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Fast After-Party Cleanup Tips

party mess

Need to get your house back in order after a shindig? Cleaning up doesn't have to be exhausting. Break your cleanup into three phases and divide and conquer!

Plan Ahead
Make smart choices before the party even starts -- both in the party supplies you buy and the decor you choose.

  • Choose sensible serving ware. "If you are having a party where you're inviting family and close friends -- people who know you well -- go with disposables wherever you can," says Jeff Bredenberg, author of "How to Cheat at Cleaning." It's much easier to gather up plastic cups and paper plates and stick them in the trash than it is to wash everything.
  • If you're bothered by the excess waste, strike a compromise. Choose items made from recycled paper and plastic, and use your nicer china and glass bowls and plates to set food in.
  • Provide plenty of coasters on wooden surfaces to head off those nasty white rings on your nice coffee table. Also, use tablecloths.

As the Party Winds Down
While you don't want to rush your guests out, it's okay to do some quick cleanups in the 30 minutes or so before you anticipate the party being over. "This sends subtle signals that thing are winding down, and it gives you a jumpstart on your cleaning," Bredenberg says.

  • Make a quick run through each room of the house with a garbage bag (for disposable items) or tray (for washable items) and grab empty cups and plates or stray utensils.
  • Scan each room and make a quick mental note of any messes you'll need to attend to after the guests leave. Prioritize, putting stains or food spills first.
  • "The cleanup can be social," Bredenberg says. If some of your guests (especially closer friends or family) offer to help, take them up on it. "People like to help. Don't overuse them, but even a little help can move the cleanup along," he says.
  • Have leftovers? If you don't want them, offer them to your guests. Be ready with a stack of disposable plastic containers or quart-size plastic bags to hand out leftovers.

After the Guests Leave
After your guests leave, the nitty-gritty cleanup can start. Tackle the big stuff first, and then work your way through the house.

  • For spills on carpet or upholstery, soak up the liquid immediately before the stain can set. Fold a paper towel to the size of the stain; press it hard into the stain (you can even stand on it). "The liquid will absorb right into the towel," Bredenberg says. Repeat with fresh towels until no more liquid comes up, and then use a stain removal product (following its specific directions).
  • To remove unsightly water stains from wood, scrub with a mild abrasive. Bredenberg recommends dabbing a bit of white toothpaste (non-gel formula) onto the area and rubbing with a clean cloth. "Rub slowly and in the direction of the grain," he says.
  • Make the kitchen the hub of cleanup activity, Bredenberg says, and dump everything -- like food, utensils, plates, cups, napkins, and garbage bags -- in the hub. It's a lot easier to tackle the cleanup if it's centrally located.
  • Vacuum any crumbs from open areas to avoid bugs (you can do a more thorough vacuuming the next day).
  • Blow out any candles, run the dishwasher, and empty all tubs and coolers outside or into a drain.

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