This piece originally appeared on Fix.com.
Throwing a party can be stressful, and often the stress doesn’t fully set in until the party has begun and you are dealing with a handful of situations at once. Welcoming your guests is all about anticipating their needs, which comes with time and practice. But by doing some research in advance, you can circumvent some of those issues you may encounter and skip ahead to being a master party host! Note: this advice is coming from a person who once hosted friends for drinks without thinking to acquire a corkscrew ahead of time.
Being a gracious party host starts with making room for your guests. Often you won’t realize until after an influx of party-goers arrives that you haven’t designated closet space for coats, or an area for people to put their purses. It’s only when your artfully-arranged appetizer table is littered with clutches, and your entry way is a disaster zone of shoes and coats that you realize something is amiss.
Start by clearing your own shoes and jackets out of the area where people will naturally deposit theirs (that’s where they will end up unless you direct guests otherwise). If you’re short on closet space, try doubling up your hanger space by attaching a hanger to each current one with a soda can tab. Pro tip: use this system to move your own bounty of coats out of the way, as guests may not be quick to pick up on your clever new system!
The other key area to make room for guests is your fridge. If your fridge light is out and you can’t reach it because there’s too much food in there – that’s the first sign you need to make some room. Take it as an opportunity to throw out old food, condiments, and flat soda. Cleaning the surfaces of the fridge is a good idea, as it will be a high-trafficked spot. The same goes for the freezer: make sure there is at least some room for beverages that need cooling quickly (like wine!) and always have ice on hand. If the party is scheduled to begin in 15 minutes and you realize you forgot to arrange ice (while clinking some in a glass for your pre-party drink), you have two options: begin transferring the ice you do have to a Tupperware container and start freezing new ice, or text an ally and ask them to stop for some on the way.
For party hosts who don’t keep the cleanest of homes, a horrifying phenomenon can occur: all of the signs of a lived-in home that seem totally reasonable to you on an everyday basis suddenly become glaring displays that you’re sure your guests are staring at. Every stray fingerprint on glass or strand of hair that escaped the vacuum is visibly shaming you.
In order to host a gathering that won’t result in silent judgment from your acquaintances, you must present a clean living space. Now this doesn’t mean you need to meticulously keep house the week of the party like a 1950s housewife, since you’re not a regular party host – you're a cool party host! The key is to make your home appear clean to guests. Any spot in your home that you don’t use on a regular basis needs attention. If you normally eat meals in the living room (no judgement, I do too), the floor around your kitchen table is sure to be a haven for seaweed-like piles of hair and dust that will become immediately apparent to guests when they pull a chair out. It’s the spots you suspect the least that will betray you in the end.
The Week of the Party
Make it easy on yourself early in the week by eliminating clutter from your living room, kitchen, and hallway. At least then the inevitable cleaning flurry will be started with a fairly blank slate. If this means shoving piles of mail into a drawer – so be it. For me, hosting a party is pretty much part of my regular cleaning schedule! You can even take it as far as doing a full purge of extra clothing, coats, books – any items that are contributing to a cluttered look and collecting dust.
Speaking of dust, tackling it early in the week will make your life easier. Used dryer sheets make an excellent impromptu dust rag, particularly for electronics such as your TV. Every time you do laundry, dust a little-seen area of your home such as baseboards, shelves, and the TV stand. You can make a game of it: see how much mileage you get out of one dryer sheet and then try to beat that record!
The Final Countdown
When it comes to the day of the party, it’s time to tackle the kitchen and bathroom: the two non-negotiables. There’s no real way to fudge your way through cleaning a bathroom, so give yourself enough time to do it right. Once you’re finished, clear away all signs that you are a person that inhabits the space, except for maybe a toothbrush – think show-home vibes – and don’t forget to put out extra bathroom tissue in a visible spot!
For the kitchen, there are two approaches, and it depends on how much food you’re preparing in advance. If you’re putting out a fairly large spread, it may be best to get everything ready first and then do the dishes and clean the countertops. If you’re making a low-key appetizer or two, do a base clean earlier in the day, and save preparing the food for the last minute; your friends can help you chop things if they arrive early. Quickly stash the few kitchen implements you used in the dishwasher, an out-of-reach cupboard, or even the microwave if you’re really daring.
Right Before Guests Arrive
Make sure you have some sort of smell-disguising plan in place to cover up your food prep. Particularly if you just prepared a delicious, garlicky bruschetta mix! Having a scented candle (and lighter or matches) on hand is your best bet, or do a final lap of your home with an air freshener. If your home tends to run hot, lower your thermostat to account for it, or vice versa if it’s chilly, as the temperature may change drastically when several people arrive. Finally, make sure your music system, whatever it may be, is plugged in and ready to go – you don’t want to be soliciting your friends for their Spotify passwords as soon as they arrive! Sidenote to guests: don’t ask for your host’s WiFi password before you’ve even properly greeted them – serious faux pas. As a host, however, consider writing your WiFi network and password on a piece of paper and sticking it in an obvious place like the fridge door. “It’s on the fridge!” is a much easier answer than “A0Z32w3Mor56”!
Once your guests are trickling in, the party is on whether you’re ready or not. Get ready to relax, pour drinks, and have fun. After all, it’s a party – people know what to do!