Do you love hosting friends and family for dinner parties and more? Or do you wish you were better at pulling together gatherings without letting the planning duties overwhelm you? Either way, here are a few tips to make your job as host easier and more efficient and suggestions to keep the prep and cleanup to a minimum:

Clean what matters most. Yes, you should get your home into shape before throwing a party, but stay focused on tidying/cleaning the spaces where your guests will hang out. Don’t waste a full day folding and putting away laundry and scrubbing your master bathroom. Give your kitchen and central spaces as well as your powder bathroom a thorough-but-quick clean and leave the rest for another day.

Pick the right foods for the occasion. Summertime with families and children? Backyard BBQs with lots of grilled options are always a winner. Cooler weather and couples only? A sit-down dinner menu where you prepare the main course and ask guests to bring a side might be ideal. Football party? Appetizers and dips are probably a better fit than anything that requires a fork and knife to eat.

During the party, be present and make guests comfortable. Your guests are there to spend time with you, not watch you bustle about in the kitchen. Fix food that’s easy on you (i.e. that can be finished in the oven or ahead of time) and allows you to mingle with guests. As your guests arrive, take any jackets and purses to a closet or den and offer guests a beverage. Take time to visit with each person and make sure to introduce people who don’t know each other.

Focus your energy on music not décor. Elaborate centerpieces are by no means a requirement for a great dinner party, just as balloons and streamers don’t make for a fantastic Labor Day party. Music, on the other hand, sets the mood. Adjust your tunes depending on whether you’re going for a laid back or lively vibe. Keep music to a volume that allows your guests to visit without having to yell.

Keep the essentials on hand. Guests are usually happy to help out, so make it easy for them. Set out extra hand towels, napkins, and paper towels and stock the cabinet in the bathroom with rolls of toilet paper. Put any condiments that may need refreshing throughout the evening toward the front of your refrigerator so it’s easy for anyone who notices things running low to step in and assist.

Outfit your beverage station. Fill an ice bucket and set out wine, spirits, liters of soda, stirrers, and glasses on a designated area of your kitchen. If using plastic, include a permanent marker as well so guests can label and reuse their cups throughout the evening. Nearby, fill a cooler or iced tub with any beverages that need chilling. Then, after offering guests a drink when they arrive, direct them to this area to help themselves thereafter.

Clean up in (very) short bursts. If you’re hosting a formal dinner, spend a few minutes after the meal scraping and rinsing plates. Later, when refreshing drinks or serving dessert, you might take another moment to load the dishes into the dishwasher and fill dirty pans in the sink with soapy water. If your party is the stand-and-mingle type, set large trash and recycling totes just outside your patio door or in an inconspicuous but convenient spot in the kitchen area. That makes it easy to quickly clear plates and recycle bottles and cans as the evening moves along.

When you make your move to Trilogy, you’ll definitely want to share your beautiful new home with family, friends, and neighbors. Our homes are suited for all kinds of entertaining—from low-key cookouts on your covered patio to holiday parties in your exquisite kitchen, dining room, and great room. Once you’re living here, plan a party. Remember: when it comes to hosting, practice makes perfect!

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