Aunt Jean is coming to town. You've known about it for months, but you're days away from her camping out in your guest room with a plethora of denture accessories. And she knows just how to cook your turkey. Face reality and get a game plan, because compensating with bourbon refills can get pricey.
Sharing your home can be an awesome experience, even for folks who prefer themselves to non-resident relatives. But it just wouldn't be the holidays without stuffed turkeys or stuffed houses--so cozy up with these sanity-saving tips.
1. Make a meal-sharing spreadsheet.
After a decade of gathering for Thanksgiving with my mother's extended relatives, we finally wised up and started assigning cooking and cleaning to each family. We went OCD on the plans and made sure each group knew what they were responsible for. Make the most of Facebook to send out small group messages.
2. Stock your guest's area with necessities.
Include two towels, an extra blanket and enough toiletries to get them through a weekend--then let them know where they are. Don't forget to leave a few bestsellers and magazines on the nightstand for late-night reading.
3. Practice sharing a room before guests arrive.
Most of us don't have spare rooms lying around throughout our house--your guests will most likely need to encroach on current inhabitants. If those evicted youngsters are under three, let them share a room with their older siblings a couple nights ahead so they will sleep well when company arrives.
4. Plan family walks.
Two big ideas here: you will eat far more than you should (despite your steely resolve) and cabin fever leads to badness (as dramatized in The Shining). It's not an option. Everyone goes, rain or shine. This year, your clan can even walk to the nearest Best Buy or Walmart to protest early Black Friday deals. Doesn't that sound like fun?
5. Make a list of things to do in town (and not in your house).
If taking a brisk post-turkey walk outside isn't an option, have a list of fun activities read to suggest for weekend guests. Think movies, bowling or, for the thrill-seekers, Black Friday shopping. Free is good, but it needs to be done away from the house at times.
6. Text or email directions ahead of time (with a map included).
While many of us have good access to immediate maps with our smarty-pants phones, older folks would rather have clear, printed directions before taking to the road. Rather than playing GPS for multiple parties on the night of arrival, send out an email with a map of your place and typed directions on how to get there. Include other need-to-know stops nearby, like grocery stores and pharmacies.
7. Invest in a good air mattress.
If you aren't a fan of air mattresses, you haven't slept on a good one. But you'll have to pay more for a bed that doesn't leak. They will run you over $100, but if you buy a discount gift card to Sears from sites like GiftCardGranny, you'll save around $10 on a queen-sized bed.
8. Ask about food allergies.
It seems most of the world is now deathly allergic to at least one food (or food group), but as the host, you have the responsibility of accommodating for preference and allergy. Eating With Food Allergies has a fabulous guide to preparing a quality Thanksgiving meal sans EpiPen.
9. Buy several plastic-lidded cups.
Unless you'd like a mass of unidentified cups sprouting around your house, watering the carpet, get a batch of souvenir cups with lids to contain the mess. Let each guest autograph their own cup with a permanent marker and let them take a piece of the holidays home with them.
10. Ask big groups to bring their own pillows, blankets and towels.
Yes, this is normally understood, but everyone needs a reminder. If your overnight guest list is really long, suggest bringing towels and sheets as well. Put a hamper in a central location near the bedroom so guests who strip the sheets don't have to wonder where to put them.
11. Make plans for visiting pets.
Our furry friends seem to be more than just four-legged friends these days. If your cat-crazy relatives can't make it through the weekend without toting Whiskers along, address it ahead of time. Consult this list of Thanksgiving safety tips for dogs, and make sure you, as the host, know if the animal is quiet. A barking dog can kill the holiday cheer in five minutes.
12. Enjoy the moment and don't stress over plans!
These holiday memories won't roll around forever--have some perspective and be a gracious host. Be thankful you have a generous space to share and let your kooky relatives enjoy it as well!