The Entertaining Aftermath: 8 Steps to a Quick Cleanup

Happy Easter! I’m hosting a brunch today and I’m sure many of you are preparing to welcome friends and family around the table too. Cooking and baking are definitely my favorite parts of entertaining. My least preferred? That’s right, dishes.

Do you love opening your home to guests, but don’t love the kitchen cleanup quite as much?

The post-party mess can be daunting to face especially when all you really want to do after the guests leave is retire to the sofa with another slice of cake.

Still, since no bald, muscular Mr.Clean is going to show up and scour the counter tops for you, here are a few simple steps I’ve developed to break down the cleanup into manageable tasks and get the job done quickly.

Don’t attempt a full cleanup, after all, you’ve already had a full day. Do enlist an assistant, however, then roll up your sleeves, and begin with these suggestions:

8 Steps to a Quick Cleanup

1. Put Away Leftovers

Leftover food should be attended to first so food doesn’t spoil or dry out and so servings platters can be cleaned. If you set aside Tupperware containers and their respective lids before the event, you can point a family member or friend in their direction and they can help put food away.
Photo by armigeress

2. Remove Table Linens

Shake excess crumbs from the tablecloths and napkins before sending them to the laundry hamper. Add stain remover and soak any serious spills right away. Wipe dining room table thoroughly.

3. Get Rid of Recycling and Garbage

Enlist the help of a pre-teen to scour the house, collecting both recycling and garbage items. Sort cans, bottles & paper from the garbage and eliminate all clutter and leftover trash from all surfaces, inside and out!

4. Soak Utensils

Fill a small basin (or one side of a double sink) with hot, soapy water and drop in all eating and serving utensils to soften caked-on food. DO NOT add kitchen knives, scissors or other sharp kitchen tools.

These utensils can be left for washing the next day, or later in the evening, if desired.

5. Run Dishwasher

Load dishwasher (if you have one) with dinner plates, dessert plates, and coffee cups. Run at least one load.
Photo by zenobia_joy

6. Wash Serving Platters

This step doesn’t take long and frees up a lot of counter space. Wash large serving platters, punch bowls, and other large items that won’t fit in the dishwasher by hand EXCEPT for pots and pans.

I usually instruct whoever is drying these items to place them on the newly cleared and washed dining room table. I prefer to put items away myself and generally save that task for the morning after.

7. Pre-wash or Soak Pots & Pans

In hot, soapy water, quickly pre-wash any pots or pans. If needed, soak the stubborn ones overnight, otherwise, stack in a washtub and stash somewhere out of the way.

If you have the time and energy (or have extra willing hands available), certainly wash and dry the pots, but by this time, you are probably ready to put your feet up. We’re almost finished!

8. Rinse Stemware

Collect all the stemware or punch glasses on the counter and pour a little soapy warm water into the bottom of each; this will help lift dried red wine or sticky punch residue, and make for a much faster cleanup when it comes time to wash and polish the glasses.

That’s all!

NOW how about that slice of cake? You’ve taken care of the tasks that require immediate attention. The rest of the work, such as polishing wine glasses and washing table linens can easily hold for a new day.

Relax. You deserve it!

Are there any hosting duties on your horizon? What’s your favorite event to dirty the kitchen for?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Rochelle says

    I wish this was posted last week! I just made a huge 4 tier wedding cake and loads of buttercream etc etc, and as much as I try to clean as I go, it usually doesn’t happen the way I wish, especially in a small kitchen. It took me several days (to the point where it probably wasn’t sanitary to be in the kitchen) to gain the energy to finish. I love the stages idea! I will definitely be using this for this weekend! I’ve got two days of baking and cooking to do and I don’t want to have a disaster nagging at me for 3 days! Love it! Love love this blog too! I tried to “fun”-do a few weeks ago and my family LOVED it! Thanks!

  2. Laura @ PARING DOWN says

    I have three teens in the house, so we follow the old adage “many hands make light work.” Great post!
    .-= Laura @ PARING DOWN’s last blog: Crown Moulding: Look Ma, No Miters! =-.

  3. Great tips and great timing. I loathe the post-party clean-up and will put your method into place to keep me on task the next time I host an event. Thanks for the always good advice.
    .-= Jan (Family Bites)’s last blog: Five Tips for Entertaining with Kids – Holiday Meals Edition =-.

  4. This is SUCH an organized way to tacked a big clean up. I love it. I really do. I don’t completely remember how my mom and I did things, but I feel like we batched tasks to complete them similar to this. Maybe I’ll find an opportunity to employ this method now that I’m out on my own!

    Oh, and I really like to bake…so I totally don’t mind getting the kitchen messy for that. 🙂

  5. This is such great advice! I love cooking and entertaining but really hate cleaning up afterward. I’ve got a very ambitious menu planned for our Easter Brunch tomorrow (with 12 adults and 3 kids). I’m already dreading the cleanup, but I’ll definitely be looking back over this article tomorrow when I’m feeling overwhelmed!
    .-= Cara’s last blog: Un-baked Cookie Nests =-.

  6. Perfect timing! I think I may have to print this list out and stick it in my household notebook 🙂

    Hope your brunch was lovely!
    .-= Kara’s last blog: Book Review: Hunwick’s Egg – An Australian Easter Story =-.

  7. Fantastic tips and advise, I love it, hope more coming tips from you. I already bookmarked your site for same reason and to be updated with your tips in the future. Keep it up.

  8. Hi Aimee –

    My client would like permission to share a link to this post on their social media pages – would that be okay with you? We will use a direct link and give you credit!



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