The Thanksgiving Post-Meal Game Plan (or How to Make Everyone Else Do the Washing Up)

published Nov 22, 2016
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Congrats! The big event is over. But before you turn off your front porch light and collapse into bed, the kitchen needs to be cleaned. It’s a big job, too. The sink’s full of dirty dishes and crusty pots, and there’s leftover food stacked on every available surface.

Since you’ve already done your part making sure the evening came together flawlessly, it’s time for everyone else —including the kids table! — to pitch in with the cleanup effort. Here’s a plan to get the whole family involved in tackling the mess — except you. You don’t have to lift a finger.

First, the Little Ones

Teensy hands are perfect for rounding up used cloth napkins and collecting them for the wash. Make a game out of it: the first one to collect the most used napkins wins a dollar for their piggy bank or a small prize.

Rope in the Tweens

Put tweens in charge of clearing the table of silverware, cups, and plates. Once that’s done, they can gather the tablecloth and shake it outside to remove crumbs. Then have them grab a broom and sweep the kitchen floor. They’re totally old enough to sweep.

Put Teens to Work

Have them spray down countertops, tabletops, and appliances and wipe them with a rag. They can also be in charge of taking out any trash and making sure to recycle wine bottles and soda cans.

Now for the College-Aged Kids

Offer them a pair of rubber gloves and let them go to town. They can work out their millennial angst while they’re scrubbing pots and pans and arranging dishes in the dishwasher. Give explicit instructions — scrape food off plates and silverware before arranging in the dishwasher to prevent food from sticking, for instance — to save yourself the task of re-doing a sloppy job.

When it’s all done, have them clean out the sink, too. Think of it like the cherry on the post-Thanksgiving-meal-cleaning sundae.

Adults, Partner, or Spouse

Put adults in charge of placing cleaned pots, pans, and dishes back in their proper place. They can also break down what’s left of the turkey and put leftovers into Tupperware.


Breathe a sigh of relief as your cleaning crew gets to work. Then pat yourself on the back: You’ve made it through another successful holiday meal!