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The holidays are coming up and that can be a magical time of twinkly lights and hot chocolate but it can also mean for some major stress, especially when it comes to hosting people at your house. Everyone loves the visual of friends around a warmly-lit table or the whole family around a fire, but a ton of work goes into getting that shot and a whole lot more goes into cleaning up after it. With all the food prep, frantic cleaning and gift-giving, how is one supposed to actually enjoy the holidays? It’s possible, we promise.

Give yourself a break

First of all, this is supposed to be fun, so if you don’t want to do something, just don’t. If you hate cooking a turkey, choose a different meal or order in. If you don’t want to trek into the cold and chop down your own tree this year, buy a pre-cut or a fake one. Traditions are important around the holidays, but they should be the reason you love them, not the reason you hate them.

Make cleaning your house about self care

If you’re hosting a holiday dinner and you need to clean the whole house, change your mindset so it’s not a chore for you. Like taking a bath or organizing your agenda, make cleaning the house feel like cleaning your mind. When the bathroom is clean, you feel clean. When you’re decluttering the table, you’re decluttering your mind. Also, enlist help. If other people live there, they can clean up after themselves.

“Lived-in” is different from “dirty”

Things don’t have to be perfect; people understand that when you’re not hosting a dinner party, you actually live in your house. As long as things are clean, you can get away with clutter. Don’t leave your dirty laundry out, but papers, books, electronics and other things you use frequently can stay out in living spaces. You don’t need to hide the fact that sometimes your house doesn’t look like a page out of Martha Stewart Living.

Remember why you’re hosting this thing at home

Yes, it is so much easier to just go to a restaurant, but your visit won’t be the same. People interact differently in a home because it is so much more intimate and personal than a restaurant. Plus, your talking time will eventually be cut off when you stop ordering post-dinner booze. At home you can just crack another bottle of wine and chat for hours more. If you really don’t want to cook a meal, at least have a post-dinner plan. Invite everyone back to your house for dessert or another drink so you can keep the night going and still have that personal environment.

That being said, if you don’t really want to spend hours chatting with the people you’re visiting with, maybe a restaurant is a good idea.

Potlucks!

Oh, so you don’t love cooking for 30 people all on your own? Shocking. Instead of taking that all on yourself, have a potluck. That way you not only don’t have to do all the cooking, you’ll probably end up with more variety. Just make sure you organize your potluck effectively so you don’t end up with six salads, twelve desserts and no main course. Either tell people what to bring or set up an email chain so that everyone knows what everyone else is bringing.

Bonus: tell everyone to bring a copy of the recipe for their offering. Hey, we all love good food.

Keep emergency food and gifts handy

There’s something about this time of year that makes people think that “just dropping in” is an okay thing to do. Instead of cowering out of sight of the front windows any time someone rings the doorbell, make some quick preparations beforehand so you’re ready if someone “drops by.”

Make sure you’re stocked with a few snacks that you could serve should someone come by for a chat — cheese and crackers, holiday cookies, hummus. Also consider picking up a few extra bottles of wine or putting together a few packages of your holiday baking in case you need to reciprocate a surprise gift. Have you ever been in the situation where a neighbour drops by with a present and you hadn’t even considered getting them anything? Keeping a few things you can gift handy saves you from that awkward moment. Just make sure they’re things you’ll use yourself if you don’t have to gift them.

Agree to next-day clean-up

When you have a party, the last thing you want to do is clean while everyone else is chatting and having a nightcap. Just don’t. Let yourself leave the mess until the next day. Rinse dirty plates so they aren’t a nightmare in the morning, but then go enjoy your party. Your guests didn’t come over to watch your back as you slave over some dishes. Let it go until tomorrow.

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