How to Get Your Home Ready for Any Party—Even If It's Last Minute

Sometimes, excuses to entertain pop up unexpectedly. Use these hosting hacks to get your home ready for a guest list of any size with seconds to spare.

Last-Minute Party Prep
Photo: Ted + Chelsea Cavanaugh

When the opportunity to host a party knocks, you answer the door—even if you’re not necessarily prepared. Most people will jump at the chance to have a few close friends or family members over to reconnect, catch up, and laugh, and some will even look forward to hosting a whole crowd, even if it is with short notice.

The good news is that hosting a party of any size doesn’t require catering and a slew of rental chairs. With a few repurposed items from around the house (or borrowed from neighbors and guests), a focused quick-clean, and some easy lighting tricks, any home can become party central.

If you expect to end up being the host with the most with short notice at several points throughout the coming months, taking time to prep your home now—taking stock of how many chairs and seating options are scattered around the house, checking on the health of the ice maker, creating a decorating stash of easy-to-hang streamers, signs, and balloons, etc.—can make the short time between saying you’ll host and the first guest arriving much easier. With any luck, you’ll be so prepared to have no preparation that you’ll actually be able to enjoy the party.

Whether your party starts in ten minutes or you’ve had time to work through a whole party planning checklist, following these easy hosting hacks will ensure your space (no matter how large or small it is) is ready to entertain.

Do a quick clean

If you have time to refresh just one area before guests arrive, let it be the bathroom: the one spot where visitors will be on their own with nothing but their thoughts and wandering eyes. Follow these three quick steps from Melissa Homer, chief cleaning officer of the national cleaning service MaidPro: Vacuum hair off the floor, use a disinfectant wipe around the sink and outside the toilet, and give the inside of the toilet bowl a cursory scrub. Stash at least five rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom, says Pickart, so nobody is left stranded.

Set the mood

Creating the right atmosphere with lighting is simple: Turn on lamps or dim all the overhead lighting to midlevel. Do this before the party starts so you don’t have to fuss with the lighting once it gets dark.

Grab a seat

When it comes to seating, call on neighbors or your best friends to haul over chairs. Alternatively, arrange pillows and extra blankets on the floor for an inviting and casual seating arrangement. If you plan to entertain often, invest in a set of stacking stools that can be tucked away when not in use or double as a side table (try the Bentwood Stacking Stools, $22 each;

Have wicks at the ready

David Stark, chief creative officer of David Stark Design and Production in Brooklyn, New York, keeps tapered candles in his freezer, since cold wax can burn more slowly and drip less. He also buys inexpensive packs of votive candles from IKEA to keep on hand for last-minute lighting needs. (To buy: GLIMMA Unscented Tealights, $4 for 100;

For more hosting hacks for before and during the festivities, turn to the graphic below. These simple ideas will impress your guests without overtaxing you—or your hosting patience.

Babeth Lafon

Chart illustrations by Babeth Lafon

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