Ahh, Friendsgiving: The time to be thankful for the family you choose. The best part is, the traditional Thanksgiving rules need not apply here—and it's a good thing, because you just don't have room for all that fanfare. Forget the fussy table settings—who needs matching plates, anyway?—and take note of these seven simple guidelines to get your space ready before friends gather 'round the table.
Map Out Your Space
First things first: Decide where the table will go. If you live in a studio or a one-bedroom, the center of the room might be the most obvious answer. To create a separate drink station, stock a bar cart, as A Beautiful Mess did above, or place bottles and bar tools on a sideboard. When you have a plan in place, do a dry run: Set up the table, place the chairs, pull over your bar cart. Can you walk around the table without tripping and can you pour a drink without bumping into the floor lamp? If yes, you're ready to party.
Clear the Clutter
Once you have your space mapped out, move any unnecessary furniture out of the room. If you have a separate bedroom, use it to stash extra side tables, sports gear, or clutter you have lying around. The same goes for clearing excess tchotchkes on shelves, countertops or the mantle to give your guests more spots to rest their drinks.
Tally Up the Chairs
And we use the term "chair" loosely. Even a clean step stool or a living room armchair sidled up to the table can work in a pinch. Pull anything that can be used as seating from around your home, as Anissa from House Seven did, above. For a small group, consider using your coffee table as the dining table so that your couch can act as banquette seating along one side.
Take Stock of Your Serveware
Before the party, count out your flatware. If you're short a fork or two, hit up your local thrift store for utensils, which typically cost about $1 a piece. Don't worry about having a matching set of plates or flatware; pull a mix from various sets for a laid-back look. If you're starting completely from scratch, you may need to borrow from a relative, or if you're in California, check out the rental service Table + Teaspoon, which can ship you everything you'll need.
Set the Table
Plan to set your table the night before, so it's at least one thing you can take off your plate the day of. Keep the centerpiece simple and seasonal. For her Thanksgiving gathering a few years ago, Faith Durand, Executive Editor of Kitchn, used a tray to corral pretty finds from her kitchen—a pomegranate, some vegetables, a gourd—into an easy arrangement. Skip the formal tablecloth, and stick to a fabric or butcher-paper runner. (Bonus: Leave out some markers so friends can scribble on the table like they're at the Macaroni Grill circa 1994.)
Work the Walls
To avoid taking up valuable space in the room, limit decorations to along the walls and hung overhead. Using a roll of inexpensive craft paper, write out a menu so your guests know what to save room for, as Rox & Sam did above. Hanging string lights or simple garlands high above the table will make the room feel festive without compromising precious standing room.
Free Up Your Fridge
If you have a tiny apartment fridge, you're going to need every inch of it for cranberry sauce and stuffing. Save room by relegating wine, liquor, and even water pitchers to a bar cart. If you're serving beer, fill a big bucket (or even a pumpkin!) with ice, and use it to keep bottles chilled outside the fridge.
Mostly importantly, don't stress!
Spills may happen, you might run out of napkins, the turkey will most likely set off your overly-sensitive fire alarm. But don't worry. You're in a room full of friends.