Piles of dirty dishes, cups strewn across every surface and a red wine spill (or two) are the most common messes found in a post-party home. But don't let these repeat offenders scare you off from throwing an epic shindig. We asked people who thrive when entertaining what they do to make clean up so easy they're willing to do it again and again.
1. Embrace table cloths.
Even though the details in a table are what make it unique, those grooves and cracks are often the unwanted hosts of food and drink spillage. "Table clothes are fun, themed and quick to pick up and wash," says Vanessa Fusco, a senior account executive at . "I simply pick up the cloth, shake it out and throw it in the wash." No wipe-down necessary.
2. Prepare an emergency kit.
The better the party is, the bigger the chance for something to break or spill. That's why Jasmine Hobbs of recommends stocking up on proven stain removers before your bash starts, like salt, soda and lemon. "But remember it's still a party," she warns. "Don't get too into cleaning and start vacuuming or washing during it."
3. Empty your dishwasher beforehand.
One thing guaranteed to ruin your clean-as-you-go party plan is dishwasher that's full, even before guests arrive. "Make sure your dishwasher is empty or close to it so you don't have to unload everything to put in the dirty stuff," says Carly Fauth, the head of marketing at .
4. Put the bar outside.
If it's warm outside, that is (no one wants to grab a beer in the freezing cold). "This keeps spills outside, as opposed to inside of the house on your floors, carpets and rugs," explains Susan Ballard, a celebrity makeup artist and home stager. If it's the dead of winter, roll your bar cart to a surface that's easy to clean (aka not white carpeting).
5. Keep trash bags in plain sight.
If guests don't know where to throw their stuff away, they can't help you even if they want to."Make sure you have plenty of trash receptacles located throughout your home so people can throw away their stuff on their own rather than you having to clean it up," says Fauth.
6. Keep spare trash bags close at hand.
For big bashes, you'll likely have to take out the trash at least once during the festivities. Minimize the hassle factor by keeping extra bags where the action is (that is, the trash can or recycling bin). "This will make trash and recycling ready to go with a new bag to line the trash can again and again," says Ballard.
7. Pour glasses as guests arrive.
"Instead of having poured glasses out for everyone when they arrive, I like to use a glass drink dispenser when possible," says Amanda Gluck, founder of . This makes it easier for people choose their own drink and prevents glasses (that aren't going to be used) from getting dirty.
8. Don't serve messy food.
It's simple: "The less messy food served, the less mess you'll have to clean," explains Forrest Wheatey of . He recommends sticking to bite-size portions that guests can pop into their mouth and recommends less sauces, dips or other "create-on-your-own" meals that lead to spills.
9. Create a "soak" zone.
Just place a few dish bins filled with soapy water in an out-of-the-way spot on the kitchen counter towards the end of the party. This creates a spot for guests to place dirty dishes, helping you avoid stacks of dirty plates later. "Afterwards, I simply take them out of the bin and place them in the dishwasher or do a quick hand wash if needed," says Kerri Garbis of .
10. Load the dishwasher before dessert.
If you can't resist doing a little clean-up before guests depart, do it while you're in transition. This also means if your party requires two or more cycles, you'll already be halfway done: "It makes it easier to put away the clean dishes and move through the next load," says Chris Huntley, owner of .