Laundry Tips: How to Save Time and Lighten the Load

Sort darks from delicates in a snap and put an end to the vanishing sock conundrum once and for all: Erin Rooney Doland, author of Unclutter Your Life In One Week, shares the secret to streamlining laundry time.

Out of all the advice I’m about to give on how to do laundry efficiently, there is one principle that stands out among the others: The less you own, the less you have to clean. If you don’t have many clothes, then your laundry baskets can’t overflow with items. This principle is true for everything in your home (fewer objects to dust, fewer papers to file) and makes a significant impact when you apply it to your wardrobe.

Tips for keeping laundry under control:

For the person who doesn’t mind laundry too much:

  • Decrease the size of your hamper. It’s easy to resist doing laundry until your hamper is full, so use a smaller hamper to keep from getting overwhelmed. Alternatively, most residential washing machines only hold between twelve and eighteen pounds per load (check with your manufacturer for your model’s exact weight limit). Get out your scale, put your hamper on the scale, and note the weight. Then fill the hamper with clothes until your scale reads twelve pounds (or whatever your machine’s limit) above the weight of the hamper. Mark that clothing line on the inside of your hamper so that you know when you’ve reached your one-load limit. (Note: Most washing machines will hold more clothing than their weight limit. Just because they can, it doesn’t mean they should. Your machine will last longer if you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.)
  • Organize immediately. If you sort your laundry by color and separate out the delicates and dry cleaning, do this when you take off your clothes.
  • Make it desirable. The nicer your laundry room, the more time you’ll want to spend there. Replace lightbulbs, clear the spiderwebs, and set up a table to fold clothes on. If you don’t have a washing machine in your home, keep a piggy bank for quarter collection and carry your detergent in water bottles instead of the hefty container it came in. The easier it is to get to the Laundromat, the more likely you’ll be to make a habit of going there.
  • Stay on a routine. I’ll talk about this more in detail in chapter 3.For the person who hates laundry, see everything listed in the “doesn’t mind it too much” section, plus:
  • Get ready for bed at least an hour before you go to bed. If you’re someone who leaves your clothes on the floor instead of in the hamper, it’s probably because you’re exhausted and climbing into bed in the dark. Get ready for bed when you’re still alert and the lights are on to keep you from using your floor as a hamper.
  • Wash-and-wear is the way to go. Any clothing that requires special attention can clog up your laundry system. If you pay a few extra dollars in the store for wrinkle-free fabrics and wash-and-wear items, you end up saving yourself considerable time (no ironing) and money (no dry cleaning bills) over the long term.For the person who loathes laundry with the burning passion of a thousand suns, see everything listed in the “doesn’t mind it too much” and “hates it” sections, plus:
  • Avoid colors that bleed. If you don’t have darks that bleed onto lights, then you can throw everything into the same load. Reds, oranges, blacks, purples, and navy blues are often bleeders, so avoid them for convenience.
  • Buy in bulk. Stop wasting time matching socks. Buy multiple pairs of the same kind of sports and dress socks. I buy six pairs of identical white sports socks and five pairs of identical dark dress socks. When they start to wear out, I turn all of them into rags and replace them at the same time. In my house, we call it the Sock Purge, and it takes place about every six to eight months.

Erin Rooney Doland, author of Unclutter Your Life in One Week: A 7-Day Plan to Organize Your Home, Your Office, and Your Life! (Copyright © 2009 by Erin Doland), is an organization consultant and the Editor-in-Chief of, a popular website that has been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Slate, House Beautiful,, and on the BBC and HGTV. She is a weekly columnist for Real Simple online, and has written for Ready Made, Women’s Day, and, among others. She lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband.

6 Ways to Tame Paper Clutter

Turn those mountains of paper into manageable molehills and learn how to cut the paper trail off at the source with these tips from Linda Cobb, author of The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter.

It seems that the farther we advance with technology, the more we are inundated with paper. Remember when computer gurus told us we would soon be living in a paperless society? Well, guess what — it seems that the technical revolution has generated a whole new spawn of paperwork.

The vast majority of waste in recycling sites is nothing more than ordinary paper — everything from junk mail, newspapers, magazines, and phone books to the flotsam-and-jetsam paperwork of everyday life. Controlling this particular area of clutter is key to living a less stressful and simpler life. Let’s tackle the paper chase together, shall we?

You’ve Got Mail

When you pick up your mail every day, bring it in the house to the same spot. It can be a basket in the entryway, a designated spot on the kitchen counter, or a space at your desk in the home office. Then take a few moments to go through your mail, and remember the rule to handle each piece of paper only once. Newspapers, catalogs, and magazines go to the magazine rack or a basket, where you can find them and read them at your leisure. Toss out the old catalog as you replace it with the new issue, and make sure to sort through this storage bin regularly (weekly is great) to keep it up-to-date. Toss the water, electric, or car payment into a manila folder or large envelope marked “Bills” for payment. Read personal mail, such as wedding or shower invitations, birthday cards, and the like, and enter information on your family calendar. Scan through junk mail, then toss. The big temptation here is to set down a letter, bill, or “interesting idea” from the junk mail for “later.” However, later usually doesn’t come! Teach yourself to clear out your mail daily, and clutter has that much less of a chance to congregate.

Consider how many charge accounts you have. Do you really need four major credit cards, a gasoline card, and a card for every department store in your nearby mall? Remember that all of these cards generate reams of mail in your direction from these retailers. Simplify your life by cutting down your credit cards to just a few you can use everywhere.

Chances are you’re on some mailing lists for items that no longer interest you. Take 15 minutes today to stop the accumulation of unwanted offers in the mail. You’ll need to make one phone call and write a single letter to do this. To stop unwanted credit offers, dial 1–888–5–OPT–OUT at any time of day or night. Then, write to the following: DMA Mail Preference Service, PO Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512. Include your complete name, address, zip code, and a request to “activate the preference service.” The Direct Marketing Association estimates that this one step will stop 75 percent of junk mail from reaching you for up to five years. Keep in mind this option may stop catalogs and promotions you would have liked to receive.

The Paper Tiger
And some ways to tame it:

  • Think twice before you copy that e-mail or print that delicious recipe you want to try “someday.” The great temptation of the Internet is that it makes so much information available so easily. How may times have you printed out a couple of pages to read later, and later has never come? And how many times have you printed out one page only to be flooded with six or seven? Remember: You don’t have to print everything. The information will be there, on line, the next time you need it.
  • Reuse paper in your printer to copy items for personal use; save the clean copy paper for items you need to send out or keep as a personal record.
  • Consider using electronic or on-line banking — it cuts down dramatically on paperwork.
  • Recycle or toss newspapers and magazines at least weekly. Piles of old newspapers are untidy, and a fire hazard as well.
  • Store important personal papers such as your will, birth certificate, social security card, and passport in a safe place at home (a fireproof box is best) or a safe deposit box at the bank. If you store these papers at the bank, keep a list of what is in the safe deposit box on your computer or in your home files. Go through these papers twice a year to make sure they’re in order. Keep a separate folder for each child in your family. In each, place their immunization record, report cards, birth certificates, social security card, and any other important information, such as allergies, doctors’ names and phone numbers. This will be invaluable, especially at the beginning of each school year.
  • A family calendar is a great idea. Purchase a large one and post it in an obvious place such as the kitchen. Mark down birthday parties, weddings, family parties, as invitations arrive. Keep a clothespin attached to the calendar, where you can hang the invitation or pertinent information. When the event is over, just toss.

Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter (Copyright © 2002 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.



4 Steps to an Uncluttered Desk

If office space detritus is weighing you down, then it’s time for a clean sweep. Follow this four-step clutter cleanup strategy from Enough Already!, by Peter Walsh, to free up physical and psychological space for more creative and productive work flow.

Improving your work life isn’t as simple as having a clean desk. But what can I say? I do this for a living — it’s a good place to start. There’s no faster way to inspire an immediate change in attitude than with an uncluttered, clear, pristine desk. It’s a little like making your bed. A made bed anchors a room, sets the tone for the day, says, “I respect my space,” and shows a commitment to routines and organization. So you are your desk. If it’s cluttered, how are you supposed to prioritize? How can you be efficient? Think of your desk as a reflection of your head. No matter how creative and brilliant you are, I can assure you that you’ll perform better with an organized desk. Now let’s get to it. Here’s how.

Quick Desk Purge

  1. File. You shouldn’t have anything on your desk that isn’t “active,” meaning it still needs to be dealt with. Filing isn’t complex, and it isn’t high priority, which is why a “to file” pile tends to grow high. Get rid of those piles immediately, even if it takes you an hour. If you take ten minutes to file at the end of the day, you’ll always be able to keep your desk clean. Filing and tidying up at the end of the day is a good way to decompress before you go home, as well as a way to clarify and reinforce what you did today and what you need to do tomorrow.
  2. Get rid of the miniature Zen garden. After you’ve filed, clear your workspace of anything that you don’t use regularly. If you must have sentimental items and toys (really, must you?), pare them down to a bare minimum. This isn’t a high school locker. You’re a grown up and a professional. Your desk should reflect that. The same goes for the stuffed animals, Vegan souvenirs, and collectible action figures!
  3. Use a vertical file organizer for “active” files. Reserve your inbox for items that need to be dealt with pronto. For ongoing projects, create files and store them in an easily accessible desktop file organizer or a rolling file cart that slips easily under your desk and can be accessed quickly and efficiently.
  4. Create systems that work. No matter if you’re a shoe salesman, a full-time dad, or a rock star, you’ll do your job better if you have fool-proof systems in place.
  • When you listen to your phone messages, the calls you need to return should always be written down in the same place.
  • When you plan a meeting, a playdate, or a concert in Madison Square Garden, the event goes immediately into a calendar.
  • When you pay a bill, complete a sale, or finish an album, all documentation should immediately be filed away.
  • Keep a running to-do list on a notepad or electronically. Start a new page every day, copying outstanding to-dos onto the new page. When you complete a task, check it off and note the date. You’ll always know when you got something done and have a clear record in case you need to refer back to it.

And so on. Take notes. Keep a calendar. Return calls. Log important addresses and phone numbers. Be accountable. You know how there are some ultra-reliable people you trust to do what they said they’d do, when they said they’d do it? You can be one of those people. Your organized desk is the first step and says “I mean business” to everyone who sees it.

Peter Walsh is a clutter expert and organizational consultant who characterizes himself as part-contractor and part-therapist. He is the bestselling author of Enough Already! Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You (Copyright © 2009 by Peter Walsh Design, Inc.), It’s All Too Much, and Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? He can also be heard weekly on The Peter Walsh Show on the Oprah and Friends XM radio network, is a regular guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and was also the host of the hit TLC show Clean Sweep. Peter holds a master’s degree with a specialty in educational psychology. He divides his time between Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia.



Tang in the Toilet and 17 Other Ingenious Bathroom Cleaning Tricks

Short on bathroom cleaning supplies? Maybe not!: All the tools you need for a good tile-to-tub scrub can actually be found in your garage, laundry basket, kitchen cupboards and medicine cabinets. Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean, has done the dirty work to come up with this list of effective — and ingenious — cleaning concoctions.

To clean and polish a porcelain tub and remove stains, make a paste of powdered alum (available in drugstores) and water. Rub well, as if using cleanser. For stains, make a paste of powdered alum and lemon juice; apply and let dry, then moisten with more lemon juice and rub well. Rinse thoroughly.

Borax and water is also a great cleaner for porcelain. Make a paste and rub well, then rinse.

Heat white vinegar until it is hot, but not too hot to pour into a spray bottle and work with. Spray it on the shower and tub heavily. Wait 10–15 minutes and then moisten a scrubbing-type sponge with more of the vinegar and scrub down the shower, using additional heated vinegar as necessary. Rinse well and dry.

Many plastic-type tubs have a dimpled, slip-proof bottom that defies cleaning. I have found that using a good gel cleaner or a mild cleanser, and a piece of fine drywall sandpaper (looks like window screen) works the best. Cut the sandpaper into a workable size, apply the cleaner, and rub. Use this only on dimples in plastic and Fiberglas™ tub and shower bottoms.

For stubborn shower spots and scum buildup, use a dry, soap-filled steel-wool pad on a dry shower. Do not allow water to become involved in this process, as it will cause the steel-wool pad to scratch. Follow up with the previously described vinegar process.

To make shower upkeep simple, apply a coat of car wax. Do not use this on the floor of the tub or shower. After showering, use a squeegee to wipe down the shower door and walls, and your shower will stay clean and you’ll have fewer problems with mildew.

You can keep ahead of grout cleaning if you use a dry typewriter eraser on dry grout to remove mildew and stains as they appear. For bigger problems, make a paste of baking soda and chlorine bleach and apply to the grout. Let dry and then rinse. Do this in a well-ventilated area, using care near carpet or fabric. Even the fumes of chlorine bleach can remove color from towels left hanging in the tub area.

Combine 2 parts baking soda, 1 part borax, and 1 part hot water, adding additional water as necessary to form a thick paste. Apply to the tile and grout, and scrub with a soft brush. Rinse well.

This is a handy spray-on grout cleaner for frequent use, good for removing soap scum and cleaning tile counters:

1/2 cup of baking soda
1⁄3 cup of ammonia
1/4 cup of white vinegar
7 cups of water

Combine all the ingredients in a labeled spray bottle and shake well to mix. Do not use this in conjunction with chlorine bleach or where chlorine bleach has been used. Simply spray it on and then wipe with a damp sponge or cloth. No rinsing required.

Removing soap and scum buildup on glass shower doors is always tedious. Lemon oil or even plain old mineral oil will remove it quickly and easily, and will help to keep it from coming back. Apply the oil to a rough cloth, such as an old washcloth, and rub it across the dirty shower door surface. Next buff with a soft cloth or paper towels to provide a haze-free shine. The oil provides a protective coating that keeps the water beading and the soap scum from adhering. Never put oil or allow it to drip on the floor of the shower; this will prevent good traction in the shower and may cause someone to fall.

Put the shower curtain in the washing machine with 1 cup of white vinegar, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup of your favorite liquid laundry detergent, and several old, light-colored towels. Fill the washer with warm water and run through complete wash and rinse cycle. Remove from the washer and hang on the shower rod immediately.

Fill a plastic sandwich bag with undiluted white vinegar. Tie this around the showerhead and leave overnight. In the morning, remove the bag, scrub the head with a brush, and it’s ready to use.

Put 1/2 cup of baking soda down the bathroom drain and follow with the vinegar from the plastic bag — great drain opener! Wait 30 minutes, then flush with water.

Use white vinegar on a cloth or sponge to remove water spots and soap scum. Dry and buff with a soft cloth. Rubbing alcohol is also a great spot remover. Apply, then dry and buff.

To shine chrome or any metal fixture in a hurry, use a used dryer fabric-softener sheet on a dry fixture.

Apply some lemon juice to chrome fixtures and buff with a soft cloth to a brilliant shine.

You can use this formula to remove hair spray residue from any hard surface — vanities, tile, floors, walls, etc. Mix a solution of 1⁄3 liquid fabric softener and 2⁄3 water in a spray bottle. Spray on the surface to be cleaned and wipe. Not only does it remove hair spray, it also acts as a dust repellent and shines vanities beautifully!

Mix 50 percent rubbing alcohol and 50 percent water in a spray bottle and use it to remove styling product residue.

Lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the decals and heat with a blow-dryer on high. Work up the edge of the decal with a dull straightedge (credit cards work great) and keep applying the heat as you pull. If the decal is stubborn, lay down the foil as necessary and heat well and peel again. To remove the residue, try petroleum jelly, denatured alcohol, or nail polish remover. Test these products in a small area first before applying.

HAIR TODAY: Dilute your shampoo and conditioner with water to save, save, save. No need to watch all that money go down the drain!

Plug the drain holes in the door track with a little bit of paper towel made into a ball. Pour in undiluted white vinegar. Let this soak for 30 minutes, unplug the holes, rinse the track with a spray bottle of water, and run a rag down it. This will flush the accumulated buildup out of the track.


If you have indoor plumbing, then you have to clean the toilet once in a while, whether you like it or not. Follow these tips and it will be a breeze:

Tang® Tune-up
To keep your toilet clean and your dog happy, put several tablespoons of Tang® Breakfast Drink in the toilet before you leave for work or at bedtime. Let it soak, use your toilet brush to swish around under the rim, and flush. The great thing about this is you don’t have to worry if the kids get into the toilet bowl cleaner.

Removing Hard-Water Rings

Shut off the water at the toilet tank and flush. Spray undiluted white vinegar around the inside of the toilet, then sprinkle borax onto the vinegar. Let soak about 30 minutes and then scrub with a piece of fine drywall sandpaper (looks like window screen — available at hardware stores and home centers). If you have an old hard-water ring, you may need to repeat this several times.

Plop-Plop-Fizz-Fizz Cleaning
Drop a couple of denture-cleaning tablets into the toilet and let sit overnight. Brush under the rim with your bowl brush and flush.

To clean stubborn stains from a toilet bowl, first shut off the water at the tank and flush the toilet to remove as much water as possible. Combine in a bucket:

1 tablespoon ammonia
1 cup of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (drugstorevariety)
1 1/2 quarts water

Pour the solution in the toilet bowl and use a brush to apply it to the sides of the bowl. Let stand at least 30 minutes, then scrub the inside of the bowl with a scrub brush. Allow to remain in the toilet for up to several hours, reapplying the solution to the sides of the bowl frequently as needed. Do not use this with chlorine bleach or products that contain chlorine bleach. This solution cleans and disinfects.

Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean (Copyright © 1998 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.



Last-Minute Party Tips and Hors d’Oeuvres You Can Make on the Fly

When you’re having friends over at the last minute, follow these tips, tricks, and easy, always-pleasing appetizers that take only minutes to prepare from Katie Lee, author of The Comfort Table: Recipes for Everyday Occasions.

It’s cocktail hour somewhere! And having a versatile bar makes it that much more fun when guests arrive. In addition to spirits and mixers, it’s a great idea to keep a drink-mixing guide by the bar in case someone requests a cocktail you’re not familiar with.

my essentials

  • bourbon
  • vodka
  • light rum
  • gin
  • tequila
  • vermouth
  • mixers (tonic, seltzer, juices)
  • tools (ice bucket and tongs, shaker, strainer, two-sided jigger, bottle opener)

If I’m having friends over for drinks last minute, these are my go-to hors d’oeuvres. They take only minutes to prepare and are always a hit and appropriate for any occasion.

  • Wrap store-bought breadsticks in prosciutto.
  • Fill endive leaves with hummus and dust with paprika. (Endive leaves make great vessels for other simple, tasty combinations as well, like goat cheese with crushed walnuts and drizzled with honey, or smoked salmon with crème fraîche and chives.)
  • Make a variety of crostini by toasting thinly sliced baguettes and topping with goat cheese and roasted red pepper, Gorgonzola and fig jam, ricotta with olive oil and sea salt, or olive tapenade.
  • Marinate olives with fresh herbs and red pepper flakes.
  • Season nuts with chili powder and toast lightly.


  • Make lists, lists, and more lists of everything that needs to be done for the party.
  • Clean and set up the party space the day before.
  • To save space, move any nonessential furniture out of the party area and into your bedroom.
  • Stash old mail, magazines, and any other loose papers in decorative tins or baskets out of eyesight.
  • Take some time to tidy up your bathroom. Clear your sink of beauty product clutter, put out fresh soap, clean hand towels, and plenty of toilet paper.
  • Short on space? Clear off the shelf of a bookcase and use for bar setup with martini and wine glasses, a couple of drink garnishes, and plenty of cocktail napkins.
  • Designated drivers and nondrinkers shouldn’t be forced to drink water all night. Offer a nonalcoholic drink such as a fruit spritzer. Just mix fruit juice, club soda, and sliced fruit.
  • To break the ice, give an outgoing friend a tray of hors d’oeuvres to pass around, and put another friend on drink duty.
  • When it’s time to wrap up the party, turn the lights up and put away the booze.

Katie Lee, author of The Comfort Table: Recipes for Everyday Occasions (Copyright © by Katie Lee), is the food and lifestyle contributor for The Early Show and has appeared on Oprah, Today, Extra, The Martha Stewart Show, Paula’s Best Dishes, and Iron Chef America. She has been featured in publications such as People, Vanity Fair, Town & Country, and InStyle, and writes a regular column for Cosmopolitan. Outside of her culinary adventures, she enjoys spending time in her organic garden and traveling. She lives in New York City.


10-Minute Solution to Traveling in Style

Get a ten-minute style for a long flight — one that is comfortable and also looks like you spent hours pulling it together. From Before You Put That On by style guru Lloyd Boston

Your summer travel schedule is like that of a rock star, even if many of your smaller jaunts simply take you to mountains up north, the local amusement park just off the highway, or out for a walk along a nearby waterfront.

Traveling in style is a toss-up. Many women say, “Why bother? No one will seem me thirty thousand feet in the air. And I can always change when I land.” Or so you hope.

I say getting fabulous for the friendly skies is a great way to take the edge off the work involved in traveling. Arrive at your destination knowing that you are ready for just about anything. You may even land an upgrade to first class if you aren’t there already.

Here is a great ten-minute style solution that I call “plane and simple” for air travel in a pinch:

Minutes 1:00–2:00
Go for drawstring lounge pants in cashmere, merino wool, or velour. They’re as comfy as sweats but look a bit more elegant. The longer the length the better.

Minutes 3:004:00:
Choose a fine-gauge sweater or sweater set. Surprisingly, thin turtlenecks are great on over-air-conditioned summer flights and look chic with lounge pants.

Minutes 5:006:00:
Ballet flats, slip-on slides or mules, and driving moccasins sans socks look rich, elegant, and feel as relaxing as first class, even if you’re in coach.

Minutes 7:008:00:
Your carry-on bag is the style tip-off — whether a new, inexpensive canvas tote (note that I said “new”), or a luxe leather weekend bag. Bring the best bag you have.

Minutes 9:0010:00:
Your makeup ought to be “barely there.” It is dry in the sky, so focus on a great moisturizer, a bit of undereye concealer, a natural lip color or moisturizing gloss — ready for takeoff!

Lloyd Boston, author of Before You Put That On: 365 Daily Style Tips for Her (Copyright © 2005 by Lloyd Boston) and The Style Checklist: The Ultimate Wardrobe Essentials for You, is the former vice president of art direction at Tommy Hilfiger and a current on-air fashion editor for Today, America’s #1 morning show. Lloyd has spread his style philosophy on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The View, and CNN’s red carpet Oscar coverage. He is based in New York City.



The Secrets of a Successful Party

How to throw a no-stress dinner or cocktail party, from The Art and Craft of Entertaining by Kimberly Kennedy

The secret to hosting a successful party is all about managing your time and staggering preparation. Rather than going crazy for the three days immediately preceding the party, make a detailed timetable of what you need to do before the event, then plot out when you can do it. The timeline here is specific to hosting a dinner party; nevertheless, many elements remain the same for a buffet or cocktail party. This should give you an idea of what can be done — and when. Use it as a general outline for your own party.

One Month Out

  • Plan your menu and drinks.
  • Create your shopping lists: Grocery store lists for non-perishables, bar supplies, perishables, and last-minute items like ice.
  • Wine or liquor store list.
  • Craft and art store supplies for projects and other decorations.
  • Inspect your plates, glasses, flatware, and serving pieces – plan the look of your table, set a sample place setting to check if your idea works, and see if you need any additional items and purchase them.
  • Make (or buy) and send invitations.

Two Weeks Prior

  • Shop for nonperishable food including dried and frozen ingredients.
  • Buy wine and any other alcoholic beverages.
  • Cook anything that can be made ahead and frozen in an ovenproof container, ready to be reheated on the day.
  • Make favors.

One Week Before

  • Wash any serving pieces, glasses, utensils, pitchers or plates that you have not used in a while.
  • Assemble music or create a CD.
  • Check or set up CD player or iPod.
  • Plan where drinks will be served and where hors d’oeuvres will be set out.

Three Days Prior

  • Prepare any part of the meal you can make in advance — this includes any preliminary steps such as chopping or prep work that can save you time when cooking the meal.
  • Clean the bathrooms and set out clean towels, new soap, and extra rolls of toilet paper.
  • Set up the bar or drinks table.

The Day Before

  • Buy perishable foods.
  • Prepare food that can be refrigerated.
  • Remove any dishes from the freezer to thaw in the refrigerator.
  • Buy flowers and arrange them; if not using flowers, assemble the centerpiece.
  • Decorate if using themed decorations.
  • Set the dinner table; set out wine glasses and hors d’oeuvres serving pieces.

The Morning of the Party

  • Shop for last-minute supplies such as ice and fresh bread.
  • Chop and prepare salad ingredients and cover with a damp paper towel in the fridge.

The Afternoon of the Party

  • Prepare the remaining salad ingredients and add to salad bowl.
  • Make the dessert and bake if required.
  • Make any hors d’oeuvres (if not made ahead and frozen, or store-bought).
  • Spot-clean the kitchen.
  • Do last-minute bathroom check.

Two Hours Before

  • Finish final dessert preparations.
  • Place cheese and crackers on a platter (if using bread, do not set out until later).
  • Fill coffeepot with water and set up the filter and coffee.
  • Preheat the oven.

One Hour Before

  • Bake or reheat hors d’oeuvres.
  • Open the wine, recork it, and chill white wine in an ice bucket.
  • Begin cooking or reheating main course.

15 Minutes Before Guests Arrive

  • Arrange hors d’oeuvres on platters; light candles; start music.

When the Guests Arrive

  • Greet guests at door, take coats, and offer them a glass of wine.
  • If needed, remove main course from oven and let rest 20 minutes.

15 Minutes Before Dinner

  • Remove the salad from refrigerator.
  • Heat and slice the bread, place bread in basket on table.
  • Fill water glasses.
  • Add dressing to salad and toss.


  • Place salad on the dinner table
  • Start the coffee brewing.

During Dinner

  • Remove salad and place main course on dinner table.
  • Refill water and wine glasses and offer second helpings.

After the Main Course

  • Remove plates; serve dessert; offer coffee or tea.

After Dessert

  • Suggest that everyone retire to more comfortable surroundings such as the family room.

Lifestyle contributor to CBS’s The Early Show and author of The Art and Craft of Entertaining (Copyright © 2005 by Kimberly Kennedy), Kimberly Kennedy is the former owner of two home-based businesses — catering and handmade baby treasures — as well as the winner of the television competition Wickedly Perfect. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Todd, and their little dog, Sadie.


60+ Healthy Foods for When You Have No Time to Eat

When you don’t have the time or place to fix something to eat, these are great, healthy food options. From Drs. Susan Mitchell and Catherine Christie, authors of Fat Is Not Your Fate: Outsmart Your Genes and Lose the Weight Forever

Here is a list of No-Prep foods to pick up at the grocery or convenience store. These are great when you don’t have the time or place to fix something or can’t sit down in a restaurant to eat. No-Prep means just that — open and eat. Be sure to think about the number of protein, carbohydrate, and fat servings on your diet plan for the meal or snack you choose.

You will have to estimate the correct portion size using your hand. Product sizes vary all over the country. Your serving size is the amount allowed in terms of your hand size. Item location will vary by type of store.


  • Bagels (top with low-fat cream cheese or peanut butter) — Palm
  • Raisin bran muffins (even better if made with liquid oil rather than hydrogenated oil) — Fist


  • Blueberry smoothie (such as Odwalla) — Fist
  • Cheese sticks — Thumb
  • DanActive probiotic dairy drink — Fist
  • Laughing Cow cheese (doesn’t require refrigeration) — Thumb
  • Milk chugs (single serving low-fat or skim milk) — Fist
  • Slim·Fast (check for cold ones in deli or drink case) — Fist
  • Snack size cottage cheese (such as Light n’ Lively) — Fist
  • Soy drinks in smaller sizes such as
    • Coffee soylatte — Fist
    • Vanilla, chocolate — Fist
  • Yogurt cups, low-fat and one third fewer calories (less sugar) — Fist
  • Yogurt drinks (smoothies; there are so many of these that you must compare the labels to make the best choice) — Fist
  • Yogurt tubes — Fist

Because these products vary greatly by store and recipe, one type of potato salad may have twice the fat of another choice. Compare your options and follow the portion guides, using your fist, palm, or thumb.

  • Bottled water or flavored water without calories — Freebie
  • Carrot raisin salad — Fist
  • Deli baked beans — Fist
  • Fresh fruit cups — Fist
  • Garden pasta — Fist
  • Green tea or other tea (canned with nothing added) — Freebie
  • Greek style salad — Fist
  • Hard-cooked eggs — Thumb
  • Hummus and pita (such as Athenos Travelers) — Thumb
  • Kosher garlic pickles — Freebie
  • Macaroni salad — Fist
  • Pimento cheese — Thumb
  • Potato salad — Fist
  • Red pepper hummus — Thumb
  • Salata Mediterranean salad — Fist
  • Shredded coleslaw — Fist
  • Smoked salmon — Palm
  • Soup of the day (non–cream based) with corn bread or other whole grain bread — Fist
  • Subs and other sandwiches made with lean meats and topped with vegetables — Fist
  • Summer rolls (typically found with sushi) — Palm
  • Sushi — Palm
  • Taboule — Fist
  • Tropicana peach smoothie — Fist
  • Turkey salad — Fist
  • V8 juice with a lemon twist (there are several V8 flavors) — Fist
  • White tuna salad — Fist


  • Clif Bars, such as Crunchy Peanut Butter or Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch — Palm
  • Granola or trail mix (ingredients really vary by brand, so compare them) — Fist
  • Gourmet baked chips such as Kettle Krisps or Guiltless Gourmet — Fist
  • Just Tomatoes and similar snacks, such as Just Mango, Just Raspberries, or Just Roasted Garlic — Fist
  • New York flat breads (crackers) — Palm
  • Nuts — Thumb
  • Odwalla Bars such as Chocolate or Peanut Crunch — Palm
  • Peanut butter crackers — Palm
  • Peanut butter (also available in squeeze containers and individually wrapped slices) — Thumb
  • Peanut butter–filled pretzels — Fist
  • Popcorn, light — Two fists
  • Pop-top cans of fruit or individual fruit bowls — Fist
  • Pop-top tuna or tuna pouches — Fist
  • Powerbar: Harvest — Palm
  • Raisins and other dried fruit — Thumb
  • Raspberry bars, such as Natural Choice — Palm
  • Soy crisps, such as Genisoy Zesty Barbecue (other salty and sweet varieties available) — Palm
  • Soynuts — Thumb
  • Triscuits (reduced fat) — Palm
  • Whole Food’s VERVE Bar, such as Peanut Butter Crunch or Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch — Palm

Energy Bars
Energy bars, trail mix, and trail mix bars can be quite high in calories, so compare them. They can even vary within the same brand. For example, some may have a coating that contains hydrogenated fat, so pay close attention to the ingredients as well as the Nutrition Facts label.


  • At least 3 grams of fiber, preferably 5 or more
  • Low saturated fat grams and sugar grams (1 teaspoon sugar = 4 grams)
  • 7–10 grams of protein for women and up to 15 grams of protein for men if used to replace a mini-meal or snack.
  • No palm kernel oil, coconut oil, or trans fat, indicated by hydrogenated or fractionated fat


  • Baby carrots — Freebie
  • Carrots and ranch dip (such as Coolcuts) — Freebie
  • Celery with dip (found in produce section) — Freebie
  • Cut-up fruit:
    • Pineapple — Fist
    • Honeydew — Fist
    • Cantaloupe — Fist
    • Watermelon — Fist
    • Strawberries — Fist
  • Fruit by the piece  — Fist
  • Garden salad in a to-go container — Freebie
  • Grapes by the bunch  — Fist
  • Spinach salad in a to-go container — Freebie
  • Tropicana juice bottles (found with juice, usually by produce) – Fist

Dr. Susan Mitchell and Dr. Catherine Christie are the authors of Fat is Not Your Fate (Copyright © 2005 by Dr. Susan Mitchell and Dr. Catherine Christie), I’d Kill for a Cookie, and Eat to Stay Young. Dr. Mitchell, a registered dietitian, certified nutrition specialist, and fellow of the American Dietetic Association, has appeared on Today, CNN, and the TV Food Network. Dr. Christie, also a registered dietitian and certified nutrition specialist, is a fellow of the American Dietetic Association and president of the Florida Dietetic Association.