30 Ways To Get Ready To Host Thanksgiving (That Have Nothing To Do With Cooking)

Organized Spice Drawers

My mother-in-law helped me get the spice drawers organized. Yay!

Who else is getting ready to host Thanksgiving this year? Meagan and I had so much fun taking your questions about it on yesterday’s episode of The Home Hour, and today I’m going to share some of the little ways I’ve been getting my home ready for the holiday – most of which have very little to do with cooking the meal itself.

It’s really easy to fixate on The Big Meal when it comes time to start thinking about Thanksgiving. We’ve ordered our turkey already, and a handful of emails between my family members have gone back and forth, assigning menu items and divvying up cooking jobs. But as important as the menu planning is, it’s just a small piece of what’s involved in hosting Thanksgiving at your house.

In the past I’ve had other tasks sneak up on me at the last minute and kind of put a damper on my enjoyment (like realizing at the eleventh hour that we’re out of trash bags, or that 87% of my “clean” knives have weird peanut butter schmutz on them). I’ve been so focused on the meal planning and cooking that I’ve overlooked other areas of the entertaining process; not that any of it is a matter of life or death, of course, but nonetheless this year I’m trying to get ahead on some little ways to ready my home for guests and merrymaking.

Here are 30 things you can do around the house this weekend to get ready for Thanksgiving. I’m sure I won’t get around to ALL of these jobs, but at least listing them in one place will put my mind at ease as we head into the more hectic pace of next week.

Take Inventory

Walk around your kitchen, pantry, and storage areas with a notepad or your smartphone. Make a note of items you are low on, out of, or that have expired. I see this as separate from the grocery list you’ll make for the actual meal itself, and more of a way to take stock of what you have and pick up a few staples that may come in handy – regardless of the recipes you’ve chosen.

  • Common spices (use this list from Real Simple if you’re not sure what you’re missing)
  • Common staples and dry goods (tea, coffee, butter, jam, sugar, flour, etc.)
  • Paper towels
  • Cleaning rags/sponges
  • Trash bags
  • Large food storage bags
  • Food storage containers with lids to match (this is a good time to toss the orphans and chuck the extra plastic!)
  • Tin foil and/or plastic wrap
  • Dish soap/detergent

How To Host Thanksgiving, entertaining

Prepare The Kitchen

Think about the food that will be prepared in the kitchen – not only on Thanksgiving, but throughout the holiday weekend. We’ll have a few family members actually staying with us and a few more at a hotel nearby, so there will be several breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners to think about in addition to Thanksgiving dinner itself. You might also want to tackle a few cleaning jobs that will make you feel good about serving food and drinks (ahem, like those stained coffee mugs).

  • Print out all recipes on your Thanksgiving menu (or make a paper copy if they come from a book) and keep them in one place; I’m going to keep mine in plastic sheet protectors in a small binder, I think
  • Create a “shopping list central” – an easily seen area where anyone can add items to a grocery shopping list for those last-minute trips
  • Make a loose menu plan for all the non-turkey meals (even if the “plan” is to get take-out or eat leftovers)
  • Do a quick scan of the fridge and toss out anything expired, near-empty, or gathering mold.
  • Rinse all wine glasses in hot water and wipe dry
  • Clean out stained coffee mugs (see below for how)
  • Get out large serving pieces (platters, bowls, and utensils) and assign dishes to each; I put a sticky note on each one and leave it there until it’s time to serve
  • Sharpen knives
  • Run your dishwasher’s “sanitary wash” setting while it’s empty, or use a hard water treatment like Lemi-shine 

How To Clean Coffee Stains

Ready The Nest

Whether you’re having overnight guests or just those who will stay for dinner, think through your guests’ time in your home. You can also get ahead on the type of laundry that inevitably backs up during holidays like Thanksgiving, and take care of little things to make together-time more enjoyable.

  • Wash sheets, pillow cases, and extra blankets and set aside
  • Wash and fold cloth napkins if you plan to use them for Thanksgiving dinner (no need to iron if you fold right out of the dryer!)
  • Stock extra toilet paper in bathrooms
  • Stock a drinks/bar area with as many easy self-serve items as possible (to minimize guests rummaging through the kitchen at inopportune times); gather bottle openers, wine glass charms/markers, napkins, an ice bucket, etc. 
  • Make sure your cleaning supplies and rags are stocked and easily accessible for spills and cleanup (don’t forget to read Meagan’s deep cleaning posts if you’ll be cleaning this weekend)

Plan For Fun!

There’s more to Thanksgiving than turkey and football, right? (Just say yes.) I’ve had a lot of fun thinking about ways to keep busy as we cook and visit over the long weekend. You don’t have to think like a cruise ship social director, but just having a few ideas in mind might help you feel more prepared.

  • Make a music playlist, create a new Pandora or Spotify station, or go through your CD collection to find some music everyone will enjoy
  • Check local TV listings and set your DVR to record the Macy’s parade, the games you want to watch, and any other holiday programming that might come in handy for family viewing
  • If your family loves to laugh at old photos and videos, grab the albums and have them somewhere handy
  • Pick up some new coloring or activity books for younger kids that you can bring out when little ones are getting squirrelly
  • Go through your board games and playing cards to make sure all the decks are complete and the pieces are there
  • Charge your camera batteries and clear the memory card to make room for photos

Phew, I’m tired already! But really, these are things that can help relieve stress during Thanksgiving if you tackle them over the next several days (and, I have to admit, it was SO satisfying cleaning those stained mugs). 

What have I missed? How are you preparing your home to host Thanksgiving?

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