party checklist

How to Prepare for Entertaining Guests: Party Checklist

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Ah, the party planning checklist. Just the phrase gets me excited.

It’s always a great feeling to be able to host some of your favorite people in your home for an evening of good food, music, conversation, and company.

At least, the fantasy of it is nice — until I suddenly realize how unprepared I am to host people in my home in its current, horrifying condition. Then I have a mini panic attack while sending out texts about how excited I am for the upcoming evening.

If there is one thing I’ve learned through having friends over to my home, it’s that there’s a level of cleanliness that I can live with comfortably that is DEFINITELY different than the level of cleanliness I feel is acceptable for hosting guests.

Just being honest here.

Which is not to say that I’m a slob. It’s just that my apartment suddenly looks a whole lot dirtier once I’ve made plans to host. How did these baseboards even GET so dirty??? WTF?

With the season of soirees upon us (Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, Friendsgiving, and Holiday parties), I thought it would be helpful to create a checklist for entertaining, so you can refer to it while you’re running around in a panic and your brain is only functioning at half capacity.

I’ve created this party checklist just for you. Print it out and go over it a day or two before the party, and you’ll be good to go!

1. Prepare some music.

#1 on the party checklist is something that will help you avoid stress! I always get really stressed out if I haven’t planned ahead for music. When the music has stopped and it causes a lull in conversation, I find myself nervously searching for something to play that I think most people at the party will like, but also be long enough that I won’t have to come back to choose something else in 20 minutes. I suffer from indecisiveness while I’m also trying to have a conversation with someone that I’m only half listening to.

Or I make the awkward move of suggesting that someone at the party just put something on, and no one makes any moves because no one wants to put themselves in the uncomfortable position I’m in. Save yourself the hassle and just plan ahead.

Make a playlist with music appropriate to the type of party you’re having. If it’s a themed party, like Halloween or Christmas, choose appropriate music to get your guests in the holiday mood. If there’s no obvious theme to your party, make a playlist of music that is neither too intense nor too mellow.

Have a record player? Create a record lineup, so you can just put on the next one without having to think about it, or ask someone else to put on the next one in line. Whether you go with a playlist or vinyl, make sure your queue is long enough to last the duration of the party.

2. Clean the bathroom.

The bathroom is almost certainly going to be used and seen by everyone in attendance. Make sure it’s not gross. Wipe down the sink and counter, toilet, and mirror. Make sure there is enough toilet paper. Make sure there’s hand soap. It’s pretty basic, but important. Nobody wants to use a gross bathroom.

3. Clean towels.

After you finish cleaning the bathroom, make sure there is at least 1 clean hand towel in there (2 would be better!). Also, make sure there are clean kitchen towels in the kitchen. It’s embarrassing for people to ask for clean bathroom towels and to not have any to offer. Likewise, if some mess occurs in the kitchen, or you’re just trying to clean up a bit later in the evening, you’ll want to be prepared with kitchen towels.

4. Clean the forgotten places.

I know, I know. It sounds contradictory — how are you supposed to remember to clean these things if they are, by definition, the forgotten things? By using this party checklist!

(Pssst… I have a free printable PDF of the party checklist here, if you’re the type who likes to print things out and write on them. Print out a few and keep them on hand for whenever you host friends or family or throw a party.)

I’m talking baseboards, door knobs, cupboard handles, the wall over the stove, the fridge door and handles, and windowsills. These are the things we never think about, but after months of not being thought about (and therefore never cleaned), these things get grody. Go ahead, go check them out and see how dirty they are. I’ll wait here…

See? Gross, huh? We’re constantly touching cupboard handles and the fridge with unclean hands. The wall behind the stove is probably splattered with months-worth of little flecks of food.

The windowsills catch all the pollution in the air coming from outside, which is especially bad if you live in a city, like me, or on a busy street.

The baseboards get the dirt from the floor and our shoes kicked up onto them. And we seldom think to clean these things.

They may seem insignificant, but I promise that having them clean will make your abode noticeably cleaner, whether you know what to attribute that feeling to or not, and your guests will feel it too.

5. Clean the kitchen.

This is another pretty obvious one, but make sure your kitchen is clean. Make sure the sink isn’t piled high with dishes. Make sure the dining table is cleared off and all the counters are wiped down.

Go ahead and scan the fridge for spoiled food. You’ll probably be wishing you had more fridge space later for drinks or leftovers, so get a step ahead. Clean off the stove. Like I mentioned above, make sure there are clean towels available.

6. Sweep and mop.

Sweep the whole house. It’s a pretty quick thing to do, but it makes a big difference. If you have time, mop the place too. If you have some time, mop the kitchen and bathroom since they are likely the dirtiest. If you have no time, just spot-mop obvious spills with a rag and cleaner.

7. Decorate!

For something more fun, put up any themed decorations you have! You can buy decorations from a party supply store, or if you have time, get crafty and make your own! There’s loads of great ideas on Pinterest for DIY decor.

8. Take a whiff.

Lemme guess, this is not an item you expected to see on a party checklist. But seriously, it’s important!

How does your house/apartment smell? Is it stuffy? Have a funky scent going on? Can you smell the trash? If you can’t tell, take a step outside and then re-enter the space. Now do you smell anything?

Do what you need to to remedy the situation. Take out garbage, open windows to get some fresh air circulating, set your diffuser with essential oils, or light some incense.

9. Take out the trash.

By this, I mean ALL the trashes. Kitchen trash, bathroom trash, trash from your bedroom, and also compost and recycling! Make sure all your bins are empty and replenished with liners. Then you won’t have to worry about clutter and smell later on.

10. Vacuum.

At this point you’ve already done the hard work of sweeping and mopping. Now for the much easier task of vacuuming carpets and/or rugs. It takes just a few minutes, but makes a world of a difference!

11. Leave notes.

Take a moment to think about whether or not any notes would be helpful to you or your guests You may not need any, but they can be nice to leave out for certain things.

For example, when I host people, I put a note on the bathroom door that says “No lock. Please knock :)” because my bathroom door doesn’t have a lock on it, and I want to help guests avoid the mutually embarrassing scenario of someone being walked in on.

If your toilet handle needs to be held down for a few seconds in order to flush, leave a note. If you live in an apartment building where guests will encounter a long list of apartment numbers without names, leave a note letting them know which one to buzz to reach you.

Maybe you want a note on your front door that says “Come on in!” if you want guests to let themselves in rather than having to answer the door for every person. Or maybe you want a note asking folks to remove their shoes.

Perhaps you want them to help themselves to items in the fridge. Maybe you want them to pick a slip of paper out of a bowl for a game everyone will be playing later.

The possibilities are really endless. But notes can be very helpful indeed when trying to communicate en mass or facilitate certain things.

12. Supply check.

Have you shopped for everything you need? Have cocktail stuff on hand? Beer and wine? Have you set out snacks? You’ve got the party checklist, but now you need a supply list. Make one and go shop!

13. Anticipate your guests’ needs.

Did you consider any special needs your guests may have? Some of them may have dietary restrictions, and you’ll want to have something on hand they can eat.

Some may not drink alcohol, in which case it would be a good idea to have non-alcoholic beverages on hand (or ask guests to bring their own).

If someone has a pet allergy and you have that pet, remind them to bring allergy meds or offer your own over-the-counter allergy meds to them. Corral your pet in your bedroom for the party, and make sure you clean any excess pet hair around your place.

14. Have games/activities handy.

A lot of the time, these are unnecessary, and the conversation will continue on its own for the duration of a party. But if conversation dies down, it’s great to have something to do with everyone as a backup!

Games can be an awesome way to bond with other people, and stoke the fire of some friendly competition. Conversation cards can be great too! They might help you learn something you didn’t know about your friends.

Need some ideas for games? Search Pinterest, of course!

15. Make sure people have your address and that your phone is on.

You don’t want people not knowing how to find your party. If you told a friend you’d send your address, send it! You also don’t want people trying to get a hold of you while your phone is on silent face down somewhere in your house where you’ll never see it. As guests are arriving, make sure your phone is on and on you.

16. Clear out the coat closet.

This doesn’t HAVE to be a coat closet, per se, but you should designate a space for people to put their coats, bags, and shoes. If not a closet, maybe a bedroom. But it’s awkward to have guests arrive and ask where they can put these things and not have anywhere to put them, or have them open up your coat closet only to be buried by a cascading avalanche of wrapping paper and random junk.

17. HCBHS.

If all else fails and you completely run out of time to complete this party checklist and do a proper clean on your space, you can resort to good ol’ HCBHS: House Cleaning By Hiding Shit. It’s not the most ideal method, but it’ll do in a pinch. Put things in the closet or in rooms guests won’t go in. I won’t tell anyone 😉

That’s a wrap. Follow this checklist and your soiree is sure to be a success!

But wait a second — what about the drinks?

Check out my post, How to Stock Your Liquor Cabinet Like an Adult, for easy cocktail recipes and a free shopping list!

Like this post? Please share it!

Until next time,


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Hey there! I'm Megan.

Hey there! I'm Megan.

I believe in cultivating a happy life with intention, using one small building block at a time.

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[…] Feeling pumped and very sophisticated? Are you excited to have guests over now that you know how to serve them nice drinks? Check out my post, How to Prepare for Entertaining Guests. […]