Make the worst part of entertaining more manageable

The most rewarding part of entertaining is the moment your guests begin piling in through the door. Everyone is happy and in a good mood—special hugs and greetings are given to friends or family you may not have seen in a while. The stress of the preparation is momentarily behind you and the party can officially begin.

As the evening fades and guests depart, it’s time to come to terms with the arrival of the most dreaded task: clean up.

To collapse or not to collapse

You’re tired. You’ve possibly had a little too much to drink. There are likely crumbs in the carpet and wine glasses left in dangerous locations, ready to tip over.

Although it’s not necessary to do a full clean up that night, a little prep goes a long way to make the post-party hangover much easier.

Before you call it a night

First, stow away any perishable foods. It’s fine to pop them in the fridge in their serving dishes for tomorrow. If something has been kept hot, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool or transfer to another dish to further reduce the temperature.

Second, collect all the glasses containing liquids and pour them out. Third, rinse and stack dirty dishes and serving pieces. Fill any troublesome pots and pans with hot water and dish soap to soak overnight. If a tablecloth was used, pull the edges together and give it a shake outside.

Now your dishes are gathered and ready for the next day.

Get some shut-eye

Now go to bed—but don’t forget to take off your makeup. All those martinis are no excuse.

After a bit of shut-eye and two or three pots of boiling hot coffee, you can get down to brass tacks. Wash, wash, and wash again. Scrub, scrub and scrub some more. Listen to a podcast or watch videos of Ellen DeGeneres dancing while you work. If that doesn’t cheer you up, nothing will.

Do a little spring-cleaning, too

Where do you store your serving dishes? In the kitchen cabinets? In a dining room hutch?

My preference is to use open Gorilla shelves in the basement; they’re large, tall, deep and heavy-duty. They can hold oversized punch bowls, tall pots, giant pans, coffee pots and urns, slow cookers and any type of serving piece.

In a basket on the shelves, I keep a stack of plain thin white paper plates and coffee filters on hand to use as dividers. For larger pieces, paper plates help prevent too much sliding and prohibit scraping. Coffee filters are great for smaller pieces, bowls, saucers, and cups. If you put something away slightly damp, the dividers take care of that, too.

If you have fancy zip-up bags and boxes, I’m going to come over and steal them when you aren’t looking. In the meantime, this system works almost as well.

I also use large bamboo dividers from Ikea to store my finer serving utensils, pate knives, and specialty items like crab crackers, which just take up space above the stairs. I put a clean cloth on top to keep the dust off, but still allow quick access.

Check your shelves

Before you return your now-clean items to their “homes”, break out the vacuum and feather duster and clean out the corners and dust the shelves. If you use a glass-front hutch, clean the glass inside and out. A dry soft white kitchen towel can shine up any crystal that’s gathered a bit of dust.

Next, step back and take a searing look at what is taking up space on your shelves. If you have a friend who wouldn’t mind popping by, ask them to help you with this. It’s like that cat litter commercial. We go “eyes blind” to some of the clutter we’ve accumulated.

At last check, I discovered that I own four slow cookers; a jumbo and medium-size style with removable inserts, a smaller all-in-one that burns everything and a mini one. Why the mini Crock-Pot? The world may never know. The two smaller ones are now in the pile to donate.

Have you been given strange serving bowls or pitchers or other “humorous” pieces as gifts? If chip-and-dip plates decorated with cacti and jalapenos just aren’t your thing, set them free.

Bring in a professional

I’m a collector (hoarder?), and the best thing I ever did was hire Kevin Of All Trades with Koats Limited to help me rid some of the clutter from my life. Kevin is a full-time teacher and professional organizer. He brought in a total lack of judgment upon seeing my hoard and instead released a whirlwind of energy to help me take my basement from scary to, well, manageable. He allowed me to come to terms with my Crock-Pot problem and never once gave me the stink eye over my poor organizational choices.

My first visit with Kevin cost about $150 and I got more done in those few hours than I had in a year. It was the best money I’ve ever spent.

There are all sorts of decluttering videos and methods on YouTube. I’m never going to be able to live by the KonMari method of extreme minimalism, but even I can look at my 11 different coffee pots and agree that’s a few too many.

But I’m keeping my punch bowl with 36 matching snack trays and cups. A line must be drawn. Anyway, the set has been used for numerous baby and wedding showers, so it has earned its keep.

Keep decluttering down the road

I have followed this method for many years. I have a nice box with a lid next to my shelves. I take an item with sentimental or other perceived value and put it in the box. This isn’t for outgrown shoes or something I hate—it’s for those items I can’t find the heart to part with. When I add something to the box, I don’t peek in. I slide it in fast and move on.

Every six months or so, I open the box. If I haven’t thought about the items inside even once, off they go. Somehow not seeing them breaks my emotional bond with the items and I can set them free to clutter someone else’s basement. They go into the car that day and are dropped off at the thrift shop or else I’ll think my way out of it.

Whether you do it alone, with a friend, or with a professional, using that time post-party to give your shelves a dusting and a quick look-over is a good time to purge a few items and keep your favorites.

And then, my friend, you really can rest easy.