I Downsized My Home, but Not My Parties — How to Host Big Fun in a Small Space

published Jun 18, 2023
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Woman serving home made food in busy family kitchen and smiling
Credit: 10'000 Hours / Getty Images

When my family moved from an entire house to an apartment, we had to adjust to the significant shrinkage of both storage and living space. Naturally, when you’ve stayed in a house for decades, you accumulate items — tons of them, we realized. Many of them had sentimental value, but there were still plenty of less-important appliances and trinkets galore. After the items deemed unnecessary for our new place were put into storage (or donated), that’s when the big adjustment came: Would less room in the house put the kibosh on larger (or large-ish) festivities? Not a chance. When you have living quarters that are a bit tighter, all you need are a few alterations to your game plan, and you won’t have to limit the number of friends and loved ones you host at any given time.

No matter the size of our space, we’ll always want to make our friends and family feel at home, at ease, and appreciated. We pride ourselves on hospitality, and for me, that means serving lots of food and drinks. And while I absolutely adore laying out an abundance of dishes, I had to ask myself, how do you feed everyone when you can’t fit them all around your dining table? Here’s how.

Bring on the Buffet

Buffets definitely emphasize a more relaxed atmosphere when it comes to dining, but when you’re feeding a crowd in a crowded space, the sheer practicality of the buffet comes into play. 

Move your dining chairs away from the area, push the table close to (or against) the wall, and you have an instant serving station. Depending on the size of both your dining table and your menu, I’ve found that you can easily lay out a decently-sized spread of mains and sides this way. Plus, a little strategic maneuvering of the bowls and platters allows for optimum table coverage. 

However, if you’ve already blanketed that area with your bounty and need to find a place for more goodies…

Utilize All Available Surfaces for Food and Drinks

Decorative furniture can function as even more available space. If you have a side table, coffee table, kitchen island, or even a foldable card table floating around, you have plenty of options to place your party necessities. 

Condiments and dressings can sit on a side table, a card table can hold libations and an ice bucket, two long trays of appetizers can go on the shelf of a bookcase or on a hutch, and you can fan out your dessert spread on the coffee table

Disposable Can Be Dependable

We’re not just talking about those red plastic Solo cups that are known to make an appearance at every soirée. I find that when there are a lot of people in a smaller space, I’m wary of using glass or ceramic for serving due to the likelihood of spills and breaks. 

For plates, cups, cutlery, and serving trays, you can get practically any color or print that you could ever want to fit your style or theme (like vibrant tropical florals for a luau or pastel polka dots for a baby shower) in a multitude of materials. Don’t feel like washing dishes? Opt for fully disposable flatware and dishware in paper or biodegradable materials. If you want to keep your new bowls and plates (or be a little more eco-conscious), grab ones made from sturdy acrylic or melamine. Not only are they lightweight and great for reuse, but they won’t shatter into a million pieces when they’re dropped. 

For baked dips, casseroles, and other hearty main dishes, I love using disposable aluminum baking pans. They not only hold a significant amount of food, but you can put them directly in the oven, which is even more wonderful when you need to reheat. The cherry on top? Once the party’s over (and assuming there aren’t any leftovers), cleanup is a breeze! You just toss it out, or wash it and save it to reuse it.

Clean Up as You Go

If you have drinks and nibbles before a big meal and you continue to graze on other treats throughout all the fun, you’ll probably stack up some dirty dishes. By picking up the waste while the festivities are in progress, this limits clutter and unpleasant odors in narrower areas. 

As each course is finished (or at regular intervals), keep up the pace by loading your dishwasher, wrapping up leftover food and storing it in the freezer or fridge. (Bonus points if you’re sending your guests home with munchies; this means their personal packets will be ready to go!) You can also separate items for recycling and take out the trash. 

When it comes to downsizing space, it doesn’t mean downsizing on joy in your home. Never fear, because with these tips and tricks, fitting 10, 20, or even more people into your abode is entirely doable — take it from someone who considers herself an expert at it these days. Limited space simply means more room to find an ingenious way to create memorable get-togethers.