There’s nothing quite as fulfilling and soul-warming as getting all your loved ones together in the space you made your home, but, if you like to gather often, you know that throwing parties can come with a hefty post-fiesta chore list and, if you’re strapped for time as it is, it may make the whole hoopla seem like it’s not worth it. Luckily, there are a few brilliant party hacks you can use to shave off some cleanup time so you don’t feel the post-party stress the second the last guest leaves.
- There’s No Shame in Single-Use—Okay, maybe there’s a little shame in single-use, especially if you’re using the cheapest plastic stuff you can find. But if you opt for eco-friendlier options—read: NOT plastic—then you’ll be able to enjoy the convenience of no cleanup in good conscience. Instead of the typical plastic serving ware—which, by the way, could take about 450 years to decompose—go for plates, cups, and cutlery made of biodegradable materials like recycled paper, sugarcane, plant starch, palm leaves, and other renewable materials.
- Use Paper Tablecloths—Unless you’re hosting a sit-down dinner, there’s a good chance you overlooked the tablecloth altogether. But when you’re going for easy cleanup, that’s a big mistake! Grab a recyclable paper linen tablecloth that protects your table and catches all splatters and spills before it can stain your stuff. The beauty of these covers, which can often be steamed and ironed just like the real deal, is that you can ball them up and pitch them at the end of the night. There’s no need to spot-treat or launder anything.
- Use Easy Party Decorations—The way you decorate for a party helps set the stage for the occasion and the ambiance, but you don’t need to go overboard. Decorate with reusable décor like fabric letter banners that are easy to put up and take down as needed. Choose brightly colored pieces that make a big splash so you don’t have to use as many decorations. As much as we all love glitter, confetti, and flower toss, we’d recommend skipping this stuff if you’re trying to simplify your after-party to-do list. If you’re looking to spruce up your home regardless, consider adding new cute home décor that you can leave up after the party ends!
- Have Clearly Labeled Trash Bins in Every Room—Make sure your guests don’t have to go looking for the trash or recycling bin and make it obvious which is which to avoid having to sort the trash post-party. Though it may seem kind of weird, having a trash can in the main living area or dining room can help ensure that people don’t leave their empty cans and bottles on whatever surface is closest to them. Tuck it neatly into a corner so it doesn’t detract from your décor.
- Go in With an Empty Dishwasher—Even if you’ve opted to use mostly disposable serve ware, the fact of the matter is that you’re going to need to use platters, serving utensils, water pitchers, and more from your regular stash. To avoid winding up with a sink full of dirty dishes at the end of the night, go into the evening with an empty dishwasher and rinse and load throughout the night so you don’t have a big pile waiting for you at the end of the night.
- Stick to No-Mess Foods—Don’t get us wrong. We all love those gloopy, gloppy dips and saucy wings, but they’re probably not the best choice for a party where keeping things clean is a primary goal or where people will be walking around with plates in hand. Try to stick to self-contained finger foods that don’t have a lot of drip or spill potential, like Savory Palmiers with Roasted Garlic and Rosemary or Tomato Fritters, and make sure to double- and triple-up on the napkins.
- Accept Small Offers of Help—Don’t expect guests to stay late to help you clean up—ultimately, that should fall on you—but you’ll definitely have some helpful party guests who won’t mind assisting with small things like loading the dishwasher or gathering empties. It’s perfectly fine to accept offers of help as long as it doesn’t involve anything too messy or time-consuming.
- Leave Big Jobs for Tomorrow—Remember that you can always leave the big jobs, like mopping the floors or vacuuming, for the morning. As long as you take care of anything that could leave permanent damage—like a red wine spill, for example—and put away all the leftover food, you can sleep easy and wake up to a mess that’s manageable rather than out of control. One of the simplest things you can do to wake up to a decent situation is to go around and pitch all garbage, especially empty bottles and cans, before you go to bed.
- Clean Ahead of Time—We know it sounds a little counter-productive—why clean when you’re just going to mess it all up? But doing a little bit of pre-party prep is vital not only to ensure that you have a nice, clean house for all your guests but also so you don’t feel like you have to deep clean when they go home. Do all the basics—vacuuming, dusting, picking up clutter—before the party starts and give yourself a head-start.
Have a Plan Beforehand
Having a food after-party cleanup plan is one of the best things you can do to ensure that your get-together goes off without a hitch. Before you so much as send out invitations, try to have a rough outline of your plan so you don’t have to spend the entire post-party weekend cleaning up a big mess. From planning the menu to buying supplies, you’re going to want to think long and hard about how to minimize the mess. Luckily, these cleanup hacks will help!