How to have a stress free Thanksgiving (or any holiday for that matter!)

With Thanksgiving about a week away, how are your preparations coming along? If you’re one of those meticulous planners, you probably have everything under control already. But, if like many of us, you still haven’t started, here’s a list that will help you plan a great Thanksgiving.

  1. Guests. Make a gust list. How many people are you expecting for the meal? How many children and adults? Call them ahead to find out who is definitely coming and if they’re bringing additional guests. Ask if they have any specific diet restrictions or preferences. (Remember, vegetarianism and veganism are in! You don’t want to end up spending hours fussing over a meal only to discover many of your guests won’t eat meat.)
  2. Menu. How many and what dishes are you planning to make?  How many side dishes? Will you be preparing all of them or is it possible to get someone else to pitch in? Some guests may be glad to bring a side dish or dessert. It might actually make them happy and reduce your work load – so everyone wins. When deciding your menu, pick the dishes that you are comfortable with. Don’t worry about outdoing someone else’s Thanksgiving. Stick with what you’re good at. And of course, a few traditional dishes.
  3. Shopping What are the things you need to buy? Check your pantry and cupboards and make a list of items you need to buy. Make a note of the quantity you will need based on your guest list. Write your note clearly and indicate which stores you plan to buy each item from, the quantities and the brand name, if you have a preference. This way, someone else can do the shopping for you, while you get something else done. It’s better to get shopping out of the way a couple of days ahead if you want to avoid the holiday rush in stores and on the road. See if you can get a couple of hours off from work in the morning when stores are least crowded.
  4. Decorations. Home made or store bought? How elaborate? Once you have decided, you can probably enlist the help of teenagers or older kids in your family. It will keep them occupied while freeing you up to prepare the meal and is also a great way to encourage participation from kids. Once you have given them the directions, don’t micromanage. When you aren’t looking over their shoulders, kids tend to do a good job.
  5. Entertainment. Think of ways to keep guests entertained during their stay. Plan for a family board game or movie. Ask your kids to bring out some of their toys, books, puzzles and games so visiting kids will have something to do. Have coloring sheets, crayons, a white board and markers handy to keep young kids engaged. For the grown ups who aren’t into watching sports, plan an activity like a stroll around your neighborhood or a card game. Don’t forget conversation. Be sure to spend some time catching up with each of your guests. Remember to take pictures of and with all your guests.
  6. Cleaning before and after. Enlist the help of all family members for getting the house in order before Thanksgiving. Allocate an area of the house or a certain chore to every member. Kids could clean up their rooms, pick up toys around the house and maybe help with wiping small surfaces like end tables and chairs. Rearrange furniture if you have to, so you can seat everybody and create conversation areas in every room. Move items you won’t be using for a couple of days like bicycles and exercise equipment away from the main entertainment space, to create more room. For after-Thanksgiving clean up, don’t hesitate to accept your guests’ offer of help. It will give you a chance to catch up and make them feel like they contributed.
  7. Miscellaneous. If you have to pick up out of town guests from the airport, see if you can get someone else to do it while you prepare the meal. If not, plan to leave work a little early, so you can get some preparation out of the way before heading out to the airport. Plan and prepare for traffic delays. Keep a watch on your local traffic beat. Keep your refrigerator stocked with extra milk, juices, vegetables and other items so you don’t have to go looking for a gas station or store that is open on Turkey Day.
  8. Send ecards. Don’t forget to send free Thanksgiving ecards to everyone – including the people who won’t be making it to your dinner. Schedule free ecards a few days ahead so you don’t have to worry about it the week of Thanksgiving. You could also print out a few Free Printable Thanksgiving cards for kids to color in.

Above all, relax and enjoy. Simply celebrate every aspect of the holiday, even if a few details happen to go wrong. Don’t sweat the little stuff. Who cares if your house isn’t spotless or if the napkins aren’t arranged like doves or if you’re one side-dish short? What’s important is that you and your loved ones have come together on Thanksgiving to think about all the things you are thankful for. Keep that in mind, and your Thanksgiving checklist won’t feel that overwhelming any more.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!