I don't have all the answers when it comes to planning, organizing, hosting and cleaning up after parties... but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve!
AND... since I just hosted the 6th annual Christmas cookie swap at my home last night, I figured I'd share just a couple of my most popular - and hopefully useful - party tips!
I may make a few lists when I'm preparing for a party, but I am not an ultra-organized party planner. When it comes to throwing a fun get-together in my home, I plan out foods, beverages, favors, games, etc., etc., but I don't have any whiz-bang theories about it! :)
However, I do like to prep in stages. For instance, if you're planning a party for Sunday afternoon, and it's Friday night, go ahead and get some things done! Clean the party area(s). Bake or prep some of the food items (i.e. cheesecakes taste better a few days after baking, so I always bake those in advance of any gathering!). And start "staging" your party area(s). Move furniture to accommodate additional chairs or tables. Get table decor ready. And as soon as you can, plan out your food areas!
I like to organize and decorate my food table the day before (or at the very least, hours before) the party. In the photo, you can see that I have plates, napkins, serving plates, bowls and utensils in their places, ready to go! All that's missing is the food! (NOTE: If you'd like, use post-it notes to remind yourself what goes where.) This is SUCH a great time saver and a relief to get out of the way!
Of course, you can also see that I've placed a few different bags of chips in some tins. This way, they are ready to go! And if I have a helper, he/she will know what goes where! (Neat freak cheat sheet: I use tins or baskets lined with napkins for chips. This way, they are uniformly and neatly displayed; the chips look good and are easy to get to; and they clean up super fast! Just throw away the napkins... and rinse and dry the tins, if needed!)
AND... if you noticed, I have my plastic forks in another small tin on the table. This is an easy and fun way to incorporate utensils in your "partyscape!" You can also use glasses or vases... and if the utensils are a bit top heavy, try using marbles, beans or rice in the bottom of the container for some stability (and possibly a splash of color!).
Now, THAT's neat!