You want everyone want to be happy—but also maintain your own sanity.
getty family preparing holiday dinner in the kitchen image
Credit: Tom Stewart/Getty Images

Cooking a large meal for a crowd is stressful enough, but let’s be real—what’s more stressful is having so many people all up in your space. From the overeager sister-in-law who’s just trying to lend a hand, to the newly vegan nephew who’s home for the holidays (and didn’t warn anyone of his new dietary restrictions beforehand), your kitchen is bound to get some major traffic in the coming weeks. Here’s how to keep everyone happy (while still holding on to your own sanity) through the holidays.

Set some ground rules

Especially if you have guests visiting for a while, you’re going to want to communicate clearly what you’re OK and not OK with from the get-go. If you don’t want the dishwasher running more than a couple times during the week, let them know. Don’t want people using certain dishes or appliances? Tell them (politely) in advance. It’s much better to let your guests know at the start instead of building resentment and tension as the week goes on.

Keep them occupied

If you truly do not want guests in the kitchen while you’re cooking, let them know, and make sure to stock up on movies, board games, and other ways to keep busy while you’re crafting a pie lattice masterpiece or carving your bird. This way you won’t have well-intentioned family members hovering around asking if you need help while you honestly just need some space and quiet.

Make sure to get out of the house

It’s easy to let your own routine go by the wayside when you’re entertaining guests, but there are certain things you shouldn’t skip. If you’re used to working out on the reg, don’t skip that morning run on Thanksgiving day, or the half an hour wind-down time before bed. Getting moments to yourself to clear your head and get away from the hectic commotion of visitors will make you a more gracious host and better company.

Ask for restrictions beforehand

Just as a precaution—and even with your closest family—verify any allergies, dietary restrictions, and preferences well before guests arrive to prevent an awkward situation at the dinner table. The last thing you want is to be caught by surprise when someone can’t eat anything but potatoes from your Thanksgiving spread. This also prevents any mishap that has you scrambling in the kitchen at the last minute trying to pull together a separate meal for a guest.

Let people help

This may seem obvious—but it’s advice easier heard than followed. Don’t feel guilty asking for help. If it makes it easier on you for someone to chop up veggies while you work on something on the stove, let them. Even if it’s not exactly the same size and shape you would cut them yourself, it’s going to be okay. Letting your guests feel involved means less tension in the long run. Plus, it will ultimately make your life easier and will provide for more quality, enjoyable family time.