The feast is over, the guests are on their way home, and the house is (mostly) empty. If you’re like us, this moment provides not only some welcome me time, but also the bittersweet knowledge that 1) we won’t see our guests again for a while, and 2) it’s time to clean up the joint. To make your post-holiday cleanup as smooth and efficient as possible, we put together these step-by-step tips for cleaning each room frequented by guests.
Note: while you don’t have to clean every room as soon as the front door closes, you should at least tackle the dining room and kitchen before you kick off your slippers and settle in for a bit of R&R. These rooms tend to be the site of the most mess and accidents, so cleaning them now will mean there’s no chance that your toddler or your pets will come across—and possibly ingest—something they found at floor level. The good news is that if you follow this tried-and-true sequence, you’ll be sitting under a throw with your favorite book and a cup of cocoa in 90 minutes or less.
In the Dining Room
- In the dining room, straighten as you go, removing the used plates and utensils as each course wraps up and putting them directly into the dishwasher. If you don’t have a dishwasher, stack the used plates and utensils by size and type beside the sink.
- Remove the center-of-the-table items like the centerpiece, candles, and condiment containers and put them away.
- Sweep any crumbs off the linens and into a small trash can or plastic container. Once the table is clear of everything but the tablecloth and napkins, grab the hem of the tablecloth and gather all ends over the top of the table like a giant dumpling. Pick up the entire package and take it to the laundry room for washing.
- Pull the chairs away from the table and check the cushions and under the table for any large or smooshable bits of food that may have fallen during the meal. Once these have been picked up, do a thorough vacuuming of the entire room.
- While you’re vacuuming, have a family member or friend return any holiday decorations you don’t want to leave out to their proper storage place.
In the Kitchen
- Fill the sink with warm, soapy water, and get cracking. Make a family member or friend the designated dryer, and pass him or her the clean plates, assembly line–style, to dry and put away as you clean.
- Put away any special appliances you used for the occasion.
- Sweep or vacuum the floor, paying close attention to the perimeter in front of cabinet toe kicks and beside/under large appliances like the stove and refrigerator.
- Put all dishtowels in the laundry room for washing.
- Take the trash out to the garage or the curb, and put a new bag in the garbage can.
In the Living Room
- Clear any cups, glasses, or snack plates off the coffee table and end tables. Stow leftover food, and put the used dinnerware in the dishwasher.
- Give upholstered pieces the once-over, to make sure there are no food or drink spills that need cleaning.
- Repeat the smooshable-food check you did in the dining room, this time checking under tables, sofas, and other furniture. Once the coast is clear, give the room a good vacuuming.
- If you moved furniture to accommodate guests, put it back in its proper place.
In the Bathroom
- Remove all used hand towels, washcloths, and bath towels to the laundry room for washing.
- Squirt some cleaner into the toilet bowl and let it sit while you clean the counters and sink. Disinfecting wipes are great for the latter. Use them to wipe off the toilet—handle, seat, and under and behind the seat—as well.
- Spray some bathroom cleaner in the tub or shower, and give it a quick scrubbing. It shouldn’t need more than that, if you followed our pre-holiday prep plan and gave it a down-and-dirty cleaning before guests arrived.
- If you can get away with a quick vacuuming and rug shake, go for it. But if the bathroom has seen heavy traffic over the past few days, you may need to break out the mop and wash the bath mat, as well.
- Put out fresh towels and washcloths.
In the Guest Room
- Fold the top-of-bed items like duvets and coverlets, and stow them on a chair or dresser while you remove the sheets and pillowcases. Place the bedding and any borrowed robes or pajamas in the laundry room for washing.
- Run a lightly damp paper towel over the tops of dressers, desks, night tables, and other flat surface to remove the remnants of any snacks, makeup, or beauty products that may have accidently spilled.
- Check under the bed and other low furniture, as well as over the floor or area rug, for any small personal items—earring backs, hearing aids, and lip balm are common—that may have been dropped. Set them aside for mailing back to their owners.
- Vacuum well, especially in any areas where guest had been keeping their shoes.
- Return any holiday decorations to their storage bins or containers.
- When the sheets are done in the wash and have been dried, remake the bed. Put away any extras, like throws and decorative pillows, that you don’t need on a regular basis.
What’s your top tip for post-holiday cleanup?