It happens. Throw a party to celebrate the holidays with friends— but that joy goes sour fast when the stresses of party planning (gasp!) creep up. Here at Greatist, we think nothing should ruin an opportunity to eat, drink, and be merry with friends and family. Here’s our list of the best ways to stay stress-free this holiday season when hosting parties, no matter the occasion.

Photo by Marissa Angell

Before the Party

Delegate. Party planning is not a one-captain ship, my friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or otherwise force friends and loved ones to lend a hand. To seriously cut stress, potluck it. On the invitation, ask each guest to bring a little something to reduce the hosting workload tenfold. But remember to assign categories! Who wants to end up with seven salads and no dessert?Too overwhelmed to throw a party all alone? Share the duties with a close friend. You host, someone else cooks. You buy food, someone else does the liquor. Having a partner in crime will make things much less stressful when it comes down to the party-planning wire.

Plan ahead. It’s list-making time! The great thing about parties is they can be planned far in advance, allowing the work to be split up over days, weeks, or even months. Make a plan and map it out over the weeks before the party.

Set a budget. Money is one of the biggest stressors around the holidays. To avoid last-minute budget blues, decide on a set amount to spend on the party in the planning stages (at least two weeks before) and stick to it. The good news about shelling out some party dough? Spending money on friends can actually help boost the bluesSpending Money on others promotes happiness. Dunn, E.W., Aknin, L.B., Norton, M.I. Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Science. 2008 Mar 21; 319(5870): 1687-8.!

Stock up on cleaning supplies. It’s inevitable something will end up on the carpet or couch. (Lets just hope it’s not vomit…) Prepare ahead of time by stocking up on easy cleaning solutions for any possible problem. And to keep the day-after cleaning minimal, clean the house the day before the party, too. Take the day or night before to give the place a good scrub. The cleaner the house is pre-party, the easier it will be to clean up afterwards!

Prepare the food ahead of time. Sure, some stuff has to wait (day-old seared meat… usually not the same!), but anything that can keep overnight should be prepared ahead of time. Sliced cheese and veggies, any kind of dip, and ingredients for dishes that need to be made on party day can all be prepped and stored in the refrigerator overnight (or even a few nights), and easily thrown on a serving tray or straight into the pan on party day.

Don’t try anything fancy. We get it, impressive food means impressing friends (or the boss…), but impressive doesn’t necessarily mean fancy. Use simple ingredients and recipes to create unique and beautiful dishes, like these.

Buy more food than you think you need. People will eat, and nothing’s worse than running out of food. It will all be eaten at some point— even if it’s as leftovers for the next week… or two.

Party Day and Post-Party

Put it all on ice. Get all the beverages out of the fridge and into a big bin of ice about an hour before the party starts. Nothing’s worse then guests snooping in the kitchen. (Who wants their personal eating habits displayed for the world to see?)

Give people a proper place to put stuff. There will be no stashing of dirty plates under the couch at this stress-free shindig. Make it obvious where things should go, and people won’t result to trickery. Throw a few trashcans and recycling bins by the drink and food tables, and put a few trays around the room to collect dirty dishes. That’ll make it easy to pick up in one fell swoop.

Save the dishes for later. Once the guests leave and the trash is taken out, go to bed— don’t even think about touching the dishes. That’s for the morning. Before the party starts, fill a large plastic bin with warm soapy water, and throw dishes in there throughout the night. In the morning, there will be no excessive scrubbing or screaming necessary!

Make time for yourself. Having the house filled with people is going to be stressful, no matter how you cut it. The day of the party, take an hour or two to yourself to relax and treat yourself, whether it’s a mani-pedi (they’re for guys, too!) or a nice workout.

Plan to indulge… but don’t get too sloshed. Everyone needs a cheat day occasionally, and holiday parties are the perfect excuse to eat, drink, and be merry— just do so in moderation. Studies suggest stress and alcohol can form a vicious cycle— the more stressed you get, the more you drink, and the more you drink, the more stressed you feel! The key? Plan ahead, give yourself permission to indulge, and don’t even think about feeling guilty the next day. Just maybe stop after the 10th sugar cookie (or third chocolate martini)…

Don’t give up on healthy habits. While cheating a little on drinking or a diet is fine every once in a while over the holidays, don’t ditch those health habits altogether. Stick to a normal gym schedule (exercise can even help combat stress!), and try to eat (and drink) healthy and in moderation!