This past week was a holiday for many of us (Passover and Easter). If you celebrated, you likely either had people over, went to someone else's place, or both. I was thinking this morning about tips for hosting holiday (or any) gatherings, perhaps a bit late for this week, but keep it handy for the next round.
About 10 years ago I wrote down who was coming to our Passover Seder, what the menu was and who was bringing each item, then a long list of all the tasks that needed to be done, no matter how small. I crossed off each task as they were done. The genius of this piece of paper is that I keep it from year to year. This way, I don't have to reinvent the wheel. I have my list, make modifications as needed, and I am organized. Not only do I plan ahead, but I also do ahead. I look at all the tasks that have to be done, and start working on them several days in advance. I shopped a week in advance for most items, leaving just a few items to get later, such as the turkey. Some food can be made ahead and either frozen or refrigerated.
In my family, we have a tradition of the hostess planning the menu, then giving out the assignments. This way, no one is stuck doing all the cooking, but there will be a relatively organized meal. You can be specific about what you want, or leave it open, as 'a dessert', a starch', etc. One of my guests had the assignment of 'a vegetable'. She brought two, lightly marinated summer squash, and lightly marinated green beans. This was a nice surprise and a switch from the more usual broccoli or asparagus.
I have never been a perfectionist, except in my art. This serves me well in cleaning my home. I follow the philosophy of 'good enough'. I gather papers into piles, put away excess junk. We have someone who cleans our apartment and offices every two weeks, so I don't bother vacuuming or dusting. I don't have spare energy, and I am not going to waste what I have on doing more than needs to be done. I keep the place fairly clean, though not necessarily neat, and I have never had a guest refuse to eat my food or sit on my furniture.
My husband's understanding of household upkeep is mostly in the electronics realm. He doesn't see the need to straighten up his piles of papers, etc. I have four choices here. I can get angry and yell, rant, complain, etc., which will make both of us grouchy. I can explain to him that we need the apartment nice and clean for our company, to which he will point out the things that he does do, and that cleaning is not a priority for him (I know this from experience). If I really want it clean, I can do it all myself, or I can just accept that this is how things are, and that it is okay. I choose the last choice. I tend to go with the flow these days.
I never turn down offers of help, and can even ask for it when I need to. Who am I to begrudge another person of an opportunity to do a good deed?
Take naps when needed. If you have planned ahead, even the day of the event can be fairly relaxed. I like to take some down time an hour before people are scheduled to arrive. That way, I can get my break, but also do the last minute tasks. I don't shy away from taking naps or time outs at other people's homes, either. I tend to get overwhelmed from noise and commotion, and I will shut down if I don't get away from it for awhile.
I guess this can all be summed up by saying be realistic. Not just think realistically, but be realistic, too. If you are realistic about what you can reasonably do, you can find strategies that work for you to get needs met without overdoing it. It doesn't make sense to push yourself to make a perfect event for everyone else at the expense of your own health, or even your own enjoyment.