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Faster Cleanup for Holiday Parties

It’s Thanksgiving. Or, maybe it’s Christmas Eve. Either way, your house is full of people and their bellies are all full. Your brain is fried from small talk. You’ve just cooked the biggest, most-involved meal of the year. Now, your kitchen is a mess, and you get to clean it up. Unless you have a kindhearted friend or grandparent who understands the struggle and volunteers to jump on that sinkful of dirty dishes, you’re out of luck … is what you would have thought last year. This holiday season, you’re doing things a little differently. Cleanup doesn’t have to be all on the host. There are a few simple ways to facilitate little moments of cleanup throughout the day so you aren’t left with an overwhelming scene when everyone clears out.

Provide your guests with obvious opportunities to clean up after themselves. For starters, position trash cans and recycle bins in plain sight so that, as guests graze throughout the day, they can easily scrape their plates clean and stack them in the sink, or toss out an empty beer car rather than leave it sitting on an end table in the living room for you to find tomorrow.

Help your guests help you

Person scraping a plate clean into the trash

Not only does setting the table make for a pretty presentation, but it also ensures that guests don’t dirty more dishes than are necessary. When you set the table ahead of time, everyone gets their assigned plates and knows to reuse them for different courses (rather than rifling through your cabinets and helping themselves to a fresh plate every time). The food-induced haze is real, but setting out plates and utensils ahead of time helps foodies remember that this is a friend’s house, not a buffet. On that note, serving food buffet-style can cut down on the amount of serving platters you have to wash. Let guests load their plates straight from the saucepans on the stove and simplify cleanup later on.

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Speaking of dishes, empty the dishwasher before guests arrive so it can be easily loaded with dirty plates post-meal. If you ask even one guest to put their plate in the dishwasher, chances are other guests will notice and follow their lead. No dishwasher? Allocate a designated dirty dish drop zone. (P.S. There’s nothing wrong with serving the meal on paper plates).

Let guests grab their own leftovers

Person packaging leftovers

Another killer way to give guests more opportunities to clean up after themselves comes in the dreaded arena of allocating leftovers. At the end of a gathering, you want to savor your full belly and socialize — not scoop mashed potatoes into carefully crafted takeout boxes for all your guests.

To eliminate this issue, plan ahead and include this simple line on your holiday gathering invitations: “BYOT — bring your own Tupperware.” That way, guests will (ideally) come equipped with their own to-go containers and can help themselves to any leftovers as they please. Set all those crockpots and serving platters in a designated “take home station” and go enjoy yourself. 

Better yet, you could have guests fill their takeout containers right after the meal at the table, so you can wash all those empty, dirty serving platters right away (or at least stack ’em in the sink). At the end of the day, for the quickest post-meal cleanup of all, go to a restaurant next holiday season. But, with a few proactive tips, hosting can be (almost) as easy.

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