How to Maximize Space for Hosting During the Holidays

Feb 9, 2024 / Laura Bolt

The winter holidays are approaching, and you know what that means: dinners, cocktail parties, and gatherings galore. Whether it’s a small get together with friends or a blowout bash for the whole neighborhood, throwing a party at home can mean lasting memories that set the right mood for the holidays.

Not to mention, with all the hustle and bustle of the season, having your gathering closer to home might be especially appealing.

However, what do you do when you’ve only got a small space to work with? Does it mean waiting to host until you move into bigger digs? Not at all. Read on for our tips for maximizing hosting space during the holidays, no matter how small your abode.

Get Your Priorities Straight

The first step in holiday hosting? Do as Santa does, and make a list (then check it twice). Lisbeth McKinley, owner of the Oakland-based professional organizing service Let’s Make Room, says “the holidays are generally a time for friends and family to gather in joy and comfort. But if you’re planning on having guests this year and you know there’s a list of things to be done before the moment you open your front door and welcome everyone in, you need to consider the decisions you have to make before doing anything else!”

Some of the questions Lis recommends asking to get started are:

  • Will I be serving a plated meal, or presenting buffet style?
  • Will I be hosting guests overnight?
  • What room(s) are the priority to get organized? Do you plan on having people open gifts in the living room, or will the kitchen be the main traffic area during get togethers?
  • Are there any special needs to consider about the guests? For example, making room for mobility aids, or doing some light childproofing for young guests?

Need some Thanksgiving decor inspo? Check out our ideas here.

Clean and Declutter

It doesn’t sound very festive, but cleaning and decluttering your home before you get ready for a party really does help maximize space.

Starting early can help you lessen that notorious holiday stress. In fact, you can integrate a decluttering mindset into your home year round. Angela Cody-Rouge, known as “Major Mom” in her decluttering business Major Organizers, recommends “having a donate box 24/7/365 on each level and in the garage clearly labeled “donate.” Bring things to Goodwill or a local charity every week or month depending on your rate of accumulation.”

This is also a great way to give back to your community—isn’t that also what the holidays are all about?

Get rid of unnecessary items, stacks of books that are taking up precious table or floor space, and counter clutter.

For items you only need out of the way temporarily, Angela recommends “using clear bins that stack so you can go floor to ceiling in the garage or basement with things that need brought back in after the holidays.”

You can stash items in an out of the way place to deal with at the new year, or you can use this as an opportunity to start your New Year’s decluttering goals early (Lis calls it giving yourself an early gift of deciding to turn this year’s holiday into something truly memorable.”)

A solid decluttering can help you open up the layout for maximum flexibility, which is important so your guests can mix and mingle. Move furniture around to open up the layout and allow for traffic flow.

Switch up groupings of chairs and other places to sit (such as ottomans). Pay special attention to the places where guests enter your home  — is there a way to create a more free flow of traffic from the entryway?

Also, look at the places where people are likely to congregate and consider how you can create more space there. Some hosts even clear off a bookshelf or two in these areas to serve as resting places for drinks and snacks.

Want more holiday storage ideas? Check out our blog.

How to Maximize Space for Parties

Group of friends using outside space for holiday gathering

As you plan your gathering, think about ways to use your entire space. Do you have a patio, yard, or balcony that can serve as an extension of the living room, and will the weather permit you to use it?

Can you use counters or other flat surfaces as buffets and bars, rather than having everything centered in the kitchen? Think about ways to use as many spaces as possible.

You can also think outside the box (or, at least outside the living room). It may seem strange to think about using your bedroom as a hosting space, but can it be a place for guests to deposit coats and purses?

Look at your space creatively and consider all the way you can use every square foot.

Decorate Small

simple holiday decor on table setup to save space

A major part of the winter holiday season is the decorations, no doubt. But full size trees and big displays take up precious hosting space. If you want to have a large tree in your home, consider waiting until after your party or event. Instead, decorate small to maximize space: small artificial or rosemary bush “trees” on end tables or counters, lots of small candles, garland swags or wreaths, even decorations hung from the ceiling.

You can set the ambiance with lights, some evergreen, and candles for a simple, yet classic, holiday look. Decorating small also helps improve traffic flow through your space.

After all, as Lis says, “will the neighbors really care if you have less lights this year?”

Speaking of lights, we’ve got some more tips on that as well.

Keep Food Simple

Skip the plated dinner — it will free up prep space, and also allow you to use your dining table as a buffet rather than needing to sit people around it. Consider finger foods, appetizers, and other items that people can eat while standing or lounging. You can display these things attractively on a single buffet or different stations around the room, and you can also bring out different dishes at different times.

While good food is always a crowd pleaser, even ambitious cooks may want to stick to the classics when hosting. Save that new recipe for your New Year’s resolutions, and stick to bites that you know you can execute. You can also consider a potluck-style service to get your guests involved (and cut down on prep time).

Consider picking up platters from a supermarket to save yourself prep space and time. Disposable plates and cups are also an option, but if you want to be earth friendly, sticking to small plates helps maximize sink and dishwasher space.

Use these tips to host your next holiday bash, and get ready to bring in the cheer!

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