When you think about turkey day, you might imagine a huge table that fits all of your closest friends and family members. But it’s important to know that Thanksgiving dinner can be enjoyed in any sized space, with whatever furniture and resources you have.

Thanksgiving in a small apartment is possible and there are plenty of tips that can help you make the most of your small apartment.

1. Planning, planning and (you guessed it) more planning

grocery bag of food

The most important tip we can give you about pulling off a successful Thanksgiving dinner in a small apartment is to plan. You might think you’re Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen, but even some of the world’s top chefs have been bested by Thanksgiving.

Things to think about include:

  • How much oven space you have
  • Cookware that’s available to you
  • How many you can seat
  • Refrigerator/freezer space
  • Ingredients you will need vs. what you can find

The list of things to plan for prior to a Thanksgiving dinner is virtually inexhaustible. That’s why planning is so important — it gives you time to think about the things you’d normally rush over.

Could you imagine getting to the end of cooking an elaborate Thanksgiving feast only to realize you don’t have any serving utensils? Plan for every step of the process and you will ultimately save yourself from a lot of stress.

2. Think about timing

The timing of an important meal like Thanksgiving dinner is stressful for everyone. And prepping a meal in a small apartment brings an added layer of difficulty.

You’ll only have so many hours on the morning of Thanksgiving. If you need more time, you might consider cooking some dishes ahead of time. There are plenty of traditional Thanksgiving dishes that taste fantastic reheated a day later.

Since a small apartment most often has a small kitchen, you really need to evaluate your resources in terms of kitchen appliances. How big is your oven? How many stove burners do you have? What about refrigerator space?

One massively important consideration to make in regards to timing is defrosting your turkey. Frozen turkeys are large and you’ll need space in your refrigerator to thaw it out. For every 4 to 5 pounds of frozen turkey, you’ll need about 24 hours of defrosting time. That means that a 25-pound turkey would need more than 6 days of defrosting. There’s even a helpful calculator to help you determine how your turkey needs to defrost.

3. Decide on a guest list and seating

thanksgiving table settings

Photo by Libby Penner on Unsplash

The first step here is to set the guest list. Who you invite is up to you so you’ll know how many people to plan for. But be realistic about how many people you can actually accommodate.

Clinton Kelly of TV’s What Not to Wear suggests a mathematical approach – divide the square footage of your apartment by five to get the number of guests that can comfortably fit in your space. Regardless, it’s probably best if you decide how many guests you’re actually comfortable with inviting.

When you know how many people to plan for, check that you have available seating. Depending on the mood of your event, you may want a table setting and chair for every guest or you may be fine with sitting on the couch and eating at the coffee table. Whatever you need that you don’t have can be borrowed from a friend or rented from a party supply company.

4. Don’t be afraid to rearrange the furniture

When you have guests over to your home, it’s no longer a space for living — it becomes a space for entertaining. As such, you shouldn’t be afraid to arrange the furniture in a different variation than you normally do.

Slide the couches back, move lamps around or move tables together to create the perfect space for Thanksgiving dinner. It might seem silly to rearrange the furniture for just one dinner but it can really help create a space that’s conducive to entertaining.

On that note, if you can’t make it happen, you shouldn’t worry about being able to seat all of your guests together. People will mingle and move about regardless of whether or not you have a centralized dining space.

5. Match the scale of your decor with the size of your apartment

thanksgiving table decorations

If you’ll be decorating for Thanksgiving, keep scale in mind. Don’t overload your guests with huge decorations at a small table. Keep centerpieces small and color palettes simple. Small spaces can become cluttered quite easily.

6. Keep it light and bright

Bringing natural light into a small space is one of the quickest ways to make the space feel larger. Open all of the shades and turn on your lamps to make your space feel roomier for Thanksgiving dinner. Adding in decorative pieces like mirrors can accentuate this effect.

7. Guest-proof and clean your apartment

woman with cleaning supplies

Before your guests arrive, you should guest-proof your apartment. If Thanksgiving is bringing a larger crowd than you’ve previously had in your apartment, you need to make some preparations.

There’s potential for items to become broken, especially if you’ll have children over. Remove anything that’s low to the ground, valuable or personally-important. You should also keep in mind that your guests might snoop. If anything private like medication, mail or other personal items is easily accessible, you may want to hide it away.

And of course, as with any event, you should thoroughly clean your apartment before the big day.

8. Have your guests bring food

There’s nothing wrong with a potluck style Thanksgiving dinner. If you’re not comfortable taking on all of the food preparation yourself, ask your guests to bring a dish. Even if you end up having to prepare a few dishes, you’ll likely feel a lot less stressed.

It’s also totally acceptable to ask your guests to bring a specific dish. It might be tempting to have a “bring whatever” plan, but requesting a specific dish or type of dish will make the meal more cohesive in the end.

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