How To Host Thanksgiving In A Small Space- the Guide

Learn valuable tips and creative ideas for hosting a memorable Thanksgiving celebration, even in the coziest of spaces. Discover how to maximize your limited area and create a warm and inviting atmosphere for your guests.

Hosting Thanksgiving in a small space takes a bit of ingenuity and careful planning, but you can create a charming and unforgettable Thanksgiving gathering right in the comfort of your cozy home. In this guide, I’m featuring practical tips and creative ideas to help you host a remarkable Thanksgiving celebration, even in the tightest of spaces. So, let’s explore how to maximize your intimate space while still creating a warm and festive atmosphere for your loved ones to enjoy!

Most of these tips are helpful no matter the size of your spaces.

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Go Out To Dinner

It seems funny to me that I am starting off with going out to dinner. I’m not a go-out-to-dinner-on-Thanksgiving kind of a girl. However, maybe going out for Thanksgiving dinner is a good option for you. If your small home won’t accommodate your family, why not go out to dinner and all be together. Thanksgiving is all about being with those we love.

Now that that option is out of the way…

Make A Game Plan

I’m hosting Thanksgiving here in our small open dining room, and I’m already not only thinking about every detail but writing them all down. I do better planning dinners on paper. But you might want to make a digital spreadsheet.

The definition of frazzled, and probably crazy, too, is hosting Thanksgiving without a plan! Start planning today!

Utilize Non-Traditional Spaces

I love the idea of having a meal al fresco when it is cold! Depending on where you live, you might want to rent out a pavilion in a park or clean out the garage and use it to set up your Thanksgiving table. Get creative.

Rethink The Traditional Thanksgiving Meal

Okay, I am offering this as a suggestion, but I could not do it. We look forward to Thanksgiving all year long. It is really my favorite holiday!

If roasting a turkey with all the trimmings is too much for you and your space, go rogue! Roast chickens, make a pot of soup, throw together a tasty casserole or barbeque! If you have someone coming for Thanksgiving dinner that knows how to deep fry a turkey, then do that. We actually did that one year, and it was scrumptious.

I know a few friends who order Costo’s Thanksgiving dinner and swear by it.

A practical solution for making a Thanksgiving meal is to make as much as you can ahead. I do this. I make the pies, gravy, stuffing, and mashed potatoes ahead. Then all I have to do is stuff the bird and roast it.

Another fun idea is to host a Thanksgiving hors d’oeuvres party. Instead of a meal, serve lots of finger food and amazing drinks! Have everyone bring their favorite appetizer.

I love this idea if a few of your guests live close to you: have a Progressive Thanksgiving Dinner! I think this would be the best fun!

Send Out A Fun Invite With A List Of What Guests Can Bring

It’s fun to get an invitation! It is a nice thing to do so the guests know exactly what to expect. But it also allows you to create a few asks of your guests.

Send digital evites to your guests. And don’t be shy about asking them to bring a chair or whatever else you may need.

Here are a few companies that offer free evites:

There are so many evites to choose from. You can also choose envelopes, liners, stamps, and stickers. So, they look very much like an invite you would send through the mail. Check them out!

Figure Out A Table Arrangement

Once you have a guest list, think about how to arrange the table. Last year, our son and daughter-in-law hosted Thanksgiving for the first time. There were too many people to fit into their formal dining room, so they removed some of the furniture in the family room and put utility tables from the family room to the kitchen. The tables were covered with tablecloths, and their Thanksgiving table looked so pretty.

Several years ago, when our children were at their in-laws, our friends Fran and Franz invited us to Thanksgiving at their home. They had a T-shaped table arrangement so everyone could see one another. Very clever.

When we occasionally ate a holiday dinner at my mom and dad’s, mom had a kid’s table. Just for fun, when our son Christopher was a teenager, my mom set the kid’s table just for him. We all laughed so hard. What good fun! Even at StoneGable, we put the kids in the foyer at their very own special table.

The moral of this story is not everyone needs to sit together. If you don’t have room for one big table, create several smaller tables.

Create A Designated Kid Zone

As a downsizer, I know the importance of having a kid zone area! I have six young grandchildren, and they want a space to play and get a little rammy.

The guys usually take all the kids out for a big walk in the woods or across the fields of a friend’s farm before lunch. This helps a lot! Then we give the family room over so they play. The play often heads to the loft and the long foyer. These areas are fine because they are out of the way of cooking and the dining area!

If you have kids coming for Thanksgiving in your small home. It’s a good idea to set up kid zones.

And think about getting each child something new to play with. We recently had a big family birthday party here with lots of extended family. Three of our grandkids came, so I got each an age-appropriate toy they could enjoy. They were so happy and busied themselves with their toys. Many of our family and guests spent a little time playing with the kids. So sweet!

Clean Out Your Refrigerator

Before shopping for Thanksgiving, it’s a good idea to clean out your refrigerator. Thanksgiving is a food-intense holiday, and making room for everything that needs to be kept cold is important.

It also helps you know where everything is.

Create A Timetable And Stick To It

No matter the size of your home, creating a timetable for everything you need to host Thanksgiving is a lifesaver! I like to write everything I need to do down, braindump style, and then create a two-week timetable for getting things done.

When it comes to Thanksgiving Day, I work my timetable in 15-minute intervals. So, from 6 am to about 8 pm, I have a list of what needs to be done at a certain time. You probably do something similar. So, this is a gentle reminder.

Set Reminder’s On Your Phone

I like to set reminders (so many reminders) on my phone for when to put in the Turkey or baste it. As the hostess, we are usually so busy our phones can be a big help.

Create Drink And Food Stations

I’m a huge believer in letting family and guests help themselves when we get together. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to set up things like a drink station or a pop-up bar. Another favorite station I most often use is a dessert station.

At a holiday party a couple of years ago, I set up a drink and appetizer station in our foyer. When we greeted our friends and took their coats, they could help themselves to something to drink and a little nosh.

For Thanksgiving this year, I’m thinking I’ll set up a dessert and coffee bar on the white buffet in our living room. That will keep the traffic out of the kitchen area and utilize another room.

Guests will love a fun food or drink station.

Decide On A Place For Coats

In our downsized home, the hall closet is a half closet. Not ideal for lots of coats! This tip seems so easy but think ahead about where you want to put your guest’s coats.

If you have a hall closet that can handle all the coats, then your closet is a no-brainer. Or if your closet has lots of your coats, you can move them somewhere else until after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving just might give you the motivation to clean out your closet.

We have a first-floor bedroom so the coats will go there. That means I want my room to be clean and my bed made. And on a busy day like Thanksgiving, I might not have made my bed.

Let Everyone Pitch In

This tip seems obvious. If you have a small kitchen, it may not be helpful for your guests to be in the kitchen helping you while you are busy basting the bird or dishing out hot food.

Many guests love to be helpful and share in jobs to be done. Why not make a list of all the little jobs that can be done without getting in the way of the cook.

I like to make a list so when someone asks to help, I can give them a job and not have to take time to think about what they can do. Something as simple as putting water and ice in the glasses or in a pitcher is a big help!

Make Some And Buy Some

Even at Thanksgiving, making something and buying something is so smart. Make the bird and buy the pie. Or buy the bird and make the rest.

Taking one or two things off your plate (haha, pun intended) will make your Thanksgiving easier, especially if you have a small kitchen.

Use Fancy Paper Plates and Plastic Dinnerware

Using designer-style paper dinnerware is a very smart option instead of using all those real dishes and napkins when you are hosting Thanksgiving in a small space.

A couple of years ago, I had a big crowd for Thanksgiving. I decided to get some pretty paper products instead of using real dishware and cloth napkins. Everyone loved how they coordinated! I chose dinner plates, salad and dessert plates, as well as cocktail and dinner napkins. Our table looked so attractive and festive, and clean-up was a breeze.

If you want to use your dishes, how about using fall/Thanksgiving themed appetizers and dessert plates with coordinating napkins? Or just some great Thanksgiving themed dinner napkins can look very attractive.

Here are a few of my favorites for Thanksgiving this year…

Serve A Buffet

I’m a huge fan of buffet style meals when guests come for dinner at our home. Do you serve buffet style too? The logistics of serving a sit down dinner in a small space is too frenetic!

A Buffet allows everyone to plate what they like. The major consideration is finding a good traffic pattern so your guests can go from the buffet to their seats without a bottleneck. Plan that ahead.

Give Thanks

Take time to give thanks. It is Thanksgiving!

When we have gatherings, we ask a blessing before everyone goes through the buffet. We stand around the island, hold hands, and say a prayer before our meal.

What do you do? Tell us in the comments.

Invest In White Dishpans

This is the best Thanksgiving tip you will probably ever get! Invest in five or six white plastic dishpans. If you have been following StoneGable for a long time, you probably know this tip. Using white dishpans is even more important now that I have an open kitchen and a small dining room.

I use dishpans to put all the dirty dishes, utensils, napkins, and everything else I have to wash. Then we take the dishpans out to the garage and fill them with hot sudsy water from our utility sink and put the dishpans on utility tables.

This creates a fairly clean dining area and kitchen so everyone can enjoy the rest of Thanksgiving and have a libation and dessert without wallowing in dirty dishes or hearing the clinking and clanging of dishes being cleaned up.

Meanwhile, your dishes are soaking, so they are easy to clean up after the company leaves or even the next morning.

I started doing this at StoneGable but never realized that someday this one tip would keep our downsized home neat-ish after Thanksgiving dinner.

Make Room For One More

I know squeezing everyone into your space during a special meal can be challenging, but let’s open our hearts and table to someone who might need a place to go on Thanksgiving Day.

Stock Your Bathrooms

Keep your bathrooms well stocked and extra items easy to find. Your guests will thank you. Stock extra toilet tissue, kleenex, personal products, extra disposable hand towels, and any other items your guest might need.

Set a timer on your phone to do a quick bathroom check. Do a quick wipe and swipe to keep your bathrooms fresh.

A small space can be a cozy, friendly, and intimate place to celebrate Thanksgiving. Don’t let small spaces stop your home from being everyone’s favorite place to gather.

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  1. Great post Yvonne. I do love the dishpan idea and having just hosted Canadian Thanksgiving, I realize what a great tip this is! I am going to get some dishpans for sure! I am wondering though how do you make ahead your stuffing, gravy and potatoes? Do you mean earlier same day or do you have a “magic” casserole recipe? Gravy especially since I use the dripping s of the turkey. Great post today and love your photographs!

    1. Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! That’s a great question. I make the stuffing the day before and put it in a storage bag in the frig. Then I stuff the bird with it on Thanksgiving morning. I have a great make ahead gravy that I have tweaked a bit. Here it is:
      I often make it a week or so ahead and freeze it. Then after the bird has roasted I defat the drippings and add it to the make ahead gravy. I make the potatoes the day ahead and put them in the frig. On Thanksgiving day I put them in a makeshift double boiler and warm them gently. I have made mashed potatoes that can be baked. It calls for sour cream and cream cheese. However, our family likes the flavor of good old fashioned mashed potatoes. Hope this helps. God bless you and your family on your Thanksgiving day!????

  2. Friends- Yvonne’s suggestion of using white dish pans for dishes and cutlery is THE BEST suggestion ever. I’ve been hosting Thanksgiving dinner for over 25 years (my favorite holiday to host), and since using the dish pan idea, it makes clean up so much easier. We downsized this past year, so I need to re-think how the seating, serving and flow will go. Wish me luck, and I’m sure I’ll incorporate some of Yvonne’s ideas. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

    1. Aren’t you the sweetest, Sharon! Thanks for helping me spread the good word!

  3. Love, Love your dishpan idea! It is a real nugget!! For any group.., garden club or book club, church ladies etc!!
    When peeps want to start washing dishes, it breaks up the flow of the event…. I want to enjoy my guest while they’re at my home….. thank you so much for your organizational ideas!!?

  4. In my family, we have people of different faith beliefs. I found a generic Thanksgiving prayer many years ago, and that still gets said every year before the meal. My husband read it for years, but now that the grandchildren are older, I let one of them read it. Once they read it together, too.

    Great ideas in this post, Yvonne. My smallish townhome lacks space as my family grows. But we manage!

  5. All great tips for Thanksgiving and Christmas too. I always make the mashed potatoes the morning of and put them in a crock pot to warm. So I love your idea of making them a day before and I will still put them in crock pot.

  6. Nan, Odessa, DE says:

    What is the wording on your invite?
    How do you ask/Request guest to bring items?

    Please add to your Table.of Contents an item to take the viewer directly to COMMENTS.

    Thank you!

    1. Sorry, I can’t add a comment are in the table of contents. The table of contents self populates. Just head to the end of the post and read them. There is usually an area in an invite for details etc. Say someting like: “we so excited to see you and your chair Thanksgving Day! As you might have guessed we are chair challenged and if you can being a chair it would be much appreciated.” I like keeping things light.

  7. Love all your great ideas! I have been using your dishpan idea since you first posted about it many years ago. I never thought I would embrace the idea of preparing our meal the day before but I am so happy I started a few years ago. My two nieces have done this forever and finally convinced me. I cook my Turkey the day before. After it has set up for a while I slice in serving pieces and lay in disposable pans covered in no sodium chicken or Turkey broth. Seal tightly with foil and refrigerate. On T day I heat through in the oven covered at 350. Amazing! Plate without the broth. What is great as I replenish my platter is that the Turkey in the pan keeps it hot.My gravy I make the day before from my drippings. Potatoes are prepped and mashed as well and warmed through on T day in a low crockpot typically have to add a bit more warmed butter and cream. Dressing is prepped as well and heated through in a crockpot with a little no sodium or low sodium broth…tastes just like moist stuffing. All veggies are prepped fresh on Thanksgiving. We don’t have a big crowd and I love how much it frees up the cleanup time. What we have all noticed too is that the flavors have time to meld especially in the dressing. Now I am hungry for a Turkey dinner?

      1. My nieces still laugh… what was I thinking all those years?‍♀️. Then I would get up at 3:00 am the following day to holiday shop. Goes to say you can teach an old dog new tricks?

        Please pray for us that God gives us patience as he leads us to our downsized home. The one we were hoping for was sold before market to a family friend.

  8. Where do you buy your dishpans? I have not been able to find big ones.

    1. You can find them at Walmart. I found mine years ago at a local hardware store.

  9. Kay Monack says:

    I love your placemats! (black, white and yellow checked). Where can I get them?