How to Host Parties in a Small Home

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The holidays are a time for celebration. But when you have a small home, gathering your friends and loved ones together can pose some unique challenges.

You don't need to "keep up with the Joneses" by throwing an elaborate affair in a huge mansion; you can throw a fantastic party by getting creative about how you use that space. Here are 20 ways to make the most of the rooms you have and throw a knockout party in your tiny home.

1. Keep the menu simple. An elaborate spread is hard to serve when space is limited, so keep your offerings simple. Guests don't need a million options to choose from, just a handful of really good ones.

2. Serve finger foods. You may not have enough room for a proper sit-down dinner, but your guests can eat and mingle. This means you should serve foods like appetizers that can be carried around easily. (Appetizers don't have to be expensive, either: Try the pasta pretzel sticks recipe you can find here.)

3. Go buffet-style instead of sit-down. Place food stations around the room (or in a couple rooms) to keep lines moving along and avoid a traffic jam in any one area.

4. Use decently-sized plates. You may think cocktail plates will help with your space issues, but all they really do is force guests to make several trips back to the food stations. Use regular, dinner-sized plates to avoid so much back-and-forth.

5. Make a signature drink (or two). Rather than finding space for an array of drink fixings (and space in which to mix them), prepare a large batch of signature cocktails in advance. Instead of playing bartender all night, all you'll have to do is keep the pitcher filled and guests can serve themselves.

6. Designate drinks. With limited places to set down drinks, it can be easy for guests' glasses to get mixed up. Make sure they have some way of identifying which drink is theirs by using different-colored glasses, wine glass charms or tying colored ribbons on martini glass stems.

7. Prep in advance. Cooking -- and cleaning up from cooking -- takes up precious counter space you'll likely need for serving, so do as much prep work in advance as you can. (This also allows you to actually spend time enjoying your party!)

8. Create makeshift serving stations. If you don't have enough space in your kitchen to set up the buffet, enlist other pieces of furniture like bookcases and desks to serve as temporary sideboards.

9. Provide plenty of seating. Make sure there are lots of options for guests who want to take a load off. Folding chairs, ottomans, even lawn chairs will work in a pinch. If you don't have many chairs on hand, consider borrowing some from friends and family.

10. Remove excess furniture. If a piece of furniture isn't useful for seating or serving, consider getting rid of it for the party. You want to create as much floor space as possible so guests can mingle without feeling cramped or tripping over things.

11. Rearrange with abandon. Turn the bed into seating by pushing it against the wall and adding some decorative throw pillows. Make a dining room table by lining up several card tables and unifying them under a long tablecloth. You can put everything back where it belongs once the party's over. For now, you need to make your space work for your party.

12. Make your rooms work double-duty. If you still want to host a sit-down dinner, consider setting up a table and chairs in your biggest room for the meal portion of the evening and then taking it down afterward to create more space to chat. (Just make sure you have a place to store the table and chairs when they're down!)

13. Make a place for coat storage. If the weather will call for coats and other outer gear, make sure your guests have a place to set theirs. If nothing else, make sure you've provided storage options for shoes and handbags. A fold-up coat rack can help create storage where none normally exists.

14. Decorate high. Placing your decorations on the ceiling will draw guests' eyes upwards and make your space feel festive without being crowded. Strings of lights, paper lanterns and draped fabric all make for great ceiling decor.

15. Create conversation areas. Your guests might be scattered by necessity, so make sure each small group feels comfortable wherever it is and not left out from the party proper. Arrange chairs in small groups to encourage conversation.

16. Turn down the heat. Large crowds in small spaces can make a home overly warm, so crank the thermostat down a few notches to keep things comfortable.

17. Offer bathroom freshener. If lots of people will be using the same small bathroom, help each occupant to leave it in a ... er ... pleasant condition for the next person. Light a scented candle, set out potpourri or place a decorative can of air freshener in a noticeable place to be used as needed.

18.Create an open house. Give guests room to roam and mingle by tidying up those rooms you normally don't open to guests -- your bedroom, your office, etc. By designating different areas for different activities, you can help everyone find a comfortable place. Serve appetizers in the entryway, main dishes in the living room and dessert and coffee in the bedroom to keep the party moving along.

19.Consider taking it outside. If you're in a warmer climate, open up the doors to your patio, balcony or terrace to increase your hosting space. In a colder climate? Consider setting up heat lamps or a small fire pit.

20. Keep the guest list realistic. These tips will help you pack a lot of party into a small space, but you still need to keep your guest count reasonable. No one will have a very good time if you're all stepping over each other.

Paula Pant quit her office job in 2008, traveled to 32 countries and became a successful real estate investor. Her blog Afford Anything is the groundswell of a rebellion against standard advice that says you should chain yourself to a desk for 40 years. Afford Anything is dedicated to crushing limits and maximizing life.
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