Is Your Home Thanksgiving-Ready? Here's Our Checklist

You might actually find this prep work soothingly familiar.

November 23, 2020
Photo by James Ransom

I’ve been thinking a lot lately (as I’m sure many of you have) about how to maintain the nostalgic feeling of the holiday season when things look so completely foreign this year. Thanksgiving, for me, usually meant: waking up just in time to catch the tail-end of the Macy’s parade; kitchen smells indicating my mom’s actually-early call time; and if we weren’t inviting over 20+ guests (my mom has five sisters), traveling to see them all.

While the gatherings have shrunk in size over the years (inevitable moving, and passing, of family members), this year has whittled away at our core group even further. There’s a silver lining there, though: fewer people to host means more time to focus on the little details that get overlooked in favor of convenience and utility. Instead of huge, single-use trays heating over sterno, we can serve sides in carefully selected vessels, and in lieu of bringing out the folding chairs for extra seating, we can use the dining table as it was designed.

The prep work, too, will be more focused this year, since the stress of (too many) visitors piling into the house has subsided. I’m sure my mother will still whip us up into a company-is-coming frenzy, and I’m smiling just thinking about commiserating with my dad and brother over having to scrub the bathroom... for our three additional guests.

The checklist below is a way to channel the angst of this past year into something that feels wholly un-2020: preparing for a gathering, no matter how small. By no means do you need to (nor should you) do all, but in a way, it might feel comfortingly normal to cross them off one-by-one.

Tidying Up Tasks

Get the Sink Shining

Sure, you’ll have to clean the sink after all the T-day dishes, but putting a little bit of work in at the outset makes the job far easier later. Plus, when you (hopefully) have someone offer to assist with clean up, the sink will be impressively shiny—giving the illusion of complete & utter preparedness.

Sharpen Your Knives for Bird-Cutting

Of course, the piece de resistance of any Thanksgiving table is the turkey, but what would turkey be without a ridiculously sharp knife to carve and slice it? No need to buy one of those terrifying motorized meat knives (reminiscent of a chainsaw, anyone?), just schedule in a few minutes of TLC for your own knives and you’re good to go.

Care for Your Cookware

Your pots and pans have been waiting for this day all year—longing to hold whipped, buttery potatoes and begging to brown some sprouts. While they all have different needs, your stainless steel, nonstick, cast iron, and copper will perform even better with some proper care before their day in the sun.

Tackle Oft-Forgotten Places

Behind the toilet, inside the oven, and the dishwasher (yes, it needs a clean, too!) all fall by the wayside in favor of easier, more visible surfaces to wipe clean, but now might be the time to face them head-on.

Decorating To-Do’s

Brainstorm a Centerpiece

Sure, it might just be your immediate family gathering around the table this year, but keeping the holidays special means adding thoughtful little touches all the same. There’s a centerpiece for every schedule or budget as well, be it creating a show-stopping aerial arrangement, or simply gathering up your houseplants for a display.

Stock Up the Bar Cart

Keep the classics on hand, of course (whiskey, vodka, tequila, gin, rum), but have fun accessorizing the bar cart with all manner of tools, syrups, and mixers. Our resident bartender, Elliot Clark, suggests having a cocktail shaker, mixing glass, bar spoon, and jigger for would-be mixologists in the family, as well as an ice bucket and some of the most common glassware—collins, rocks, and coupes. With all that stocked, you literally can’t go wrong.

Gather Your Tablescape Supplies

The table setting, much like a centerpiece, need not be complicated to have an impressive effect on those seated at the table. Fluffing up some choice herbs and folding cloth napkins are simple-than-you-think tasks that create an altogether sophisticated ambience.

Set the Mood with Candles

Thanksgiving has its own lineup of signature scents (my mouth is watering at the thought of being woken up to the smell of turkey), but a fall-scented candle lit upon arrival is truly a special touch.

Extra Credit Points

Give the Couch Some Love

Maybe this year you’re ditching the table in favor of the couch (I’m all for this, as I’m a serial couch-eater), which might be the final push you need to give it a deep clean.

Prep Reusable Leftover Wraps

If you’re lucky enough to have a couple guests over this year, they’ll be blown away by how far ahead you thought on this one. In reality though, these beeswax wraps are the quickest and simplest way to make leftover storage stylish, and they’re better for the earth, too.

Vacuum Your Curtains and Blinds

Oh yes, your window coverings are absolute magnets for dust and dirt, and a quick vacuum does the trick to suck up unwanted cobwebs. Instead of dusting or wiping, which inevitably leads to re-circulation of particles, the vacuum makes light work of it.

Get Up Close & Personal with the Baseboards

For our brand partnerships editor, Erin Alexander, the baseboards are actually never overlooked in her home, because her mom was more-than on top of it growing up. If yours need a clean though, grab the vacuum, a cloth, and some warm soapy water and get to it.

Which of these tasks will you be doing this year, and which will you skip? Tell us below!
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Assistant Editor, Home52