Ah, the holidays. They are the perfect opportunities to gather with friends and family to enjoy a good dose of merriment together. But times that should be a balm to the soul can turn into nerve-racking ordeals if you’re hosting lots of people in your home. Don’t worry! Things will be different this year — if you follow these very simple guidelines for taking some of the weight off your shoulders.

Get organized — early!

Much of any holiday-hosting stress comes from making last-minute decisions and not knowing exactly what you need to do in order to be ready for your guests. Resolve this by getting extra-organized in the days before your event. You can use whatever organization method works best for you. For example, simply making a list on a notepad is a simple yet effective way to do it. You could also use apps that are designed to help you get organized, including Google Docs and Evernote.

Be prepared — also early!

Doing everything on the day of your holiday entertaining is a recipe for a stressed-out affair. Instead, use all that organizing you did beforehand to figure out exactly what you can buy in advance and go get those supplies. Also, take the day before your event to do everything that can be done ahead of time, such as laying the table and prepping ingredients.

Simplify your menu

You don’t have to make a meal worthy of a gourmet restaurant in order to be successful at holiday hosting. Take the pressure off by turning to simple recipes with fewer ingredients or that don’t require much prepping or cooking. You can also ask your guests to bring dishes of their own, or make your go-to weeknight recipe. Anything goes, as long as it’s tasty!

Make more than you think you need

It’s always possible for one of your guests to bring a kid or a houseguest along at the last minute, so make your portions bigger than you think you need them to be. That way, you won’t sweat a last-minute addition, and you’ll be able to enjoy the truth in “the more, the merrier.” And, if only the people on your guest list show up, there will be enough food for them to enjoy seconds — or for you to eat as yummy leftovers the next day.

Have a playlist ready to go

Ambiance is everything when it comes to holiday entertaining. Set the mood right off the bat with a playlist that perfectly captures the atmosphere you’re trying to create. Curate your own playlist full of your favorite seasonal (or not!) songs ahead of time, or pick from your preferred streaming platform’s many available options. Pro tips: Don’t play the music so loud that it forces guests to raise their voices. (The sound of their own talking is its own kind of music.). And, make sure to have plenty of instrumental music on your playlists, so that the words of the singers don’t compete all day or night with the words of your guests.

Invite your guests in with a sign

Running back and forth from the kitchen to the front door isn’t relaxing! Circumvent this holiday-hosting inconvenience by unlocking the door and placing a sign on it, telling your guests to let themselves in. You can make the signs as simple or as decorative as you like. A bonus of this idea? It will make your guests feel instantly at home — so everybody wins!

The holidays should be fun, not stressful — so entertain without feeling strained this holiday season by integrating these tips into your holiday-hosting planning. Happy entertaining!

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