The Ultimate Thanksgiving Cleaning Checklist

The holidays can be a hectic time with visits from family and friends, shopping and cooking special meals. On any holiday, we always think about the cleanliness of the home, we want everything to be clean, tidy, and impeccable. But cleaning doesn’t have to add to your stress. And this is not impossible, but we need to dedicate a little time and effort as preparing for Thanksgiving is by no means a one-day affair.

Since we are on the eve of this long-awaited holiday, we are going to give you some necessary tips on everything from preparing for the holiday and hosting guests so that everything is ready to enjoy, to cleaning up afterward.

Before Your Thanksgiving Guests Arrive

Let’s face it. Not all of us were born to be Mary Poppins, having everything in shipshape order all the time. And that’s okay. Really it is!

Much of having a smooth holiday rests on the preparation that’s done before the big day arrives. One of the best things you can do to promote a more stress-free Thanksgiving holiday is to prep as much as possible beforehand.

Some of the actual tasks will depend on whether or not you’re hosting just for the big day itself or plan to have guests stay in your home overnight. But, overall, each scenario shares much of the same chores. Here’s what to do:

1 Week to a Few Days Before

  • Remember, food is usually served in plenty during Thanksgiving, and thus you will need enough space in your refrigerator. Clean out and organize the refrigerator. This gives you an opening to toss out old leftovers and expired foods. It also gives you a chance to reorganize items to make more room so the leftovers fit in without a lot of fuss.

  • If you only have the time to clean one room in your house other than the kitchen, make sure you clean and disinfect the bathroom that the guests will use. Cleaning it will give a fresh and hygienic touch to this area. Be sure to stock it with enough toilet paper towels, and hand soap to accommodate your guests.
  • If you do plan to have overnight guests, make it a priority to tackle guest rooms first. Do a general cleaning in guest rooms, but also wash and freshen up the bed linens and towels so your guests feel cozy. Don’t forget to dust the furniture and vacuum the guest rooms as well as do a thorough cleaning of the guest bathroom. Make sure your family knows these areas are off-limits until your guests arrive so the rooms will stay clean until then.
  • Wash and clean all holiday decor and items, including tablecloths, placemats, cloth napkins, holiday dishes and silverware. If you’ve had serving dishes and platters stored and unused since the last holiday, you may want to pull those out as well and clean them.
  • Remove dust, dirt and clutter in the common, living, and dining areas.
  • Arrange and check that there are enough chairs for guests.

  • Remove leaves and accumulated dirt outside your home. Blow leaves off the driveway and sidewalk and offer a clearer path for your guests. Sweep the porch. If your yard gets dirty fast because of the fall wind, you may want to save this step for the day before your guests arrive.
  • Put mats and throw rugs at all entryways. This will help prevent dirt from being tracked into your home. You may also want a boot tray and a basket for hats and gloves if it’s cold.
  • Don’t forget the closet, free up a little space to store the coats and bags of your guests.
  • If the time has been short and you have not had the opportunity to do a general thanksgiving cleaning to your entire home, close doors of the rooms that you still have to order.
  • Prepare any Thanksgiving menu items ahead of time that you can. For instance, pies can be prepared ahead of time. Chop up any vegetables that are needed for your menu and store them in airtight containers until you’re ready to cook on Thanksgiving Day. Anything you can do to take the pressure off of you on the big day will help you feel more relaxed so you can enjoy your guests.
  • Purchase containers ahead of time so you can send guests home with leftovers. We love these and these sustainable options or or mason jars.

One Day Before…

  • Quickly run the vacuum in the rooms where your guests will most likely be such as the entryway, bathroom, dining room and living room.

  • Set your Thanksgiving table. This way you’ll not only have the job done, but will have a pretty display for guests when they arrive. Don’t forget to add a pretty centerpiece to the table. This can range from fresh fall flowers from the supermarket to a basket of miniature pumpkins and gourds.
  • Stock your kitchen with extra dish towels to handle all of the extra spills and cleaning.
  • Clean the kitchen counters/island. If you’re using that area to cook, that’s fine, but otherwise, daily clutter should be cleared away for the big day.
  • Be trash-ready. By double-bagging your garbage can, you’ll have a fresh bag ready as soon as you fill up and take out the first one.

On The Day Of…

Clean As You Go

Try to stay on top of the mess by wiping counters and washing and clearing pots and pans as you cook. Fill one side of your sink with hot soapy water and toss used tools to soak there until you’re done cooking. Cleaning kitchen countertops during meal preparation not only means less mess later, it can also prevent cross-contamination. The last thing you want is to send a dinner guest home with food poisoning. Before your guests arrive, run and empty the dishwasher, even if it isn’t quite full. This way, you can whisk many of the dinner dishes out of sight when the meal is over.

When the cooking’s all done and you’re ready to carve the turkey, jump-start the post meal cleanup. As soon as you transfer the turkey to the serving platter, fill your roasting pan with soapy water and let it soak in a 250 degree Fahrenheit (121 degrees Celsius) oven. The baked-on food softens up while you enjoy your guests’ company and the meal

After Your Meal…

You’re full of turkey and cranberry sauce and maybe eggnog or something a little stronger. The last thing on your mind is cleaning! But if you head upstairs and fall asleep, you’re going to have a huge mess on your hands in the morning.

Here are our tips for a quick thanksgiving clean-up the night of to help mitigate the amount of work you’ll have to do the next day.

Pack Away Leftovers

Make sure you have lots of Tupperware handy before your meal. This way, you can give out leftover food for everyone to take home or pack it all away neatly for yourself. Having a game plan for leftovers before dinner will help you clean up quickly.

Soak Pots And Pans

Inevitably, there will be some cooking items that you weren’t able to “clean as you went.” Soak difficult-to-clean pots, pans, and any empty serving dishes that are aren’t being used to store leftovers.

Run The Dishwasher

While heavily soiled dishes are soaking, tackle the rest of the pile. Scrape dishes of any uneaten food bits and simply load into the dishwasher. If you let your dishes sit overnight, food will cake onto them, making them much harder to clean. Plus, you’ll probably have to do more than one round of dishes, so get this started as soon as possible.

Toss The Trash

Grab a trash bag and get moving. There are probably a lot of paper napkins and plates, aluminum foil and plastic wrap, and more that you can quickly get rid of. Once you do this, your whole kitchen and dining room will feel a lot cleaner. And don’t forget to recycle!

Start The Laundry 

Whether you used paper or cloth napkins, you probably have some laundry from your Thanksgiving dinner. We’re thinking tea towels, aprons, and maybe those pants that you spilled gravy on. Whatever it is, sort your laundry, spray stains and start a load that you can chuck in the dryer when it’s finished.

Wipe The Countertops And Around The Stove

Wiping down the stove and the wall and counter around the stove will get rid of any food spray and backsplash before it has the chance to dry and stain. Take advantage of disinfecting at the same time.

Do A Quick Sweep

We promise, even though you won’t want to sweep after your guests leave, it’s a good idea. There are going to be crumbs and some food on your floor after Thanksgiving dinner. If you and your family walk around on those crumbs, they’ll get tracked around the house and embedded into the carpet. So to avoid creating more mess, do a quick sweep.

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