I threw a party last Saturday evening for 23 really fun people. We noshed, mingled, chattered, and laughed. We had a great time; even the much-maligned poetry contest resulted in surprising hilarity. Nothing spilled, we didn’t run out of food, and everyone made it home safely. All in all, I’d call the party a success.

Twenty-four hours earlier, it had looked pretty bleak.

Friday at 7pm, my house was a disaster. I hadn’t planned a menu, which also meant I hadn’t shopped for ingredients or started to prepare a single thing. I was panicked and desperate.

Obviously, I was able to pull it off–thanks in large part to my brother, who cleaned my house, and my kids, who chopped, mixed, and stirred. By 10pm Friday, my house looked great. By 9:30am Saturday, I had a menu. By noon, I had groceries. By the time the doorbell rang at 7pm (okay, 6:50 thanks to Josh), I had a party. Whew!

I don’t ever want to do that again.

I (re)learned two things from this experience. First, having a plan makes all the difference. By the time I got around to turning this party idea into reality, I knew I had to have a clear picture of what I needed to accomplish. I made three lists: when/what to clean, what to serve, and what to buy to make it happen. I went systematically through each list and checked off each item as I completed it. I knew exactly what I had to do, exactly what I had to buy. I didn’t meander through stores, lost in possibility. With my lists, I was able to attack my preparations with purpose.

Second, plan or not, waiting till the last minute isn’t worth the stress. I may be more efficient when I am hyper-focused, but watching the clock tick toward my deadline and having no room left for error really messes with my psyche. And sure, working miracles might give me an adrenaline high, but who’s going to notice? I didn’t save anyone else’s day, only mine. All I did was deliver on a promise I made months ago–to host a party on January 7 at 7pm. Waiting till the last second to make it happen was my own fault and my own problem, so solving the problem rightfully had no bearing on anyone else.

Remind me of this post, readers, when November rolls around. That should give me plenty of time to plan.

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