Reaching the final month of the Gregorian calendar doesn’t mean your holiday duties are slowing down; for many of us, the final stretch is often the most hectic. This is especially true if you’re hosting a party in a small space, such as a townhouse or condo. Your circle of family and friends (likely) isn’t getting any smaller, but you’re not interested in a bigger home: How do you balance the two?
Here are six tips to make your (small) home the place to be this holiday season.
How Big can You Make Your Small Space?
Space is the main challenge, so tackle it first. What can you do to maximize floor space? If you have an open concept floor plan and have placed furniture to divide the various “rooms” for easier use, break some of it down for the time being. Is your couch floating in the middle of the living room? Pushing it flush against one of the walls on either side of the TV, rather than across from it, has the added benefit of opening up conversation circles and will encourage guests to grab a seat.
Next up, think about where you’ll be serving food and drinks. Do you want the drink station right by the front door, or to sacrifice seating around a dining table by setting it up as a buffet line? If your kitchen is large enough, place food on the countertops and stove; create a natural line and encourage guests to queue through the space and then eat elsewhere in your home. If you won’t be serving from your kitchen, as long as it’s not in the middle of your living room (we’d recommend it at least be off to the side), you’ll be alright.
If you have miscellaneous rooms or spaces, open up the doors and let guests filter in (make sure to clean those dust bunnies and store any valuables first, of course). Is there a reading nook guests could sit down in, or a desk that could serve as a tabletop for the day? If so, plan ahead how you’ll convert these spaces, such as purchasing extra seat cushions, tablecloths, or placemats. Trust us, you’ll be glad you did.
Prep Yourself for Food Prep
Want to make this event truly easy for you? Don’t go all out by planning to cook a turkey, ham, chicken, and turducken all in the same day. To be honest, you probably shouldn’t spread it out over a few days, either. Instead, go with finger food and snacks that can be prepared days in advance. This will keep you from having to frantically wipe down your kitchen between getting dressed and having guests arrive.
For even less stress, make it a potluck! Having a smaller home means you might not have enough space or bandwidth to prep and store food ahead of time; encourage each guest to bring a dish to share. Just be sure you have a solid variety and a good balance of options: This idea becomes less grand if every single one of your friends shows up with a bowl of mac and cheese and nothing else.
Store drinks in the fridge for easy access, or set them out with the food or in a cooler; just don’t have so many options you run out of places to put them. No one will unfriend you if you don’t have their favorite drink; it’s okay to limit things to a small handful of choices.
Designate a Holding Cell
Yes, this can be a place for your friends to, *ahem*, rest if they enjoy themselves too much. But more importantly, there needs to be a designated place for bags, shoes, coats, and scarves. If any part of this gathering involves gift exchanging, have a designated home for those as well. Even if some guests choose to keep their bags and personal items with them, plenty will appreciate being able to deposit their belongings in one safe spot for the evening.
We know, you weren’t going to skip this step, but it’s an important one to include in any hosting guide. Anywhere someone might be eating should be wiped down ahead of the party. If you’re taking our advice and meal prepping ahead of time, you’ll also be able to clean pots and pans ahead of time too. Have a carpet stain or wear and tear you want to hide? Because you’ve started cleaning in advance, there’s plenty of time for you to figure out how to stage your furniture.
Bathrooms should be given a good scrub down as well, and be sure to anticipate giving your guests a tour. Are your friends the type to demand to see every room? Or are they comfortable with you gesturing to a closed door, saying, “That’s the bedroom,” and moving on? You’ll need to give each room a quick touch up if you’re planning on showing off your home, especially if it’s new!
Bring in the Holiday Cheer
Nothing says holiday festivities like tabletop décor and string lights and blow up characters and a themed dress code, right? Maybe, and if you had plenty of space, these all might be a good idea. But being that your home is already easy to crowd, don’t use up precious space with over-the-top decorations. Hanging decorations are a great choice, as they won’t be using table or floor space; keep any standing decorations to the perimeter of each room, so it’s not an obstruction. Lastly, unless you have a buffet table where dishes have a specific spot and won’t be shuffled around, skip the table decorations. People will just end up shuffling them around to set down plates and lean in to conversation.
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy your own party! Just because you’re the host doesn’t mean you can’t grab a seat and catch up with old friends. Take a load off and have some fun; we promise your hosts won’t go running out the front door if they realize they have to refill their own drink.
Hosting the holidays can be stressful if you have circumstances that seemingly aren’t easily altered, such as a small home. Nonetheless, there are plenty of options and creative solutions to having your social group over without everyone feeling crammed next to one another.
Kian Zozobrado joined Builders Digital Experience (BDX) in 2019 as a content writer. A graduate of Southwestern University with a degree in English, Kian is passionate about the written word and making connections. Outside of work, Kian also serves as president of the Board of Directors for the Writers’ League of Texas.