Gather friends and family for a Thanksgiving feast. ATTRIBUTION: Satya Murthy (Flickr)

Preparing for Thanksgiving is no easy task: Every year, our family takes several days leading up to the event to clean the house, put together the menu, and collect enough chairs and serving pieces to accommodate our guests. This year, we put in a special effort to cut down on all of the last-minute chaos, and here are some of the ideas we came up with that can help make your celebration stress-free.

Send E-Invites

Organizing for Thanksgiving has never been easier thanks to the Web and social media. Save yourself time by sending out email invitations to your guests instead of calling each person on the phone. You can also create a Facebook event and invite your guests that way.

Prep Your Kitchen

Your kitchen is the hub of the home and where you’ll be cooking, entertaining guests, and perhaps even eating. Start by clearing space in your pantry, then stock up on staples and Thanksgiving must-haves. Also, clear off your counters to provide plenty of room for food preparation.

Create a Menu

Start menu-planning about three to four weeks before Thanksgiving. Start by writing down your must-have dishes, whether it’s your traditional stuffing recipe or Aunt Mary’s candied yams. Besides the main dish, you’ll also want to consider sides, appetizers, breads, beverages, and desserts.

Develop a Schedule

Many people wait until the morning of Thanksgiving to begin the cooking process, but you can save a lot of stress in the kitchen if you make some of the dishes in the days prior to Thanksgiving. Then, develop a cooking schedule for the day of Thanksgiving, planning out what needs to go in the oven or on the stove when so that everything gets done around the same time.

Take Inventory

Once you have your menu finished, look at your recipes and write down everything you’ll need to buy. Take an inventory of what you already have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer to avoid overspending and buying duplicate items.

Gather Supplies

Make sure that you have enough tables, chairs, and serving pieces for all of your guests. If you’re lacking chairs, you may need to borrow some from friends or rent them from your local party store.

Clean Your Home

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, give the main traffic areas in your home a good clean. Delegate chores to each member of your family to help get the job done quickly.

Defrost the Turkey

Don’t forget to defrost the turkey by putting it in the refrigerator several days before Thanksgiving. Larger turkeys may need as much as a week to fully defrost.

Prep Ingredients

Certain ingredients take longer to prep than others. The night before Thanksgiving, take time to chop up your veggies, peel garlic, and do other tedious tasks that can be taken care of ahead of time. Store your ingredients in small containers or zip-top bags in the refrigerator.

Manage Dishes

Thanksgiving cooking requires a lot of dishes. Keep things manageable by staying on top of the dishes as much as possible. Start the morning with a clean dishwasher, and run several loads throughout the day. You might also consider using disposable plates for breakfast and lunch.

Most importantly, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Thanksgiving isn’t about the turkey or pumpkin pie: It’s about being with family and friends.