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Slicing Thanksgiving to Size: 8 Ways for a Quick & Easy Cleanup

Woman washing a fork at a sink.

Thanksgiving is the bump in the road that signals the festive season’s start to most American families. With each bite of warm turkey and cranberry sauce, spiced pumpkin, and mashed potatoes and gravy, we are transported closer to Christmas and the spirit of giving. 

However, Thanksgiving can also be a draining holiday if you aren’t prepared for hosting a large dinner party and the subsequent cleanup. Thanksgiving can quickly become a resentful business with trash cans overflowing and kitchen sinks looking like it’s going to explode. 

Preparing for the after-dinner cleanup before you even set the first plate can be a lifesaver. Here’s how to cruise through Thanksgiving dinner cleanup with your festive spirits intact. 

8 Ways to Destress Thanksgiving Dinner Cleanup

Planning can really be a lifesaver. With an effective strategy in place, you can and will survive the meal prep, clutter clearing, and washing up. 

1. Clear Counter and Shelf Space

Moving food to the dinner area usually clears up some counter space in your kitchen. Be sure to have enough space ready to receive the used plates, glasses, serving plates, and bowls returned at the end of the meal. 

When it comes to table clearing time, you want to be sure there is enough space to place the stacks of dirty dishes and cutlery. You may need some extra counter space for this. Having a folding camp table set up in the kitchen can be a real blessing. 

Get organized and designate an area for each eating utensil or plate that will be returning. Improve the washing up and packing away process. 

2. Have a Large Trash Can Ready

Trash is an inevitable part of cleanup while cooking and when clearing tables. Have a few large garbage cans ready. You can even designate one for meats and bones and one for veggies. It’s easy to donate the food wastes to a local zoo for the animals to also have a great meal. 

Plan ahead, and double bag trash cans to help make cleaning seamless. Changing out bags while you have guests is no fun. Have a second bag ready, and it is as easy as tying, lifting, and skipping to the back porch. 

3. Prepare a Surface Spray

Cleaning up is not only about the plates and serving ware. It is also about the surfaces. Spills can quickly become a mess. Having a handy surface spray premixed in a good quality spray bottle with a microfiber cloth to wipe with helps you get ahead of spills before they turn into stains. 

4. Foil Is Your Friend

Foil is a great help while cooking, and it can also help you prepare to receive the leftovers. Have rolls of foil ready to cover food while cooking, reducing the need for pot and baking tray lids. Use sections of foil to wrap bones before throwing them in the trash. 

Foil manufacturers also have a great range of disposable baking goods you can consider. Foil roasting trays may seem silly if you have your own roasting pot, but the beauty is that a foil pot gets trashed, while an expensive iron or glass roasting pot requires intensive washing and scrubbing. 

5. A ssign Responsible People

Have helpers ready. Make sure that each person knows what you want them to do. If Bob needs to bring the serving ware to the kitchen, then be sure he knows that’s his responsibility, and once he’s done, he needs to get out of the way. 

Far from being rude, you need to ensure traffic can flow to the kitchen when it’s cleanup time. Having Bob’s bulk in your doorway will potentially cause a stack of plates to get dropped. Your kids can also help. They can carry small stacks of plates or keep the family dog occupied and out of the way.

6. Wash Stations

Most kitchens aren’t designed for washing up several dozen plates and even more serving utensils. Having washing stations can keep things organized. Use plastic tubs with soapy water for each type of utensils, with a central rinsing station to keep the kitchen sink clear. The kids can help rinse the cutlery in one station.

For example, plates can be washed on the camp table near the pantry. A washer and a drier can really help speed things up without having everyone tripping over each other. 

7. Suck It Up

After carrying dirty plates and glasses from the dining room to the kitchen, crumbs litter the table. One of the easiest ways to clean up is to have a handheld vacuum cleaner that’s charged and ready. 

Use this to suck up any remaining crumbs, spills, and dirt. Vacuuming is a great way to stop dirt from being tracked through the house. 

8. Doggy Bags

Leftovers are a given with any feast day. Have containers, disposable meal bags, and Tupperware containers ready to receive leftovers as soon as you start carrying the serving platters to the kitchen. 

If you have the custom of sending some leftovers home with each guest, then having disposable meal bags or containers that can serve as a doggy bag is a great way to take the stress out of finding your own collection of plastic containers and their matching lids. 

Bonus: Use a Cleaning Service

While it may seem like an expensive option, hiring the services of a professional cleaning company can be a great gift this festive season. Each guest can contribute a small amount to help pay for a maid service and ensure the holiday cleanup is never stressful. 

Discuss how you would like the service to proceed with leftovers, where to place your kitchen utensils, and what you expect the maid service to do. Should you have a large extended family, opting for a catering company that offers maid services for the cleanup can be a real blessing. 

The Final Scrub

Plan before you cook, and you will have a much more organized Thanksgiving dinner and cleanup. It is, after all, a time for family and goodwill, not a day to stress and feel exhausted. Be ready for your cleanup, discuss this with family, and don’t assume everyone knows what they should do. 

Contact Anita’s Housekeeping Referral Agency or make a booking today, and we will connect you with a service provider near you.


Anita's Housekeeping Editors