For too many of us throwing a party is just that … throwing a number of elements against the proverbial wall and hoping enough of them stick to make the party a success. Let\’s not, as they say, go there. Take a few minutes to answer some questions in your Zen Organizing Journal.

  • Do you like to entertain? If the response is ‘yes,\’ when was the last time you gave a party? Was it a success? What were the key elements that made it successful? If the answer is ‘no,\’ where did you fall down? Are these correctable mistakes? We all learn through trial and error.
  • Do you do it regularly? Are you comfortable having friends over? If not, what don\’t you like about these events?
  • Are you known for any particular kind of party: for example, cocktail, sit down dinner or brunch? Do you want to try something new or have another bash you know you\’ve mastered?
  • Once you have the type party in mind, what are the elements you think will make the party a success? The most common ingredients are: food, drinks, and the right mix of people, decorations and entertainment.

Plan Ahead
If you are single and entertaining isn\’t your strong suit, ask a friend to co-host with you. Whether it\’s you and your spouse or partner or that good friend, have a planning meeting. All of the elements you felt were important are going to cost money. And there can\’t be a party until you have a budget. I\’m not talking about figuring out how much this is going to cost. I\’m talking about coming up with a budget based on what you can afford. These are very often two different figures. Set your guest list and plan your menu. Tailor both to your budget. You won\’t enjoy your own gathering if you\’re sitting there the entire time thinking: “How am I ever going to pay for this?” Guests and dishes can be eliminated to make your budget work. Move on to decorations and entertainment. Think simple and elegant. The entire house doesn\’t have to be festooned with flowers nor do you need a band or DJ. Ask a friend to make up some background or dance music for you on a CD and order some balloons!
In One Year to an Organized Life, I devote the month of November to working out the details for Thanksgiving. If you can give the ‘mother of all dinner parties, you can do anything in the world of entertaining. You can check out that chapter for more in depth tips. These are the cliff notes version to get you headed in the right direction.
Chaos to Calm
When you have the details worked out, it\’s time to make your home party ready. One of the best tips I can share is this: don\’t open your entire home to your guests. They don\’t have to take a tour, see any of the bedrooms or use more than the guest bathroom. How will you keep them out? Lock the doors in question or post a sign that says: ‘Please do not enter.\’ If you have pets you can always use them as excuses. ‘Do not open: Cat/Dog inside!\’
This will mean you have less areas to organize for the event. Walk though with what I call ‘Fresh Eyes.\’ Pretend you have never been here before. If you were a guest, how would these rooms strike you? Is there Clutter everywhere or do they need to be cleaned? If clutter is the culprit, start the process with a ‘speed elimination.\’ Set your timer (if you don\’t have one in the kitchen, use your cell phone) for 20 minutes. You\’d be surprised how much progress you can make when you move like your hair is on fire! What are you looking for? Here are some of the more likely clutter culprits:

  • Newspapers older than 2 days and magazines older than 2 months. If you didn\’t make time to read them, give yourself a break. The latest information is always available on the Internet. Take advantage. If there is an article you wish to keep, set that section or issue aside. When your 20 minutes is up, cut it out and file it.
  • Toss notices for sales, party invitations or any other event that is now in the past. Need to save an address? When you are clipping magazine articles, cut the return address off the envelope and save it in an envelope. Tuck the envelop in your address book. Don\’t have one because you only use your computer? Put the envelope in your to do folder. Make a time to enter all new info in your computer or hard copy address book.
  • Take items to the rooms where they belong. Did your morning coffee mug stay in your bedroom this morning? Is your coat waiting to be taken off the living room chair and hung in the hall closet? Did you leave a snack plate in the family room or patio? Everything needs to be returned to the spot you designated for it.
  • Junk mail should be tossed immediately. Try not to bring it into your home. Toss or recycle it now. Shred credit card offers.
  • Set aside memorabilia and store those items later. Now is not the time to get lost in old love letters or cards from your kids.
  • When you walk past your linen closet see if you have any frayed, stained, past their prime towels or sheets. The local animal shelter or your vet would love to have them. Just thought I\’d sneak that one in here!

‘There is a place for everything …\’

When the obvious debris is cleared away you can make an honest assessment of how much organizing you have to do before the party. You\’ll find step-by-step guidelines in One Year to an Organized Life,. It\’s better in the long run if you assign specific places for everything you own rather than periodically do a quick tidy up before company arrives. The latter is a quick fix that will leave you wondering where items are and why the chaos returned in less than two weeks.

It\’s never too late.

I had a client once who told me she had always wanted to entertain but she wasn\’t good at it. I asked her about her ‘failures.\’ I figured if we examined them perhaps we could correct whatever was giving her trouble in the world of party planning. It turns out her mother had told her she wouldn\’t be any good at it and so she had never tried. She was well into her 60\’s when we met. A lifetime of fun had passed her by without her making an effort to prove her mother wrong. If early misses wounded you or you took to heart the words of another, there\’s no time like the present to make up for lost time. Fill your home with laughter and happy memories. Besides you\’ll want to show off your newly organized space.

New York City native Regina Leeds has brought order to home and work environments across the United States since 1988 when she started her company, Get Organized! by REGINA. Currently based in Los Angeles, her clientele run the gamut from movie stars to business people and housewives. Regina regularly travels throughout the United States to assist her clients. Regina is the author of two books: The Zen of Organizing; Creating Order and Peace in Your Home, Career and Life and Creating a Place Without Losing Your Space: a Couples Guide to Blending Homes, Lives and Clutter.