6 Easy Hosting Hacks That Make Holiday Cleanup a Breeze

Take the stress out of holiday hosting with simple tricks that reduce dish pileups, ward off stains, and streamline cleanup.

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The holidays are a time to gather with loved ones and celebrate over food and drinks. But if you're the one hosting, the stress of cleanup can put a huge damper on the festivities. Between mountains of dirty dishes and inevitable spots and spills, the holidays can often result in a colossal mess. To make this year's gatherings less of a chore, plan ahead and employ a few tricks that help keep messes at bay—or at least make them easier to handle. Use these simple hosting hacks to cut down on kitchen pileups, quickly eliminate stains on furniture or floors, and ease holiday cleanup around the house.

thanksgiving tablescape
Kim Cornelison

1. Plan the menu with cleanup in mind.

When planning your holiday menu, think twice about elaborate recipes that require a laundry list of ingredients and numerous types of cookware. To cut down on cleanup from the start, opt for simple fare that you can throw together on a single sheet pan or in one pot, suggests Lauren Bowen, director of franchise operations for the cleaning service Two Maids & A Mop. Or consider asking guests to bring a side dish or dessert. You'll streamline food preparations as well as dish duty.

2. Create an emergency stain removal kit.

Whether on carpeting, clothing, or upholstery, stains are bound to happen during holiday gatherings. To prepare for accidental spills, stock a stain removal kit ahead of time. Fill up a handled caddy ($8, Target) so all the essentials are easy to grab and take where you need. Include go-to stain removal products, including club soda, white vinegar, liquid dish soap, and baking soda, as well as plenty of clean white cloths for blotting up spots. Bookmark or print stain removal guides for carpets, upholstery, and other fabrics so you don't have to waste time searching for instructions while the stain sets in.

3. Opt for machine-washable textiles.

Ensure all your table linens, including tablecloths, runners, napkins, and placemats, are machine-washable so you can simply toss everything in a hamper once the table is cleared. Machine-washable rugs can protect your floors from spills and tracked-in messes. Also, consider covering upholstered furniture in good-looking slipcovers that you can launder after guests leave. Remember to pre-treat any stains and ensure they're completely gone before switching to the dryer, which can set stains.

4. Use disposable dishes and utensils.

Trade fancy china and hand-wash-only pans for disposable versions you can toss when you're done. "This makes cleaning up a breeze and no worries about broken china or drying dishes for days," Bowen says. Look for plastic-free options made from biodegradable or compostable materials, such as this plant-based dinnerware set ($35, Amazon), for an eco-friendlier alternative.

5. Clear the table like restaurant servers do.

Take a cue from restaurants for a more efficient way to clear the table. Purchase a bus tub ($10, Amazon) or use a large, sturdy tray with tall sides to safely gather stacks of plates, utensils, and other tableware in one go. This trick saves trips back and forth from the table to the kitchen and keeps your sink clear until you're ready to start washing up.

6. Enlist help.

Holiday hosting (and cleanup) doesn't have to be a one-person show. Enlist guests or family members to help with tasks leading up to and during the event. For example, assign a helper or two to start washing dishes while you cook, Bowen suggests. Delegate tasks ahead of time so everyone knows what they're responsible for when the festivities begin.

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