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The holiday season can get stressful very quickly, especially if you're hosting. From planning a menu to cleaning your house so it's ready for guests, there's a lot to juggle when it comes to entertaining. Ward off holiday party chaos (and messes) with these five easy expert hacks for keeping your home clean, calm and collected—so you can enjoy your guests and a cocktail or two.

Cut Kitchen Clutter

It's no secret that food prep is messy business. But there is a secret to making your kitchen look spotless despite all that slicing and dicing. Chef Priyanka Naik, author of The Modern Tiffin: On-the-Go Vegan Dishes with a Global Flair, tosses all of her compostable food scraps in a brown paper bag and then stashes it in the freezer before guests arrive. "This does two things: it helps keep my countertops clear and minimizes odor in my garbage, so my guests don't smell anything funky," she explains. And it makes composting later a breeze—the whole bag just goes in the bin.

orange cranberry punch

Big-Batch Cocktails Are Your Friend

Normally, the pros at Party by Numbers deliver libations, food and even flowers straight to your (NYC) door in a modern bar cart. But if you're playing home mixologist, co-founder T.J. Girard advises keeping it lowkey by premixing batch cocktails, like pineapple margaritas, "so it is easy for guests to serve themselves and you don't have to be making drinks all night." Bonus tip: Girard saves lime rinds (left over from juicing for margaritas) and combines them with vinegar to create an all-surface spray cleaner.

Spread Out Your Spread

When you're expecting a large group of revelers, Shawn Lang, co-founder of the Farmhouse Project, a lifestyle blog and sustainable home decor brand, recommends setting up various food stations to keep guests mingling. Lang likes to place "an epic cheese board or hors d'oeuvres" on the entryway table, put the bar in the living room, and reserve the dining area for buffet-style main dishes, so everyone moves organically through the different zones. Plus, "It avoids the dreaded kitchen crowds."

Ditch Fussy Tablecloths

If someone accidentally spills some gravy onto one of Elena Besser's tablecloths, the chef and host of Food Network Kitchen's Breakfast with Besser pays no mind—because hers are fashioned not out of fancy fabric, but disposable butcher paper. "To spruce up this neutral canvas, I add whole fresh fruits and vegetables as a centerpiece," she says. Then, "all you have to do is either toss it or compost it," after guests say their goodbyes.

Vacuum a Little Daily

If you save it for the day of the event it will be too overwhelming, says environmental lifestyle expert Danny Seo, author of Naturally, Delicious Dinners. "Most importantly, it will reduce odors and create cleaner air quality in the home by trapping microparticles that can spread as guests move from room to room."

This article originally appeared in EatingWell Magazine, November 2021.