If you like to entertain but find the trouble daunting and cleaning up the mess afterwards discouraging, here are a few hints to make that all go away. Honestly, no party is “trouble free” and I lied about the “no cleanup afterwards” part, but there are a few things you can do to really lighten the cleanup load.
One of the strategies is to select treats that don’t create a mess, or if they do, it is easy to clean. Raw fruits and veggies fit that bill. So do chips and crackers. Guests often appreciate healthy snacks and raw fruits and vegetables can not only be carted off by happy guests as they leave, there are numerous ways to put them to use later. Anything fried, boiled, or broiled usually drips and has to be prepared in something difficult to clean, so avoid drippy foods.
Related to that, food that can be left over and eaten the next day will be less food that has to be thrown out. Offering your guests the opportunity to take something home with them is less food you will have to bother with, so have some small plastic storage containers handy.
Recycle and Compost
Use small paper picnic plates and avoid anything that has to be washed rather than just thrown away. There are even compostable picnic utensils.
Clean as you go
Even during the party, you should clean as you go, so having a little dispenser of natural foaming soap by the sink with a sponge makes washing and rinsing the odd wine glass or serving dish as easy and quick as a rinse of the hands.
Spilling drinks is one of the greatest party hazards, at least from the point of view of cleaning up afterwards. Colorless or lightly colored drinks should be prominent – beer and white wine, mineral water and flavored seltzer waters, pitchers of ice water decorated with floating lemon or cucumber slices. The less red wine or coffee in people’s hands means less of it on the carpet.
Blowing the whistle
Finish your party with a special event. Without something to signal everyone the party’s over, there are always those who stay too long and make your after-party chores all the more disagreeable because of your fatigue.
After the guests leave, quickly gather everything left lying around into the kitchen – food, plates, glasses. Triage into quick, medium, and slow cleanup items. Salvageable food goes into containers and the fridge. Trash goes into the trash. Anything that can be cleaned with a quick once-over and rinse goes near the sink. Slow cleanup items that require some scrubbing stay at the stove for now.
By cleaning up most of the house and loading everything into the kitchen, the place looks much cleaner right away even before you’ve snatched your first napkin or vacuumed your first carpet. By tossing the trash, putting the leftovers into the fridge and zipping through the easy to clean items, even the kitchen looks ninety percent neater and you’re into all of maybe ten minutes of post-party cleanup.
Some things are better left until morning. It’s better to soak that casserole dish or broiler pan in soapy water over night and get to it whileyour coffee brews the next day. Acknowledging the fact that it is actually better to leave some things until tomorrow makes you feel better about leaving some cleanup for the next day.
Follow this advice and you’ll be in bed before many of your guests have even arrived home.