The party is over. It's time to call it a night. But not quite yet.
The guests are gone, but the mess remains. It's late, and all you want to do is get horizontal.
But leaving the stuff as is can make foods become one with your cookware - never a good thing unless you're trying to get your cookware to multiply. Or offer an invitation for a second party with your resident insects. Ick.
Instead, let's just give in and decide to do the dirty job of home cleaning before we retire. Here's how to speed through party clean up so you don't have to wake up to a headache-inducing morning mess.
Start by delegating the following party clean up jobs among your still-awake family members.
Hint: If you've got any kids under 10, they're better off in bed and out of the way. Older kids, however, are fair free-labor game. Take advantage of it while you can.
See below for a complete list of Party Prep and Cleanup Chores by Age.
Give your youngest non-sleeper a trash bag and instruct him to collect all disposable products. Remind him that your best silver is not disposable.
Have one kid collect dishes, plates, and silverware. Assign another to scrape the leftovers into a trash bag or the garbage disposal.
Mom can decide what's salvageable. But be careful here. If perishable food has been sitting out too long, you're better off tossing it.
Two hours is the rule for most meats and prepared foods with eggs or cheese. You don't want food poisoning along with a hangover, do you?
This worker carefully gathers all glasses and deposits them very carefully by the sink.
Now that the table is clear assign a child to hunt and gather tablecloths, napkins, and washable placemats for the laundry.
Treat any stains tonight, not tomorrow. Toss them in the washing machine. Don't forget to turn it on before you retire.
On the counter by the sink, organize the dishes by type. Glasses together, plates, serving dishes, and pots and pans.
Now you have a logical order in which to rinse the dishes and load the dishwasher. This is a two-person job, by the way.
Once the dishwasher is full, run it while you hand-wash the pots and serving dishes, and anything else that didn't fit in the dishwasher.
Your little helpers can now be wiping counters and sweeping floors. Save vacuuming for later. As in tomorrow.
Someone - preferably a teenager or grownup someone - needs to make a whole-home sweep to make sure that all candles have been extinguished and the fire is out.
Here's a guide to which home cleaning chores kids can do to prepare for and clean up after a party. This list is really focused on party-specific tasks. It doesn't include the general cleaning you might also wish to do.
Once a child reaches a certain skill or age level, he can generally do the chores for his age group and those for the age groups below, too.
AGES 2 AND UNDER:
AGES 3 TO 5:
AGES 6 TO 9:
AGES 10 TO 13:
AGES 14 TO 17: