Dinner Party Cleanup: 5 Minimal Things to Do Before You Go to Bed

You've just served a bunch of people dinner, and you are tired. The thought of washing pots and loading a dishwasher is making you cranky, and yet waking up to smelly, stuck-on food is no picnic, either. Here are the bare minimum tasks we do before we crash to make cleanup the next morning much easier.

1. Put leftover food in the refrigerator. Enough cocktails, and you might forget there's soup in the covered pot on the stovetop. Make sure you wrap up leftovers and put them away or send them home with guests.

2. Rinse stuck-on food. We leave dirty dishes in the sink all the time, but we try to give them a rinse or light scrub (so we're not using a jackhammer to pry off dried cheese or tomato sauce the next day). We'll also frequently fill a bowl with soapy water and dump all of the silverware and serving utensils into it.

3. Fill empty pots and pans with a little water. It's great if you have room to put a big dutch oven or casserole dish in the sink and let it soak overnight. But even if you don't, pour some hot water into the pan and set it back on the stovetop or counter. Wherever you have room. Just don't leave a crusty pot to linger overnight. Let the water do some of the work for you.

4. Pour a splash of water into red wine glasses. Wine glasses are the last thing we tackle. And if we leave them out, even a tiny little bit of red wine hardens into a flaky residue that's hard to clean. When we clear the water glasses, we'll pour a bit into the red wine glasses—just enough to keep the residue from settling and drying out.

5. Clear the table. Sounds like a no-brainer, but it's psychological for us: Even if the kitchen looks like a tornado hit, the dining table (or coffee table, wherever you're eating) needs to be clear, wiped down, and tidy (napkins re-folded, chairs pushed in). When we walk into the room in the morning, we like to se something that's orderly.

What are your must-dos before you go to bed? Do you have to clean everything? Or do you leave some of it for the morning?

Related: Cleaning Up: What Do You Not Put in the Dishwasher?

(Image: Leela Cyd Ross)