Tips for an Organized Thanksgiving

The holiday season is a mixture of peace, joy, tradition, and chaos. For most of us, chaos is unavoidable—holiday celebrations are family affairs. The more people you add to the mix, the greater your chances of commotion, confusion, and the unexpected. Some families get through the holidays with just enough chaos to keep things interesting. For the rest of us, however, the chaos can be overwhelming.


You can often reduce your holiday chaos with a few minutes of planning and preparation. This year, start your Thanksgiving with a plan. Take notes in your planner to help you envision the event and consider the unexpected.


Who’s coming to dinner?

As you plan for your guests, consider their needs. Will the children need a way to stay entertained and occupied? Is there a place where the younger kiddos can play without interrupting the conversations that the adults are trying to have? Might it help if you picked up a package of diapers for the grandkids, just in case? If you worry that you don’t have enough room, you may consider renting a larger venue, or setting up tables in the basement or outside.


What will you eat?

Decide what you plan to have for dinner. The traditional Thanksgiving dinner includes turkey, ham, potatoes, salad, and pie, but you may prefer something different—like tacos! How will you prepare it? Who will bring which course? As you plan the foods your family and friends will bring to the meal, consider the travel needs of your guests. Those who travel the farthest should probably not be the ones bringing the tossed green salad or the ice cream.


Give yourself plenty of time.

Once your menu is decided, write a grocery list and shop early. Shopping early helps ensure that the ingredients you need are in stock at the store. If everyone is cooking essentially the same meal, some items may be in high demand. Plus, if you shop early, you’ll have time to return to the store for those little things you discover that you don’t have. Prepare as much as you can ahead of time, so you can keep your oven free when you need it most.


Create a timeline.

Sketch out a timeline for Thanksgiving Day. When will you start cooking? When will your guests arrive? Will you have snacks? When will game time start? When will you serve the food? It may sound simple, but having a schedule of events will make a big difference for everyone involved. It’s especially important for young children who thrive on a routine. They won’t be constantly asking if it’s time to eat, or if they have time to play one more game with their cousins.


As you walk through each aspect of the day in your planner, you’ll come up with ideas to calm the chaos. Include those solutions in your timeline. Don’t take all the responsibility on yourself, delegate as many things as you can to your family and friends, so the work is light for all involved.


Then, go for it! Smile when things go according to plan, and laugh when they don’t. Happy Thanksgiving!

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