Entertaining friends and family with a holiday gathering or large dinner is one of the joys of the holidays. One of the sorrows, though, is post-party clean-up. Here are ten ways to simplify your holiday clean-up.

1. Start with an empty dishwasher and clean counters

If you ran a load of dishes before the party, empty the dishwasher so it is ready to go when the gathering has ended. This also makes it easier for any volunteers to help, especially if they don’t live with you. Likewise, clean counters make it easier at the end of the party or the meal because you don’t need to move things to clear the table. This also feels better when you walk in after dinner and see that there is nothing to clean but what is in your hands.

2. As much as possible, utilize eco-friendly disposable plates, cups, and utensils

There are many recycled plates, cups, and utensils that make this a viable option. If you can, disposable dinnerware makes cleaning up much easier. They cost a bit more than traditional disposable party ware, but if that’s in the budget it will take a little stress out of the party. Throw them in the recycling bin and you are done!

3. Enlist help

Small children can certainly clear their own plates, and older kids can clear the rest. Designate one person as the official leftovers packer. If you are planning on sending guests home with leftovers (as sometimes happens for large family meals), have disposable plastic containers ready to go so it is easier to dole out take-home portions.

4. Clean as you go

When you are cooking a large meal or hosting a holiday party, the last thing you want to do when it’s over is stand over the kitchen sink for hours, washing dishes, wiping counters, and cleaning up. To minimize the volume of dishes and cleaning afterwards, try to clean as you go when you are cooking. After each dish you make, rinse and load the dishwasher. Set large pans or bowls to soak in the sink if you have space, or utilize a bath tub for soaking pots and pans if that’s an option.

5. Technically, if you cooked, you shouldn’t clean

This rule does not always apply, as cooking may be a whole family affair. But sometimes solo cooks invoke this rule, put their feet up after dinner, and simply direct traffic or enjoy other guests.

6. Have a plan

Especially for a large dinner, have a clean up plan in place before you sit down to eat. With full bellies, no one really wants to have to think too hard about where things go and in what containers. If you take an extra five minutes to get storage containers out and set them up in the kitchen, it will be easy to spring into action after dinner.

7. Play music and make it fun

Have your teen put together a post-party play list and jam to that while you all clean up. Make the music peppy and fun, and keep a sense of humor about it. The music can be holiday-themed or not, but pass that responsibility off to someone in your family who loves music.

8. If you are having a party, sweep through occasionally

If you can do it unobtrusively, sweep through the house every now and then and pick up napkins, disposable plates and glasses, and anything else that has been left behind by guests. This makes end-of-the-evening clean up less daunting. Have two trash cans, one inside and one outside, and swap them out when they get full. It can be odd to see the host or hostess bagging up trash and taking it out in the middle of a party, but switching trashcans makes it a little easier and less obvious. You don’t want guests to feel as if they are being pushed out.

9. Relax

Is this an option? Yes! Chances are you have spent weeks (months?) planning and preparing for this party or gathering. The day after, treat yourself to some relaxation. Take a bath, go for a long walk, watch a movie: whatever you do to unwind works. You don’t have to immediately spring into action and clean the house from top to bottom. Doing that takes the enjoyment of the gathering away. Let yourself take a moment to reflect on the previous night’s festivities and enjoy the memories. Cleaning the house can wait. If you have older kids, they can fend for themselves for a day, and maybe fend for you, too.

10. Keep it simple

You don’t need to serve complicated food and drink that requires dirtying every utensil and pan in the kitchen. Even with guests who have food sensitivities or allergies your menu can be kept as simple as possible to minimize post-party clean up. Simple appetizers (or appetizers made by someone else!) and a simple meal can still be festive and delicious. Monica Belluci said, “When I eat with my friends, it is a moment of real pleasure, when I really enjoy my life.” Your holiday gatherings have everything to do with the people you invite. The food should be delicious, but it needn’t be so complex as to be stressful. The simpler the food, the less time spent on clean up!

What are your best ideas for quick and easy party clean up?

Image by Martin Cathrae via Flickr

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