How to Get Through The Holidays Without a Meltdown: This Little Girl's Entertaining Tips

This time of year just makes my little heart sing with excitement and anticipation. (I am making the concerted effort to ensure that joy stays focused on thanksgiving and time spent with loved ones, and not on the food. But sometimes, I dream of cheese and potatoes. Cheesy potatoes. I'm gonna eat it.)
This...is not my tablescape. 
To keep this time of year from becoming a festival of frenzy, I have some tips that I wanted to share, all of which I will be employing myself this year to avoid post-holiday regret. Regret not from over-eating, but from acting like a prize idiot because I was so busy being busy and striving for perfection that I blew up and/or totally missed the heart of the season.
1. Come up with a Gameplan...and stick to it. Decide what you will do, what you'll do if time allows, and what you need to take off your plate. Make a list if you have to and post it on the fridge, and don't hesitate to recruit an accountability partner on this. Be it your spouse, your mom, your bestie, or that gal from your moms' group who has the only other kid who can't speak French at five, celebrate a win with someone when you pare down your holiday To Do List and own it!
2. Teamwork in the House! (Haaaaay!) Before even so much as starting your gift lists or grocery shopping for the feasts that lie ahead, talk to your spouse/live-in-love/kiddos about how they can help. Try to capitalize on strengths and desires in divvying up responsibilities, and learn from previous holidays. (Journal after the first of every year if you have to so that you can embrace lessons learned and make next year even better...not judged by a more perfectly-iced bundt, but by a peaceful household and still being on speaking terms with your team by the time y'all sit down for turkey and dressing.)
3. Keep it simple, stupid. If gold-leafing individual Williams-Sonoma pears and penning upon them guests' names in calligraphy is going to make you rage out in a glorious explosion of metallic and ink, DON'T DO IT. Or, bust out that little craft for a smaller gathering that is not dangerously close to Black Friday and Red Cup madness so you can actually enjoy it. However, if you have your heart set on the perfectly gilded pear, drop something else off your To Do list, grab some golden sheets, and start those babies now.
4. Do as much as possible the day before. Not terribly ground breaking, but this has made a huge difference for me in those moments when something has gone terribly awry (the recipe lied, the oven wasn't on, I ate all the cheese, etc.) and you find yourself rushed and flustered. In that moment, you may very well throw your carefully-prepared side dish in the bowl from which you usually nom microwaved popcorn, just to get out the door in time so as to not be the last one to arrive. (Note: if you're worrying about that, you're not going to be the last one.) Having your service items laid out the night before (and even placing them where you will want it to be used for the meal itself, if you're hosting at home), will help overcome yet another decision in your panicked state. Also, lay out your clothes the night before. Especially if you're hosting, it never fails that you realize it's go-time as the doorbell rings and you're still in your kitten PJs and fuzzy socks. Set an alarm for 20 minutes before guests are scheduled to arrive (anyone earlier than that should wait in the car...or they'd better have a glass of wine for the hostess), go change into your already-selected ensemble, and have a cute apron on hand that you can use to finish up the meal. Now you're ready to jump right in when your peeps arrive!
5. Define areas so guests can gravitate toward where you want them. Don't want guests to hang out in the kitchen while you're finishing up? Don't put the appetizers and wine in the kitchen. Set up some snacks and a small beverage station on a coffee table, sideboard, TV tray if you have to, and nominate a friendly guest to show arrivals the ropes so that you can wrap it up and join the fiesta as soon as possible.
And with that said...
6. Be present. This is the one I struggle with the most, y'all. But enjoy the company while they're there, and connect with your peeps. Do dishes later, tag team with your mate on duties to split up absence from guests, and feel free to do a quick orientation at the beginning of the evening so that you aren't pulled away every time someone needs directions to the powder room or fumbles with wayward coats strewn over the chairs. When you're done in the kitchen, toss the last of the prep items in a sink full of soapy water and turn off the light. If you think you'll be distracted by a dessert still baking in the oven, choose a dessert that can be served at room temp and slice it ahead of time. Make QT the focus of every decision you make in preparing the meal, tablescape, etc. You won't regret forsaking gold pears for priceless memories with loved ones.
{Natty Note: I am BY NO MEANS the hostess with the mostest, and I frequently experience panic and a bad attitude when preparing for any more than two people (because it's not just about the food, of course...it's ambiance, a clean home, enough street parking, etc., etc., etc.), but trying to hang on to these tips will help me keep my eye on the prize and enable me to ask for help when it's needed, or know when something just needs to be skipped.}
What entertaining tip has saved your sanity?

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