your entertaining needs, then maybe it’s time to consider a remodeling project. There’s always room to improve – whether it’s how you entertain or where.
Whether remodeling is in your future or not, we wish you and yours the very happiest of holidays.