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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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How to Let Go of Perfect With Humor for the Greater Good

Perfect isn’t possible when it comes to entertaining. In fact, perfection is a recipe for undue stress. Letting go of perfect and infusing the situation with humor and intention is one of the lessons I’ve learned over time.

My husband, Steve and I have a long history of hosting events together. For the last 37+ years, we have gathered our friends and family for over one-hundred celebrations and get-togethers including birthdays, Thanksgivings, New Years’, Cajun dances, BBQs, brunches, dinners, cast parties, Bat Mitzvahs, and Passovers. As you might have guessed, we enjoy entertaining.  His parents and mine also loved hosting and were the center and gathering places for both of our families. They were gracious, generous, and inspiring role models. They taught us so much about love, life, teamwork, and hosting.

While it’s lovely to have people in our home, it takes organizing, planning, and preparation. We use a tag team approach and share our responsibilities and tasks. We each have our own event-specific lists that we update from year-to-year. Our lists include things like shopping items, dates to shop, cook times, beverage consumption, and tasks related to house set-up.

Our most recent event was this past weekend when we had 32 people for Passover.  Of all the meals we prepare, this one is the most complex because of the volume of food, multiple courses, and pacing. The cooking and house prep are done in advance over three or four days.

When it comes to entertaining, there are some letting go lessons I’ve learned. 


5 Lessons Learned About Letting Go of Perfect

  • Uh-Oh. - Planning is terrific, but you will forget something like an essential ingredient for one of your recipes. That’s OK. Run out to the store, again. Add it to the list for next year. Remember you’re human and let go of being perfect.
  • No You Don't. - You don’t have to do everything yourself. If someone asks, “Can I bring something?” say, “Thank you, yes.” Then look at your menu and ask for what you need. Let others participate. Let go of being responsible for the entire meal.
  • Help Is Good. - People like to help because it makes them feel comfortable. Be ready to delegate. If your guests want to clear plates, wash dishes, help serve the soup, or refill the ice bucket, say, “Thank you, sure!” It’s gratitude time. Let go of having to do things a certain way and embrace those extra helping hands. You’ll be glad you did. 
  • The Real Plan. - There will be last minute cancellations, additions, or emergencies (medical and otherwise.) You never know what will happen, but something will  happen. Remember that detailed plan I mentioned earlier? Laugh now, because it will change. Let go of exactness. Know that there’s a 99.9% chance you will need to deviate from the plan. 
  • What's Your Why? - Let go of expectations, but set an intention. One of the things my husband added to his list this year was, “Have fun!” I loved that, so I put it on my list too. Adding this simple reminder was just what I needed. It helped me focus on why we were doing this, which was to enjoy, gather, celebrate and have fun with our family and friends.


The details are significant, but they aren’t everything. They don’t have to be perfect. Remember your why. Allow it to permeate your actions with love, flexibility, and letting go.

Which letting go lessons resonates with you? Do you have others to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I invite you to join the conversation.





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Reader Comments (18)

I love that you both added "Have fun" to your lists. After all, THAT's what you'll remember in the years to come - not what you served, what you wore, or what the room looked like.

Here's to many more imperfect celebrations!

April 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

@Janet- That one little phrase made a whole lot of difference in my approach to how I was preparing. And you're so right that some of those other things that can cause us stress and angst aren't what's important or what we'll remember. It's the feeling of having a house full of people you love, mingling, enjoying, interacting, and being together that stays with me.

April 22, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Happy Passover to you! I love the idea of literally putting "Have fun" on your to-do list. This reminds me of advice I received last year as my daughter's wedding approached. Yes, plan as much as you can, but once the day arrives, let it go. Enjoy the day, and laugh off whatever goes wrong. Don't let the few "mistakes" ruin the day. That turned out to be very valuable advice, and it still rings in my head. I can just picture your beautiful family gathered around the table to enjoy this special meal, sharing and enjoying one another:)

April 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

So true! People really do love to pitch in and help, so it's good advice to let them. And things going wrong can be amusing. On my wedding day (many years ago), we had an alarming, and amusing, mishap with a bridesmaid dress. Knowing that something had gone wrong helped me to relax and enjoy the rest of the day. Besides, plans going awry can sometimes make for great stories later!

April 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCarol Jones

Oh Carol, you reminded me of my bridesmaid dress mishap! One of my bridesmaids was 15 and had grown a lot since her fitting. I have a photo of my dressmaker friend making alterations with a clock showing it was only an hour before the wedding!

April 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Thank you for this reminder. I am the host for my family through the holidays and found that this past year, I really wasn't pleased that I had to do it all. So, I am going to be sure to delegate more stuff for people (even my kids that go away to school but will be back through the holidays). I am going to also write "have fun" on my to-do list. It's an important reminder for me to stay happy in this joyous time of year.

April 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSabrina Quairoli

This is wonderful post, Linda! I love that we had a mind meld.. I was included in a neighbor's Easter gathering yesterday. He had about 25 guests - with several nieces and nephews under 5. It was a fabulous mix of family and friends and he let everyone pitch in. It was fun, festive, full of joy. Lunch didn't get served until about 4 - it was a timing mishap - but he let that go. The kids filled up on too many candies - their mother's dealt with that. The host was relaxed and so were the guests. That's an important piece to remember. When the host is frazzled everyone feels it, when the host is relaxed, the guests can be too.

April 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

@Seana- Thank you so much. It was special having everyone together. There were lots of smiles, hugs, and laughter. I hope you had a lovely Easter. I'm glad you liked the to-do list addition. It sounds like you were given excellent advice last year for your daughter's wedding. We know that something will happen, especially for complex events with so many people involved. Being able to let go of the mishaps and find some humor goes a long way towards maintaining a positive attitude and not ruining your day.

April 22, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Carol- Humor is always a good thing. It sounds like you were able to draw on that reserve on your wedding day and not let anything deter you from relaxing and enjoying your special day. Having the ability to take a breath and let it go is a beautiful thing to do when we're able. It can be so easy to let those mishaps put us over the edge. I love how the "story" has become part of your wedding lore. That's the bonus of things going wrong; it makes for excellent stories down the road.

April 22, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Janet- I can see that clock ticking!

April 22, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Sabrina- You're welcome. I like how you looked at last year's holiday scenario and have decided to alter the plan for this year. Delegating is worth practicing. Getting the kids involved is excellent too. Our daughters are terrific at helping with cooking, prepping, and cleaning up. And it's more fun doing it with them. While they no longer live at home (all grown up,) they often come early or stay later to help. I'm incredibly grateful for them and their help. I love that you're going to add "have fun!" to your list. Way to go, Sabrina! As Diane said, it negatively affects the guests when the host is frazzled.

April 22, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Diane- Hey there, mind meld partner. In our posts this week, we both wrote about perfectionism and letting go. I love that!

Your Easter gathering sounds lovely with such a fun, large group. I bet the little kids were adorable and active (with all that extra candy!) I love how your host stayed relaxed, even with the meal timing mishap. It's so true what you said that the host's attitude influences greatly how the guests feel. If the host is relaxed, so are the guests, and the opposite is also the case.

April 22, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

It so much easier to host a gathering if others participate and bring food or drinks. That way everyone gets to make something they like and share it with others. I love to entertain this way and it's never perfect. Just life.

April 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Schiesl

@Janet S.- I agree with you. I've gotten better about saying "yes" to people's offers to bring something. I used to feel uncomfortable asking people to provide food or drinks for a party we've invited them to, but I get that it's a very reasonable thing to say yes to, especially when they are offering. Also, as you said, it creates more of a sharing, participatory gathering as in everyone helped to make it a success. It sounds like you enjoy entertaining too. Nice.

April 23, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

It sounds like you hosted a great event and let go of perfection while having fun! The "help is good" lesson is one that resonates with me, not only when I'm the host, but also when I am a guest. I love to be an extra helping hand, and I do feel more comfortable because I have a job to do and know that I'm contributing to the event somewhat.

April 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Haworth

@Nancy- Thanks so much. I had a great time. I love your double perspective on the "help is good" lesson. I hadn't thought of that, but like you, I also enjoy helping when I'm at someone else's event (if they want my help.) Not all hosts like to accept help, but if they do, I'm happy to contribute in that way.

April 23, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Honey, planning, sharing and hosting these events are really fun with you! I like that we know how to divvy up the tasks. That comes with time. It helps to have a partner when hosting big events. I know this is not always possible, but it's something to consider for anyone reading this. Aside from welcoming help from your family and friends ad hoc, if you can coordinate with someone- a spouse, house partner, family member or friend- it's a great way to share the workload but also to share the excitement and anticipation.

April 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Samuels

@Honey (aka, Steve)- You bring up a terrific point about the benefit of sharing not just the workload, but also the "excitement and anticipation." I always love planning and hosting with you.

April 23, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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