Organizing Thanksgiving

Posted on Nov 18 2011 - 10:30am by David Decker

This upcoming Thanksgiving holiday don’t let the hassle of planning or traveling get in the way of enjoying your feast-of-a-day.  All too many times I’ve seen a stressed out family member spend the day cooking and cleaning up after others, when they should have been relaxing … and making others help with the duties.  Having a clear-cut plan, and articulating that plan can keep the day from being a mess, and one that will actually make you thankful.  So gather ’round the turkey, bring the pumpkin pie, and use your organizing skills to help make this holiday a smooth-flowing one.

Make Plans to Relax and De-Stress
First things first, what is your status for the holiday?  Are you hosting?  Traveling?  Just visiting from across town?  Whatever your status is will help you craft your organizational plan.   If you’re hosting, one of my biggest tips would be to go ahead and stock up on the chill pills ASAP.  Whether that is wine, working out, or meditating – things are going to get stressful.  Be sure to make time for yourself to do things that you know will calm you, or have those items on-hand while you’re readying your home.  The calmer you are, the better the day will go.  Inevitably, something will go wrong but that doesn’t mean you should let it affect you.  Did your cousins bring the same type of dessert?  Grandma got lost in traffic?  Just chalk it up to making memories.  (Although, really, you should make sure Grandma is ok…)

Keep All Your Plans in One Place
I decided to help make my life easier by creating a “Thanksgiving Day” folder on my computer.  First, I talked to each family member, found out how many were planning on coming, what time, and what dishes they were bringing.  I may have also hinted as to what we’d need!  I transferred all of my notes that I scribbled down on my smart phone and on post-its to a digital file, and saved all of the information I gathered into the folder.  I know one of my weaknesses is to write notes on scrap pieces of paper, only to never look at them again. By making a concentrated effort to save all notes digitally, in one location, I was sure to not misplace anything!

Set Accommodation Deadlines
Another main focus of mine was where everyone was staying.  I offered my home, of course, but insisted that they let me know as to whether I should expect them.  Crashing last minute is unfair to the host, and ultimately there just may not be room. I can host 6 people at my house, and let my family know that limit.  I gave everyone a deadline to let me know their accommodations by, with the first 6 to respond “winning” the free bed at my home.  I also prepared a list of nearby hotels to email them after we spoke.  That way, their sleeping arrangements were out of my hands and it was then up to them to coordinate.  One less thing to worry about!

Make “Loose” Seating Charts
Next, I created a seating chart.  I wasn’t as extreme to set out nametags gluing each person to a chair, but rather I created a seating chart that listed numbers and ages.  Knowing I would want the children on the tiled floor, I made sure there were enough chairs for them in the kitchen.  Then the adults could have their pick of the tables, with plenty of seats for everyone.

Create Cooking Schedules
Now comes the most important part, the food!  With so many people coming, and with multiple dishes to be made, it’s often hard to fit in enough cooking and heating time for all the food.  To remedy this, I created an oven schedule for all of the dishes to be made.  Based on temperatures and cooking lengths, I made a color-coded chart of when each item should be cooked.  On Thanksgiving day, I plan on printing out a copy and taping it to my microwave for easy access.  That way, whoever may be standing near the oven when the timer goes off will know which dish to take out, and which one to place in the oven to cook.

Be A Respectful Guest
If you’re the guest, it’s your job to make the host’s life as easy as possible.  Offer to help, and mean it.  Men – that means you only watch two football games, not all three.  Timeout and halftime is a good time to help, too. Bring what you say you’ll bring, and keep your spouse/children/dogs (if your host is generous enough to let you bring your pet) under control.  A simple, “Oh don’t let Sparky [or Bobby your son!] jump on you,” isn’t cutting it.  It’s not your family’s job to discipline your dog or your children, and will more than likely make them feel uncomfortable.  And finally, make an effort to get along.  Even though bringing family members together can cause friction, remember what your parents told you before you went off to a sleepover: “Being a guest means being on your best behavior.”

With a little organization and pre-planning, you can help make the holidays an enjoyable and stress-free event.  Use these simple tricks to make your Thanksgiving day go as smoothly as possible.  Have more tips for holiday organization?  Let us know!

Click on the following link for a checklist to help you organize Thanksgiving: Organizing Thanksgiving Checklist


2 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Irene November 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm -

    I like to use the sticky notes on my Mac laptop. I think that PC has a similar program that you can install. It's better than the paper ones (which can get lost) and you can copy and paste and consolidate your notes to yourself into one digital note.

  2. Leah November 21, 2011 at 10:01 pm -

    Great post Jessica, love the checklist! I printed it out and put it on my fridge. I need to make sure my boyfriend reads this, he could easily watch three footballs games without even getting off the couch.