Thanksgiving should be a relaxing time with our loved ones, where we break bread and create memories that will last for years to come.
Thanksgiving often marks the first foray into a stressful holiday season. We worry about how to cook eight different dishes in one oven. We stress about keeping Aunt Martha happy despite her criticism of our kids and choice of bathroom hand towels. We grit our teeth when Uncle Bill brings up politics at dinner *despite the actually spoken rule that no one should bring up politics at dinner.*
The worst part of it is… We feel guilty. We actually want to enjoy this time. We want to capture precious memories with people we love and feel connected to each other. We want to look back and say, “Dang! That was a great time!” But that’s hard to do when our blood pressure is up because cousin Nate invited his vegan girlfriend at the last minute and we’re trying to score the last Tofurkey at Whole Foods at 10pm on Wednesday night.
Today I want to show you 5 ways minimalism can put thanks and giving back into Thanksgiving, help you cook less, enjoy your loved ones more, and even declutter your cupboards, all at the same time.
(If you’d prefer to watch me share these tips, watch this Thanksgiving segment I did on Good Day Columbus several years ago!)
TIP #1: SIMPLIFY YOUR MENU
When did we get the idea that a Thanksgiving meal should feature multiple meats, 15 sides, and so many desserts one might mistake your kitchen for the International Betty Crocker Bake-Off? I urge you: forego this culinary excess and adopt a simple Thanksgiving menu consisting of main course, a few sides, and a dessert. Just pick your favorites and let the rest slide. For me, a menu of Thanksgiving faves would look like: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie. And done.
TIP #2: POTLUCK
No one should be stuck in the kitchen all day on Thanksgiving. Let me suggest a wild alternative: only cook ONE THING on Thanksgiving. Yep. Ask your guests to bring the rest or buy it at the store. Give yourself a break and you can actually enjoy those guests instead of slaving over a hot stove. (The only exception to this is if you actually enjoy cooking that big meal all by yourself. If you love it, by all means, do it! And invite me over for next day leftovers, please.)
TIP #3: ASSIGN JOBS FOR PREP AND CLEANUP
Just like no one should spend all Thanksgiving day cooking alone, no one should prep or cleanup alone. Guests want to help, but they need direction. And it’s really hard to give direction when you’re cooking 10 things in a kitchen full of slightly tipsy relatives who are all trying to “help.”
A few days before Thanksgiving, get a piece of posterboard and write down all the prep AND clean-up jobs, from ironing the tablecloth and making place-cards to doing the dishes and boxing up leftovers. Include jobs for all ages. Kids love being helpful and I’ve found that making place-cards is the perfect job for them! You can also team up kids with older relatives to foster some inter-generational learnin’. How cool for your 6-year-old to learn how to set a proper table alongside her grandmother? Assign each guest a job or two. Or let them pick. Depending on how nice you’re feeling. 😉
TIP #4: DECLUTTER YOUR CUPBOARDS
Before you”Yeah, right!” and skip this step, let me explain why Thanksgiving is the perfect time to declutter your cupboards. This is the one time of year that you have a houseful of folks and use more dishes than ever, right? Well then, that also means it’s the perfect time to see how many dishes you actually need. (I’m talking to you, Baby Boomers, with a hutch full of china and special occasion dishes. I love you, but you need to hear me out on this one.)
A few days before Thanksgiving, take out all the dishes you plan to use. Then see what’s left in that hutch. Those guys need to go. Take them out, box them up, and assign each box a number, depending on how many guests you will have. When your guests arrive, let them each choose a set of dishes or draw numbers or have a White Elephant or hire a WWE referee and let your daughters-in-law duke it out for that butter dish.
The point is: the dishes go and your guests usher them kindly to the door. Please alert your guests ahead of time and let them know that these dishes are gifts, not obligations. If they can’t use them, they are welcome to pass them along to someone who can. (And if you can’t give the dishes in this way, I recommend you don’t give them at all. Nobody likes receiving “gifts” with obligations attached.)
TIP #5: COME UP WITH AN ALTERNATIVE BLACK FRIDAY ACTIVITY
It should come as no surprise that minimalists aren’t big fans of Black Friday. Even though much of it is online nowadays, I still think we would feel more thankful on this holiday if we thought less about how much we could save on a new TV and more about how we could spend quality time with our loved ones.
Some ideas: take a family hike, host a board game marathon, volunteer to clean up an elderly neighbor’s yard, do karaoke. The possibilities are endless, none of them involve spending your hard-earned cash, and all of them are guaranteed to make you feel thankful for another year of tromping around on this Earth with those people you love.
Alright y’all, that’s all I’ve got, but I will leave you with this: let’s make 2022 the year the holidays aren’t “crazy” but a time of actual joy and giving, of being thankful for what we’ve got, and not sweating the small details.
I wish you joy, peace, and as much pumpkin pie as you can eat.