11 Mom-Approved Tips for Quick and Easy Cleanup After Thanksgiving Dinner

couple washing dishes together

Whether you roast, brine, or fry your turkey, whether you prefer Brussels sprouts or green bean casserole, and wherever you fall on the debate about putting marshmallows on sweet potatoes (blech), there’s one thing all Thanksgiving dinners have in common: They need to be cleaned up. *sad trombone*

In honor of this singular holiday tradition that brings us all together (moaning and groaning), we asked some Turkey Day pros to share their best tips for the post-feast cleanup. Here are their tried-and-true techniques for making quick work of the only thing standing between you and the couch.


1. “I prep a ton of stuff the days before so there’s not much cooking cleanup on Thanksgiving, only serving stuff.” -- Megan S., Irvine, California

2. “I find that if you make cleaning up a group activity, it gets awkward for others to just sit and watch (if they are decent people).” -- Bethany W., Roseburg, Oregon

3. “Cleanup also includes packing leftovers, so if you help clean, you get leftovers.” -- Liv H., Santa Clara, California

4. “We make stuffing in the crockpot with a liner bag in it. They’re a modern marvel. I also go through a lot of non-stick foil on baking sheets and pans.” -- Celeste L., Columbus, Ohio

5. “I'm trying to get my husband’s (large) family to open three or four spots for people to sign up for cleanup instead of signing up for bringing a dish to pass. We don’t need 30 dishes. This would make cleanup someone’s official contribution (and cleanup would go way faster!).” -- Austin S., Minneapolis, Minnesota

6. “No dessert until first round of dishes is cleaned up.” -- Angela C., Seattle, Washington

7. “Anybody who hasn’t cooked has to clean up. The key is to stay out of the way if you cooked. The kitchen gets magically clean (enough).” -- Kath S., Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

8. “Hire help. No joke, this is what my MIL does. Thanksgiving is usually 25 people. She does it so everyone can relax. The woman who cleans her house is Portuguese, and they don't do Thanksgiving, so she or one of her friends comes to help.” -- Roberta S., Washington, DC

9. “Soak the silverware in the dirtiest pan and do those things last, when the stuck-on gunk will (hopefully!) come right off.” -- Jessie M., Bend, Oregon

10. “Buy a meal to go from a restaurant. Quite a few places have Thanksgiving packages, and then you can THROW IT ALL AWAY after eating. It’s a good plan. Only trumped by hitting a buffet, which we do occasionally.” -- Ashley B., Las Vegas, Nevada

11. “To get people to help: 1. Lower your standards. 2. Make it a dance party. 3. Express how you feel when they don’t help. Don’t assume they feel like you do.” -- Emily K., Calgary, Alberta

What’s your best trick for cleaning up after a big family meal?


Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two young boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and a Boy since 2003.

Image ©iStock.com/George Clerk

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