Q: I’m going to be hosting a bunch of people for Christmas for the first time, and I’m kind of freaking out about how I’m going to get/keep everything clean. My house is pretty clean to start with, but with all of the cooking and extra people, is there anything I should do to stay ahead of the inevitable mess?
A: First, don’t freak out. As far as pre-cleaning goes, keep in mind that as soon as the first few guests show up, things are going to get messed up, so don’t stress out too much about it. A few things to keep in mind when having more than a few people over:
Before the event:
- Clear off your flat surfaces (counters, tables, shelves, etc.) so people will have somewhere to put their food and drinks down.
- Make sure your seating is arranged in such a way that every seat has somewhere not too far out of reach to put things down.
- Spend a little extra time cleaning the bathroom. Make sure you have spare rolls of toilet paper handy, plenty of hand soap, and that your hand towels are clean and plentiful. Hide anything personal in another (closed) room. Everyone says they don’t snoop, but some people just can’t resist.
- Clean out the fridge and empty the dishwasher/dish drainer so there’s plenty of room to stash stuff.
- Find your serving utensils and dishes and anything else you might need and keep them in one handy spot that won’t be in the way.
- If you have a high-traffic area, consider putting a runner down to save your carpets the wear and tear.
As you’re cooking:
- Fill your sink with warm, soapy water and put your prep dishes (except knives) in as you go. Use cooking time to clean up in between when you’re actually doing things at the stove or oven.
- Enlist help! If someone asks, “Can I help?” don’t be afraid to take them up on it. Those of us who have a little bit of social anxiety or who get overwhelmed at holidays would often much rather act as sous chef than awkwardly answer for the fiftieth time why we don’t have kids or aren’t dating anyone.
During the party:
- Make sure trash and recycling containers are easy to find and clearly marked.
- Do a sweep through every half hour or so to keep up on dirty dishes and abandoned trash.
- Check the bathroom a few times. Seriously, it’s well-lit and everyone will use it.
- Don’t stress out too much about the mess. These people are in your home, and if they feel the need to judge you on stupid criteria like how clean your windows are rather than enjoying the time they get to spend with you, well, you don’t need their approval anyway. They have to leave. You get to stay.
After everyone leaves:
- Your floors will be a mess. Deal with them first, since you definitely won’t feel like it later, and you don’t want things to get too ground in.
- Put your dishes away ASAP.
- Take the trash out.
- Relax and enjoy your leftovers.
[This post originally appeared on 12/10/13]
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