Having a party is great fun, a fantastic way to chill out, relax and enjoy yourselves with friends and family for whatever occasion you find suitable. As much fun as they are, however, they are fairly large events and can often leave a fairly large amount of clean-up. This is the part most people hate most, even more so than the token guest who over does it, or when a friend inadvertently brings an ex as a guest. Certainly, nothing brings people down from a party high faster than seeing tables littered with rubbish and dirty plates stacked up high in the sink.
So what can you do to minimize the after-party clean-up?
Make Sure You’re Caught Up With The Rest of the Cleaning Beforehand
The easiest way to reign in your party’s aftermath is to make sure your house is clean and caught up before you even let your guests through the door. If there are already dishes in the dishwasher or the sink, then make sure they’re cleaned and put away. If the trash is already full, take it out and place a new liner into the trashcan.
This alone will greatly reduce the amount of mess that you’ll need to clean up later, and also produces another effect. If your house is already clean, your guests are less eager to make it messy. By showing a tidy house, you encourage visitors to treat it with respect and clean up after themselves.
Try to guess what sort of messes are most likely to crop up during your party and prepare for them accordingly. If you know that some guests smoke, for example, prepare a suitable area for them to do it and leave plenty of ashtrays in obvious places. If there’s going to be alcohol, then be prepared for spills. If you know a guest often forgets to wipe their fingers after eating sticky BBQ ribs, maybe serve something that’s less likely to leave a mess instead. The best way to avoid a mess is to know when and where it’s likely to occur, and take measures to prevent it.
Remember: knowing is half the battle!
Unless you’re going for something really fancy and formal that requires fine china, avoid using good plates and cutlery. Disposable plates and cups can quickly and easily be thrown away after use, which massively minimalizes the amount of after-party washing up you’ll need to do. They’re also very cheap and can be bought in bulk for just under $10 from the same Shop Rite you grab the rest of your supplies from so they’re very economical as well. No one cares if a paper plate gets torn. You will care if one of your more expensive ceramic plates gets smashed and trodden into the carpet.
Be Minimal With Decoration
Try to avoid messy decorations such as balloons, glitter and streamers if you can. While they make the place look festive, they’re not really essential to a great party and will just result in more mess for you to clean up afterwards. If you must have decorations, keep it minimalized, and use decorations that can easily be cleaned up afterwards. You can easily get away with one or two banners, and maybe a cluster of balloons by the snacks table.
Another useful thing to do is to use decorations that people will want to take home themselves. For example, you can decorate a children’s party with candy and invite them to take it all home with them after they leave.
(Subtly) Encourage Guests to Clean Up After Themselves
It can be somewhat of a mood spoiler to have your party host constantly shout out “Use the coasters! Use the coasters!” every five minutes of the party. Nobody likes to be told what to do when they’re trying to have fun, after all. So how can you encourage guests to clean up after themselves in order to reduce the amount of after-party clean-up you’ll have to do?
In general people are conscientious and responsible, in their own homes or yours. If you leave them things that they can use to keep things tidy, they will use them more often than not.
Something as simple as leaving a trashcan right next to the buffet table or by any connecting doors will immediately encourage your guests to use them. Likewise, leave napkins by any sauce-covered food, or ashtrays by smoking areas. While it can sometimes be harder to remember to clean up as the party gets going, especially if alcohol is involved, this alone will make cleaning up after the party that much easier.
Christian Mills is a freelance writer and professional student who contributes opinions and articles on topics affecting student life and popular culture — and can always be counted on for advice and tips for throwing a party your guests will remember.