15 Ways to Make Thanksgiving Easier

All the Turkey Day prep work can tire out any host. Here's how to make the day rewarding for everyone around the table.

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Organize Your Home


Concentrate on cleaning and decluttering a few key areas: the kitchen, bathrooms, and living and dining rooms. If you have time, give bedrooms and the home office speedy spruce-ups—otherwise, keep them behind closed doors.

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Prepare the Table


A few days before, select a tablecloth, napkins, and serving platters. Make the silverware shine with a quick polish, if necessary.

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Clean Out the Fridge


Don't forget to make room for incoming food before your big grocery run.

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Create a Centerpiece


Here's an easy way to bring some seasonal flair to the dinner table: Head outside and gather leaves of various autumn colors, then arrange in a vase or shallow glass bowl.

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Prevent Messes Before They Happen


Place a large, absorbent, nonskid mat in front of the sink to catch crumbs and spills.

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Dress the Part


Lay out what you'll wear to dinner the night before so you can quickly change out of your cooking clothes just before guests arrive.

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Roast the Turkey


Want an easy way to keep stuffing from spilling out? Simply seal the cavity with the end of a loaf of bread.

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Ready Dessert in Advance


Scoop ice cream into muffin tins or decorative molds early in the day. At serving time, remove and place on pie slices.

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Streamline Salad


Use this shortcut for making super-sized salads: Put all ingredients, including dressing, into a large plastic bag. Toss, then pour into a punch bowl.

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Start the Kitchen Cleanup


Cut dishwashing time in half by soaking all used pots, pans, and utensils in hot, soapy water before you sit down at the table.

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Give Thanks


Go around the table and have each person share a few things she's most grateful for. Or ask family members to recount a favorite memory of a past Thanksgiving.

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Keep Your Family Entertained


After the meal, break out a generation-spanning game like Monopoly, or a deck of cards to play Go Fish or gin rummy.

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Wrap Leftovers


Seal out frost and preserve flavor by packaging freezer-destined leftovers in a double sheet of aluminum foil or heavyweight plastic bags (squeeze out the air). If you're using plastic wrap for refrigerated leftovers, dip a finger in water and moisten the rim of a dish before covering to create a tight seal.

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Scrub the Oven


Shake a heavy dose of table salt over fresh spills. Wipe up the residue with a damp sponge or paper towel once the oven cools.

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Plan for December Holidays


Another big feast is less than a month away. Make note of everyone's favorite dishes so you can give them new twists—or just recreate them—next time.