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How do you deal with the Thanksgiving Mess

Each year my husband and I host both our families. We love it with the exception of the leftover mess. How do you deal with it?

Each year I keep a written journal of what worked etc. This last year I vowed not to have as many messes. I always start the day off with a clean kitchen, make as many dishes ahead of time etc. How do you enlist help? There are just some (okay, they are men) who just don't help wtih clean up. Do you assign it along with dishes or just put people on the spot? I vow this year will be less clean up on just me, my husband and one or two others.

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  1. Turkey clean up takes place as the turkey is carved and moved to the table. I carve the bird completely, put the remains of the carcass in a large pot of water and start a slow boil. By the end of the day I have the beginning of the soup I will make from that. At the end of dinner I have only to package up any left over meat and put it in the fridge. The bird (or other meat) needs to rest before carving so I use that time to clean up and put away all (or nearly all) of the pots, pans and utensils used in preparing the meal.
    Just before serving dinner the sink is filled with very hot water. Everything used in cooking that remains unwashed is scraped clean and put to soak in the hot water. After dinner, before clearing the table, those items go into the dishwasher. When the table is cleared the dirty dishes go into a second hot water bath while we enjoy dessert. The final phase is rinsing all dishes and putting in the dishwasher. Items that won't or can't go into the dishwasher are simply washed by hand and put away.
    I've found that too little help in the kitchen is better than too much. I limit my help to one, sometimes two. The others go into another part of the house and visit. If I make assignments for the helpers I make sure that they don't get assignments that interfere with one another. I hate chaos.
    Even though I happen to be the man of the house, I don't include other male members of the family in the cleanup. They're not good at it (mostly from lack of experience) and they are happier leaving the table and watching the game on TV. My primary helper is my wonderful little wife ... she can do anything.

    2 Replies
    1. re: todao

      Sounds like you've got a great system. We have a small apartment/kitchen and never host more than 6 people, but the dishes do pile up anyway. For me the most important thing is to make sure the dishwasher is empty and that all dishes that have been used in cooking are washed and put away. I have a two sided sink and there is definitely a temptation to leave dishes to drip dry in the smaller half, but this just results in not having any place to do last-minute tasks like washing greens, etc. I also put away any countertop appliances that aren't going to be used that day to make sure that I have as much work space as humanly possible.

      My husband is a bit OCD about stacking so his job is always to gather plates and such - he brings them to me in a manageable way, so that all I have to do is stick them in the dishwasher. I also run the dishwasher at least three times that day, even if it's not 100% full - it's so much better to empty it a couple of times than to come in with a new load of dishes and find that there's only room for one plate and glass.

      1. re: biondanonima

        Looks like your husband and I are on the same team; OCD. I make no apology for it, I just live with it and keep it under control. I like your idea for cycling the dishwasher through several loads rather than waiting until it's bulging with dirty dishes to run it. Thanks for that. I will add it to my own routine.

    2. I get mad about it every year. This year I bought paper dessert plates to eliminate one round of dishes, and plan to take a long "pause" between dinner and dessert, so we can at least get started and enlist those folks who say they want to help.

      1. My cousin, bless her heart, hosts extended family every year, sometimes as many as 45 people. The rule is and has always been, whoever is new to the gathering does clean-up. If there is no one new that year, whoever is the most recent joinee does it. My parents and I were on the spot 3 years in a row before we get new blood in. She does no clean-up and quite right too. OTOH, she is very relaxed and un-territorial, I am not sure I could set people loose in my kitchen to do clean-up the way she does. I love her Thanksgivings and wish I was not 3000 miles away.

        1 Reply
        1. re: GretchenS

          "... whoever is new to the gathering does clean-up"
          So be sure to bring a different friend each year ;>)

        2. I do it, and we don't have a dishwasher. If I host, I expect to do the cleanup. It's only once a year, so I don't mind.

          1. Galley kitchen, so maximum on clean-up can be 2. I rarely host more than 4 people, but I make a lot of food using lots of pots and pans and dishes. I'm usually at the sink, Mom helps with stacking the dishwasher. Last year, I had to shoo the (now ex-) BF out of the kitchen, as he was just getting in the way.. *If* my sister and BIL join us, my BIL is the one who takes on the cleaning job. He knows I'm particular as to what goes into the dishwasher, so we'll do that together, but otherwise, anything that doesn't go in gets washed by him and either Mom or I dry.

            I cannot even imagine more than 10 people, much less 45!