Listen, we’ve been helping readers organize and prep for the holidays for a long time. These are the tricks that we tell our own friends and family in real life—and couldn’t resist reprinting for you.

By Real Simple
Updated November 17, 2016
Tabletop at dinner party
Credit: David Meredith
Tabletop at dinner party
Credit: David Meredith

Clear the Refrigerator.

Put vinegar, soy sauce, and unopened condiments and jellies in the pantry. (They will be fine.) Apples and potatoes can sit in a cool, dry place, like the basement or the car trunk.

Tape Up Recipes.

Stick them at eye level on cabinets. They will be easy to see as you cook, and it keeps counters clear.

Use the Microwave.

It’s like an insulated cooler. Keep dishes warm for up to 30 minutes inside. (Don’t turn it on.)

Hire a Teenager.

Don’t coerce your nephew to eat at the little kids’ table; pay him $20. Everyone is happy.

Sit at the Head of the Table.

You can slip away to the kitchen more easily.

Buy Eight Bottles of Wine.

For 12 adults, plan on four bottles each of red and white wine.

And Don’t Open Any Yourself.

It’s a great task for a guest milling around in the kitchen. Ask her to pour you a glass.

Resist the Urge to Clean Up Mid-Event.

Clearing plates is OK; turning on a faucet is not. When the host walks away from the mess, everyone else relaxes, too.

Relocate for Dessert.

Move to the living room! Guests can stretch their legs and switch up conversation partners.