Your turkey is the juiciest, your stuffing is nothing short of bliss, and you’ve even perfected the art of steering the conversation away from Uncle Norton’s conspiracy theories. You’ve got this Thanksgiving thing down, from the moment you buy the bird to the last satisfied mouthful of pumpkin pie…until it’s time to clean up. That’s when you realize no amount of tears will remove the gravy congealed to your favorite bowls.
This year, though, things are gonna be different. Armed with this guide to manageable holiday cleaning and your powerful accomplice, the Dyson V6 Absolute, you’ll be sleeping in on Friday instead of drowning in a sea of dirty dishes. Now, the hardest part of Thanksgiving will be convincing Uncle Norton that government-controlled robots aren’t stealing his mail.
Calm Before the Storm
Your doctor may have told you that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but they probably failed to mention that this metaphor can also be applied to holiday hosting. Incorporating these preventative measures into your Thanksgiving game plan will make your post-dinner mess way more manageable. And minimal cleanup means there will be very little standing between you, the couch, and the end of the big game. Score.
Potato peels and questionable turkey parts can turn an orderly kitchen into mayhem. Take a moment to get organized before you dive into the heat of the cooking battle and set up a bowl or plastic container on the countertop to collect meat and veggie scraps as you go. Once the meal is prepped, dump these edible remnants in a stock pot filled with water and simmer on the stove during the meal. When you’re done eating, strain the liquid into jars. Voila! You just made stock for the coming week’s inevitable turkey soup.
Make Baste, Not Waste
Waiting for the turkey to reach an internal temperature of 165º can feel like an eternity, so why not use it to your advantage? Clean dishes and utensils, wipe down countertops, vacuum floors, and take out the first round of trash. A little extra legwork now means more time for productive loafing later.
Set the Scene
A cornucopia of decorative gourds? A hand-dyed runner in autumnal hues? Individual salt-and-pepper shakers shaped like tiny, frightened turkeys? The perfect tablescape can make Thanksgiving feel magical, but it’ll be even more delightful (for you, anyway) if you give your decor an easy-to-clean twist. Be strategic: Keep things simple by ditching the tablecloth (one less thing to clean), placing seasonal saucers under candles to catch drippings, and decorating with gourds (they don’t leave any sticky residue as long as you toss them before they rot). Consider your sanity — remember, the holidays are just beginning — and skip the hand-glittered pilgrim place cards or breakable trinkets. (Yeah, that 10,000-toothpick replica of the Mayflower is a no go.)
Whet Their Appetites
Appetizers are your best defense against the hungry hordes clamoring outside your kitchen before mealtime, but save the messy dips and wings for game day. Keep the pre-dinner munchies as mess-proof as possible. Try finger foods like mixed nuts, cheese, and crackers. For drinks (and the inevitable spills), do your carpet a favor and serve clear liquids like sparkling water, white wine, and champagne.
Chow Down, Clean up
Eat and clean? At the same time? Yes, it’s possible, and it doesn’t require any real effort on your part. Staying tidy during the meal is all about having a gameplan that expects the unexpected.
Accidents happen, even when everyone at the table is a grown-up (chronologically, at least). For spills, stains, upsets, and the remote possibility of a food fight, keep an emergency clean-up kit near the dinner table but out of sight. Your arsenal should include salt, seltzer, bleach, concentrated laundry detergent, and a Dyson V6 Absolute for sucking up even the most stubborn of crumbs.
Right before you sit down to eat, throw a load of dirty pots and pans in the dishwasher and set it to its most hardcore setting (or, if you don’t have a dishwasher, fill the bathtub with water and a capful of detergent and leave them to soak). Half the battle will be done before you’re even done chewing.
Stem the Crimson Tide
Choose stemless wine glasses instead of the more traditional vessels with their long, delicate stems. Tipsy relatives will have a much harder time knocking over these sturdy stemless glasses during tirades about “those smartphone things.”
Dish it out
Your food may be delicious, but your home is not a Michelin-starred restaurant— you don’t need to put out new plates and silverware with each course. Use one set of dishes for appetizers, salads, and the main course, and only swap out plates when it’s time for dessert. Your family and friends will be too busy enjoying your scrumptious meal (and pointedly ignoring Uncle Norton’s tinfoil hat) to care.
Soak it in
When dirty dishes come into the kitchen between courses, send them straight into a sink full of soapy water to soak. You’ll save yourself hours of battling stubborn, caked-on food, which is especially difficult when you’re too full to stand up straight.
As the Food Coma Sets in
Dinner is over, and your guests are rolling away from the table like marbles. This is usually when the multi-hour cleaning marathon begins, but your foresight before and during dinner has gotten most of the heavy lifting out of the way. All that’s standing in the way of you getting horizontal are a few simple tasks — and you don’t even have to do them all yourself.
Form a fire brigade to get dishes from the dining table to the kitchen. Enlist all able-bodied guests and have your troops (carefully) pass plates, cups, and silverware down the line. Position yourself strategically at the end to make sure everything ends up where it belongs.
Once the dishes are in, feel free to bark orders (nicely, of course). Assign people important roles like “Chief Dish Scrubber,” “Dryer at Arms,” “Trash Taskmaster,” and “Doggie Bag Duty.” Your kitchen, your rules, amirite?
Put wet towels under children’s feet and tell them to have an “ice skating party” on your kitchen floor. As they clean your floors amidst squeals of joy, you can kick back and watch (and laugh, and possibly take video).
Sure, your guests may help out with the cleanup, but the Dyson V6 Absolute is your real secret weapon. Its lightweight, cordless profile belies the insane power of its V6 motor, while a HEPA filtration keeps Sneezy Cousin Harry’s allergic-to-everything syndrome at bay. You can breeze through cleaning carpets, hard floors, and even upholstery between your first and second slice of pie.
Table the Work
That beautiful, stain-and-spill-proof tablescape you created? Leave it. It’ll look just as pretty at breakfast the next day.
And that’s all it takes! Use this guide (and a certain high-end cordless vacuum) to make this Thanksgiving’s cleaning the quickest and easiest yet. Only suckers (and turkeys) will be crying into their cranberry sauce on Friday. What are your favorite shortcuts and pro tips for quick holiday meal clean-ups? Share them in the comments below—and, oh yeah, have a happy Thanksgiving!
Anna Schumacher has written for Cosmopolitan, Refinery29, Esquire, and more. Her debut novel, END TIMES, is out now from Penguin/Razorbill books. Follow her at @AnnaTheHecker.