Help Desk: How to Host Thanksgiving in a Small Space

November 01, 2018

Help Desk: How to Host Thanksgiving in a Small Space


Cramped dining and cooking quarters? These space-saving hacks will have you hosting memorable holiday meals in no time.

You’re taking the plunge, daring the kitchen gods, and hosting Thanksgiving in your teeny-tiny home. Good for you! First rule of thumb to keep things fun and fulfilling is to not overdo it. We repeat, do NOT overdo it. This means creating a simple yet tasteful menu, delegating items for your guests to bring, and not planning on running a Turkey Trot while shuffling between last-minute shopping, pie baking, and decorating your table on Thanksgiving morning.

Preparation Begins November 1

Making a timeline is key for any successful Thanksgiving dinner, but especially so in a small space. You need to maximize every minute leading up to the big day, and starting now will keep your stress level at a minimum.

Dig your supplies (serving bowls, gravy boat, platters, cheese boards and knives) out of their hiding places three weeks ahead and assess what you need to purchase, donate, or replace. A new table runner or centerpiece can brighten the setting, while colorful banners, coasters, and cocktail napkins can spruce up the entryway and bar. Hang a vibrant autumnal wreath on the wall or doorway to welcome guests.

Do a Deep Clean and Declutter

Getting rid of unnecessary clutter and putting things away will give you a better idea of how to reconstruct your layout for the big feast. Vacuum, mop, and scrub all your countertops and cabinet fronts. Any countertop appliances you won’t need for the Thanksgiving meal prep should be stored in a closet to maximize your kitchen space.

Consider investing in a coat and shoe rack to minimize the chaos when people arrive. The bed full of similar black puffy coats is never a warm welcome (or goodbye, particularly after the food coma and wine make it easy for someone to leave with the wrong one).

This is also a good time to purge your fridge of random expired condiments and moldy produce. Take out all recycling and wipe down refrigerator shelves. Be sure to stock up on new food storage containers to send your guests home with leftovers—allowing your fridge a bit of breathing room, making you less inclined to overeat beyond the holiday.

Note: Don’t forget to give the bathroom a nice once-over a few days before; it will get a lot of use! Place a fall candle on a shelf for a fragrant finishing touch, while fresh hand towels are a calming presence in a crowded space.

Create Serving and Seating Alternatives

Next order of business is to get an adequate guest head count (allowing for a few last-minute stragglers or dropouts), which will allow you to inventory your seating options and buy or borrow what you need for the big meal. Poufs, floor pillows, and folding chairs are easy to move around as guests come and go. Even a step stool or overturned bucket works in a pinch.

For happy hour, designate a table or two (even a coffee table, low bookshelf, or ottoman will work) where your apps and beverages are easy to reach. Better yet, buy a bar cart!

Serving your feast buffet style is a sensible solution for tight spaces, where there may be little room for table seating. (And sometimes, guests will simply want to stand and eat while chatting, which is perfectly acceptable!) The stovetop is also ideal for serving when space is at a premium. You’ll probably need your kitchen counter space for last-minute cutting and plating—and dishes after the meal—so don’t surrender that area for serving food.

Consider using serving trays to balance dishes on the floor or around the edge of the room, or make small piles of attractive books around the periphery of the room for guests to rest their plates and wineglasses.

The tried-and-true card table and folding chairs can also be called upon, but scout around for current home furnishings you can repurpose for serving and seating. Bedroom night stands can help function as temporary side tables and a place for guests to set their drinks; media consoles are just begging to be buffets or a delicious spread of side dishes and desserts (just don’t forget to push the TV aside!).

Decorate Your Designated Dining Area

Warm up your home and set the perfect autumnal scene for a feast to remember with these ideas:

  • Put festive flourishes in one area of your home tells guests where the party is.
  • Set up pretty flowers or twigs in the serving area to add depth.
  • Put flatware, straws (preferably paper or reusable metal ones), and napkins in chalkboard jars or vintage coffee cans.
  • Organize mixers and condiments on a cute seasonal serving tray.
  • To direct the flow of the party, stack plates on the left side of the designated serving table, next to the napkins and flatware. And use fun place cards to label each dish and keep the line moving smoothly.

Solve the Cleanup Conundrum

No dishwasher? Consider upscale paper plates and bamboo flatware. Keep cleanup to a minimum by enlisting some helpful souls to pack up leftovers, wash serving ware, and take out trash on their way out. (You can always bribe them with a nightcap! Less mixers to put away.)

Instead of staying up and washing dishes when you’re wiped out–a prime time for breaking your treasured wineglasses–simply rinse and stack them on the counter for a morning clean. Meal mission accomplished!

Looking for Thanksgiving Meal Prep Tips? Try These Essential 5 Hacks.

–Kristy Ojala




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