One of the best ways to get through winter is to have a party or two. There’s a lot of pressure in wine country to host otherworldly parties—Jean Charles Boisset and Erin Martin have set the bar very high. But even a party that doesn’t feature a nude woman in a vat of chocolate can take a lot of work. What are some of the short cuts of people like designer Cynthia Rowley or Vogue contributor Hamish Bowles who are known for throwing fabulous fetes?

Start with a clean slate: If your house is already clean and uncluttered, you’ll save a ton of time on prep.

Create a turn-key menu: In the winter, a big pot of homemade soup could be the centerpiece. In the summer, something bar-be-qued or a big main course salad. Reducing the amount of side dishes saves a lot of extra grocery shopping, pre and clean-up clean up.

Buy something premade and jazz it up: You could buy a jar of nuts as an appetizer but pour it into a silver dish. Buy a premade dessert and put it on a fancy plate or tray. A crudite or charcuterie board can be a worthwhile splurge if you’re worried about having something for guests to munch on before dinner is served.

Try a theme: If you’ve recently returned from a trip, theme the invitation, meal, decorations, activities around the place you just visited. Memorable, original details can elevate the party’s energy and impact.

Take your theme and amp up one or more amazing details: If your theme is India, could you make a fabulous curry and feature an elephant ice sculpture? Or could you send your kids to Nimbus and have them create a huge papier mache elephant to place by the front door? Could you hire someone to give everyone matching henna tattoos?

If it’s a winter solstice party, could you find an amateur astronomer to set up a telescope and show off the rings of Saturn and a psychic to read the guests’ tarot cards?

If it’s a K-Wave party, could you gift your guests Korean skin cream, play BTS and Blackpink, and serve Korean bar-be-que?

Limit the guests: the guests make the party, so choose carefully. My favorites are always one table parties. With a single table everyone feels equally special and the conversation tends to be much livelier. If you don’t have a large dining table, add to one or both ends with draped card tables. Who cares if the chairs don’t match? In fact, go to Lolo’s or another furniture consignment store and ask if they have any single chairs they would be willing to sell cheap. Make it interesting! Give every misfit chair a story.

Put your clutter (aka collections) to use: It’s not really clutter if it’s beautiful and/or useful, so if you have a rock collection, make it a centerpiece by arranging them down the table on a runner or in matching bowls. Put a grouping from your vase collection together and fill each with flowers. Even a Beanie Baby collection could make a really cool centerpiece. If you’re ready to divest yourself of a collection, give each guest something from the centerpiece at the end of the party.

Make clean-up easy: I always do my own clean up so that guests can relax and depart after dessert is finished. The best method I’ve found for easy clean-up is to do as much ahead as possible and clean up as you go. Or rent the dishes! It could be worth it depending on the size of the party and your level of aversion to dish washing.

Lower your expectations: Things will go wrong, such as guests not showing up or showing up with an unexpected plus one. It’s not only the fault of the pandemic; people have been cancelling late and changing plans last minute for over a decade it seems. Eight person dinner parties can become intimate three to five person meals in the blink of an eye. It’s distressing, but as long as you breathe and release expectations, you will end up having just as much, if not more fun. You’ll also have leftovers for a week.