Keeping Christmas cleanup simple

Enjoy Christmas with less mess

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Cleaning up from the holidays can take just as long as it did to set it up. Every year, you vow it’s not going to happen like this next year, but that’s what you said last year. Put an end to the cycle with these top tips for keeping Christmas cleanup simple.

Cook strategically

Having a solid game plan for cooking Christmas meals will keep you from a ton of work later. When you’re planning your menu, think of incorporating some of these tips and as much as possible, clean as you go.

Try using disposable cookware. You can buy aluminum tins in various sizes that will accommodate just about any dish you’ll be cooking. Invest $30 to $50 in these and just toss them out after the meal.

That being said, you’ll have to use at least a few real dishes. But keep in mind, just because your mom greased her dishes with butter or shortening doesn’t mean you need to. Invest in a good-quality cooking spray (which leaves less baked-on residue) and use that instead. Some companies offer them in a variety of styles, like butter flavor, olive oil and floured for no-stick baking.

You can also line dishes with foil or wax paper that can just be thrown away when you’re done. You’ll still have to wash dishes, but it will go much faster and you won’t have as much stuck-on gunk.

Need an extra pair of hands? Don’t we all. Put a family member in charge of your cleaning while you make the meal. They don’t have to stay in the kitchen, just be close enough to pop in and clean a pot or bowl when you’re done with it.

Create a wrapping station

Create a wrapping station in an extra room of your house where you keep tape, scissors, ribbons, bows and a selection of paper on a work table. Hide the gift bags — those are for last-minute gifts, not to ease the burden of the wrapping impaired! (Practice makes perfect, after all.) Make sure there’s a trash can next to the station and leave it set up all season long to wrap your presents as soon as you get them.

That will cut down on the clutter that comes when several people are engaging in a last-minute wrapping marathon. Just make sure the station is in a room where people can have some privacy for wrapping family gifts. If the station is kept clean all season, it’s just a matter of putting things back where they usually go after Christmas is over.

’Tis the season for giving

Exchanging gifts at Christmas is fun and rewarding, but what a hassle to clean up? Don’t wait until the festivities are over. Let guests open presents one at a time — each person is handed their gift and a trash bag for their paper.

Better yet, get kids in on the action. Assign each child a job. You’ll need Saving Elves, who are responsible for accumulating stuff you can use again next year, like gift bags, good boxes, bows, etc., and putting them into a special box to go through later. You’ll also need Cleanup Elves, who are responsible for ensuring all trash goes into the trash bag or box.

If you’re only hosting adults, skip the wrapping paper (saving you time on pre-party prep, too!) and opt for elegant boxes with pretty bows.

The key to clean

The key to clean during the holidays is keeping up with it as you go. If necessary, put one family member in charge of each area of the house. Then, at the end of the day, those who worked during the festivities get to take a well-deserved break while the slackers are the only ones left to work.

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Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix the Fish. You can follow her on Twitter @HireHeather.