You could pay someone else to cook, clean, or use someone else’s venue, but I will discuss some DIY options. I will also not include potlucks in these suggestions.
Decide what matters, can you keep people outside? This could eliminate the need to perfectly clean counters, tables, dust, etc… However people will still need to use the bathroom, so consider what routes will be traversed. I personally focus on picking up items off floors and counters, then if I have extra time, dry wiping counters and vacuuming the floors. If I have way extra time, I’ll scrub stuck on stains. I basically don’t deal with dust until its terrible, not a major focus for a summer party. The winter or an apartment party will have different quality metrics.
Do things need to be organized, or merely hidden? Picking up toys and putting them all into a bin is quicker than sorting between different uses.
Table cloths make it easy to cover a dirty table, it also makes it easy to clean up later.
While a robot vacuum requires pre-cleaning to remove items from the floor, it can do most of the job, leaving only hard to reach places, a fraction of the task.
Does it really matter? My wife would say yes.
Use chatgpt to skip the brainstorming step. For instance, describe your theme, describe that you want it easy, 0 effort, and take (almost) no time.
Can you enjoy it? There is something I love about decorating cakes. I am not talented, but I have vision and get in the zone as I apply frosting. I suppose this doesn’t actually save any time, but you might be able to replace other hedonistic activities like watching TV/Playing video games/endless social media scrolling with this more productive activity.
Streamers/ribbon are easy and cheap but change the color of your home. Worthwhile if you are trying hard on decorations.
Mrs. Efficiency Tip – piñatas can be both a decoration and a party activity, very versatile!
Bulk cook. I probably didn’t have to tell you that. One of the easiest parties we threw had a taco bar. 1 Meat, pinto beans/refried beans, Spanish rice. Everything else was cold and just needed to be set out.
Another idea, we did Pasta and Soup. Soups can be bulk cooked and require almost 0 stirring (Speed Cooking‘s Cream of Broccoli soup was a hit). Red Sauce Pasta was easy, make a large pot of sauce and moments before the party begins, you cook noodles. This means you have more time to socialize and less time cooking.
Slowcookers are great, but I feel like they have been a bit overdone. I’m not saying that slowcooker pulled pork sandwhiches are out of the question, this is a near 0 effort meal, but in our social circles it got overused. I still use this to cook soups and keep things warm.
Always have peanuts (assuming there are no deathly allergic people coming). These are easy to put on a table, they are a top nutrient per dollar choice as well.
Chips and Salsa can be a hit, but I’ll suggest that if you do salsa, pick a ‘different’ salsa. Everyone is used to generic red salsa. Try green or try one with weird ingredients.
Whole fruits are healthy and take almost 0 prep. This might get expensive depending on the fruit, but consider that most people wouldn’t be grabbing too much. In-season fruit tastes better and is cheaper. If the fruit requires prep, its not getting served at our parties.
Often people will offer to help, I have some ideas for that:
Blowing up balloons.
Something that takes almost no brainpower and can’t be messed up.
Left this for the end, because I don’t have a great solution.
Mass text messages have been blocked by Tmobile, I suppose I was inviting like 20+ people with the same message. Simply changing the first few words ‘hey *name*’ seemed to get around the block. That means copypasting the rest of the invite. This seems reliable. I’m faster with a mouse and keyboard and found there is an app called Link to Windows(Android to Windows) and KDE Connect(Android to Linux).
Email might be best, going to give this a try for family parties were I can BCC everyone.
Letters. This is expensive, but assuming you have up to date addresses in excel, it can be easy to print labels. The upfront work is real, but now I can easily send out Christmas cards too!
Don’t start cleaning days before. Things get dirty quickly, and you are probably going above and beyond.
We had food catered once, and I realized I was equally as stressed, cleaning areas that would likely go unnoticed until moments before guests arrived. The mentality that you can always improve seems dangerous for parties. See if you can cut corners – guests will likely not notice, or not care.