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How to Host Thanksgiving in a Small Apartment - 10 Tips

November 15, 2019

It’s that time of year again! The air is brisk, the leaves are turning colors, and we’re feeling grateful for friends and family. 

You might feel so caught up in the magic of fall that you lose your mind for just a moment and offer to host Thanksgiving dinner in your small apartment. But when the novelty of that cozy idea wears off, you realize you’ll need to actually pull together a festive event where everyone leaves full and happy. 

Don’t panic. Instead, embrace hosting Thanksgiving from the confines of a small apartment as a creative challenge. 

We have some great ideas for you, from space-saving strategies to food prep. Here are ten tips for hosting Thanksgiving in a small apartment!

1. Prepare for the Hats and Coats

A crisp, chilly Thanksgiving day can look gorgeous with falling leaves. However, it also means more coats and hats. They’re going to take up space in your already cozy apartment. Come up with a game plan for guests to store their layers and outerwear. Pre-designate an area of your apartment. 

Depending on your apartment, you can look to assemble an inexpensive rolling garment rack to hang coats in a hallway or empty space. If worse comes to worst, have guests store their garments on your bed. It's not pretty, but it'll clear up room in your dining space.

2. Borrow Some Folding Tables

Now that you’ve sorted out the hats and coats, it’s time to tackle the logistics. Where’s everyone going to eat Thanksgiving dinner? 

Multiple folding tables work well for spaces that require spreading out to several areas. Consider borrowing some tables from friends or neighbors. You can also buy an inexpensive variety. 

You can always cover mismatched tables with a lovely Thanksgiving-themed tablecloth. That’ll hide the less than glamorous finish.

3. Get Inventive with Seating

Thanksgiving seating in a small apartment also takes some creativity. Invest in some folding stools or chairs. You can also take a hard look at what you already own. 

A footrest easily doubles as an extra seat. So does that fireplace hearth and antique trunk holding old coats. Just be sure to grab some cushions or pillows to make sure your guests are comfortable. They’ll enjoy cozying up for conversation around your unique seating area.

4. Turn it Into a Potluck

Cooking up a large Thanksgiving dinner in a small apartment would likely send most of our grandmothers into a panic. However, you can do it with the help of loved ones pitching in. 

Ask everyone to bring a dish. That’ll turn your gathering into a festive Thanksgiving potluck. 

As the host, volunteer to make the turkey or main dish. Task everyone else to bring their favorite side dishes. 

Just remember to pass around a sign-up form. That way, people can pick and choose essential dishes like desserts or sides. Otherwise, you could end up with five rounds of mashed potatoes and a box of donuts from your less than culinary-inspired friends. 

5. Rethink Thanksgiving Dinner

There’s no rule that says Thanksgiving must be full of oversized turkeys and a dozen different sides. Instead, brainstorm dish ideas that are indulgent and festive without the need to consume as much space. 

Grilled steaks, gourmet pizzas, and lobster tails all give Thanksgiving dinner a fresh spin. You may not even miss the traditional sides. 

You could also transform Thanksgiving into an evening dessert party. There, the main attractions would be pies, cakes, and treats. You can even pair them with craft beers and wine.

A full spread of Thanksgiving dishes is never a bad idea, but it doesn’t necessarily work well in a tight apartment.

6. Minimize Your Guest List

Small apartments can only stretch so far. If you’re short on space, it might be best to reduce your guest list to your closest friends and family. You can always throw a post-Thanksgiving bash for friends to celebrate the survival of their drama-filled holiday dinners with family.

7. Clean as You Cook

Preparing a feast fit for Thanksgiving requires all the pots and pans you can possibly find. That’s why it’s crucial to clean as you cook. Quickly wash, dry, and put aside any dishes not in use. 

Otherwise, your entire kitchen area turns into an explosion of heavenly smelling but dirty dishes. You can also leave sides that need to stay warm, like green beans or sweet potatoes, on the stove or in the oven. 

Just coordinate serving as you go. That’ll keep dishes off valuable serving space.

8. Invest in Disposable Dishware

Dishware is also an issue when it comes to hosting Thanksgiving in tiny apartments. You probably don’t have much room to store enough dishes to host a big Thanksgiving. You also don’t have the space to keep them lying around your dining area or kitchen once the meal is done. 

Pick up some high-end disposable dishware. It can mimic the look and feel of real china and glassware. You’ll end up with an impressive table display that you can throw away as people finish up their meals.

9. Decorate in Style

With so much focus on minimizing your cookware and strategizing your furniture, it’s easy to overlook decorating. Dressing up your apartment for Thanksgiving is fun and festive. It can also help with the overall flow of your space. 

Move out the clutter, stacks of books, and any spare furniture or gadgets. In its place, add vases full of Autumn blooms. 

Add a brown, orange, or autumn-inspired tablecloth or napkins. Don’t forget the fall-scented candles! Throwing open your curtains and soaking your space in natural light can also help everything feel bigger and brighter.

10. Have an Exit Strategy

Everyone needs an exit strategy for Thanksgiving. That’s the case even if you do come up with a space-saving plan for your holiday dinner. 

When everyone has finished eating and toasting, move out onto a balcony or rooftop if it’s warm out. You can also head down to the pub if it’s chilly. 

There, you can finish up your night sipping fall cocktails and hot coffee before heading home. The best part is, your apartment will be ready and waiting for you with empty, quiet arms.

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Justin is a Content Manager and contributing author at Apartment List, helping people navigate the world of renting. Justin previously spent his time earning his BBA in Marketing from Boise State University. Read More
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