You can do it. You can have guests in to your small(ish) home and not be totally stressed out for the week prior. Sometimes it just takes a little thinking, ingenuity, and a willingness to be flexible.
1. Get rid of clutter. Clutter will make your house feel even smaller and crowded. Even if this means dumping all of your clutter into a box and storing it in the basement until after the event, do it. This would also be a good time to temporarily put away any breakables that might accidentally get bumped and broken.
2. Keep your menu manageable. It's best to stick with tried-and-true recipes when entertaining. I usually stick with a few different dishes that I am comfortable with making and that I know should come out successful. This isn't the time to experiment with a new recipe. If you're feeling intimidated with serving dinner, especially to a large crowd, try an appetizer party or serving a sandwich bar at lunchtime.
3. Know how many people can fit comfortably in your home, and remember that you may be able to fit more than you think. I once hosted a baby shower for my sister in which almost every single guest came (when does that ever happen!?) Anyway, it was pretty crowded with 30-some people in our home, but we made it work. Now I know that I wouldn't want to have anymore than 30 people in our home if we were going to be confined to the inside of our home.
4. Set a warm ambiance in your home. A warm, welcoming, cozy ambiance will distract from the limited size of your space. The key here is to make your guests feel right at home. Light some candles, play some soft classical music, use soft, low lighting ~ these little things will go a long way in making the atmosphere cozy and warm. Also, keep the temperature of the home comfortable. This will probably mean turning down the thermostat an hour or so before your guests arrive. The more guests, the warmer your home will be.
5. Try to get as much cooking done ahead of time. This means choosing a menu that can be prepared in advance, even up to a couple of days in advance. By having most of the preparation, cooking, and clean-up done in advance, it will clear the kitchen space of mess and will free you to focus on your guests (not food preparation.)
6. Have a dedicated place for purses and coats. If we are having just a small gathering (for instance, just another family) we have a bench in our small entryway on which the guests pile on their coats. However, when we host larger gatherings, we make our master bedroom our designated "coat" drop-spot. Put one of your children in charge of gathering coats from your guests as they arrive and delivering them to the designated area.
7. Get rid of unnecessary furniture. If there are pieces of furniture in the area in which you will be entertaining that will not be used, temporarily move them to the basement or a bedroom to free up more floor space. This is especially helpful when hosting larger gatherings. Examples of furniture would be coffee tables, end tables, sideboards, etc.
8. On the other hand, you could actually utilize the coffee table and end tables as serving or eating surfaces. If your guests will be eating in the living room, for example, you could pull the coffee table up closer to the couch and use it as a makeshift table. It's also nice to have end tables for guests to set their drinks while they are eating.
9. Go buffet style. A smaller, intimate gathering is nice to have around the kitchen or dining room table, passing food around to the guests. However, if you're having a larger crowd, it is much easier to do a buffet. Line the food up on your kitchen counters, putting plates, napkins, and silverware on one end and food in a logical order down the counter (for example ~ buns before burgers, tortilla shells before taco meat.) If you have limited counter space, use your kitchen table and have guests eat in the living room. I actually also have a piece of our countertop that was left over when our house was built. It fits perfectly over our stovetop, so I always put it over the stove and turn that area into a serving surface.
10. Utilize the outdoors. If you have a back deck or patio, move the party outside. Or make the outdoors area easily accessible so that guests can mingle back and forth between the indoors and outdoors. We have a covered deck in the back on which we have a large table with chairs and we also have a covered side deck on which we have seating as well. There have been times when our guests have utilized both spaces. Also in the summer, we do a lot of cook-outs. A simple campfire, some hot dogs or sausages, and camping chairs makes for a quick and easy get-together. And since we do have a large, wide-open backyard, we've been blessed to be able to host our church's larger summertime picnics and get-togethers.
11. Eat in the living room. Allow your guests to mingle into the other living spaces of your home. This is when you have to go with the flow and expect that there might be some accidental spills. However, I have found that gathering with family and friends is worth a few leftover stains.
12. Borrow or invest in a long table and folding chairs to use in addition to your kitchen table. When I host Christmas dinner each year, we set up another long table alongside our kitchen table, and we borrow folding chairs from our church or our family for seating at the extra table. Buy a couple of matching tablecloths for a more seamless, pulled-together look. If you don't have room to set up another table in your kitchen, set one up in the living room and tear it down after dinner is finished to free up space for visiting.
13. Maximize counter space. Think tiered serving platters and cake stands. Serve food vertically to free up more space on the counter.
14. Have a designated "kid's space". You can look at this is several different ways. First of all, if you have a small card table, you could seat the kids around it while eating. And after dinner is finished, keeping a play area for the kids in one of the bedrooms keeps toy clutter and running, screaming kids out of the other entertaining spaces. And, of course, if it's nice out, have some outdoor activities for the kids to go out and play with.
15. Serve on sturdy, disposable pieces. I enjoy having my guests eat off of my nice dinnerware, but it's much easier when it comes to clean-up to use disposables when hosting a larger gathering. Just be sure to buy sturdy plates so that guests aren't dumping their food on their laps!
Hopefully you will find some of these tips helpful!