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10 Steps to a Relaxing Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! Family, friends, good food - and no presents to buy. To make it your best holiday ever, consider these organizing tips:

? Choose your preferred style: formal with everyone dressed up and using their best manners - or a more informal relaxed style. If you've invited more people than your dining table will seat, decide whether to add extra tables or a set up a buffet and use couches and occasional chairs for seating. Arrange for extra chairs if necessary.

? Keep in mind the ages of the people involved - and choose a time for the meal that will fit their needs - young children may get too tired if you wait to sit down at 1:00 pm. Consider seating for children based on ages. Teenagers might enjoy the day more seated together.

? Ask guests to identify their favorite dish - include as many of them as possible. (If someone wants a pecan pie, and you don't like to bake them, check out your local restaurant or bakery.) Don't assume you have to do everything - why not invite guests to bring a favorite dish? (Or ask them to bring a table centerpiece or bottle of wine.)

? Plan your menu well in advance, make a shopping list, and purchase non-perishables at the same time you do your regular shopping. If you're planning to use a fresh turkey, place your order early.

? Get out the table linens before Thanksgiving morning - make sure you have the sizes you need, and check to see if they need to be laundered, or ironed.

? Select table decorations. If you have children, involve them in the planning and execution of the celebration. (My children loved to make turkey cookies!) Consider disposable Thanksgiving napkins.

? To save clean-up time, or if the family china is insufficient to accommodate the guest list, attractive holiday disposable tableware is a viable option. Be sure you have enough serving dishes and utensils for the quantities you will be serving.

? If you're having a sit-down dinner, consider setting your table the day before to minimize last-minute stress. Make a checklist of things to be done on Thanksgiving day in order or priority.

? Determine your clean-up strategy prior to dinner. Do you want everyone to chip in and help - or would you prefer to spend the time with the family - and clean it up when they're gone?

? When the day is over, make notes about anything you wish you had done differently - file your notes away for next year, and give Thanksgiving for another special day.

Barbara Hemphill is the author of Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger at Work and Taming the Paper Tiger at Home and co-author of Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever. The mission of Hemphill Productivity Institute is to help individuals and organizations create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. We do this by organizing space, information, and time. We can be reached at 800-427-0237 or at

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