After spending all afternoon crafting the perfect dinner and concocting a divine drink to wash it down, you can stack up plates, pots and pans a mile high. Then, the realization kicks in — after an evening of joviality and feasting, you have to start cleaning.

There are mixed opinions on the politeness of cleaning up while your guests are there. Some think it’s rude to start cleaning, while others think that it’s smart to get ahead on the cleaning. I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t want to spend a long time cleaning when my guests are over, but I also don’t want my guests to be surrounded by dirty dishes after we are done eating.

So I’ve developed my methods to minimally clean while spending time with my guests.

Before the guests arrive

Before guests arrive, I always clean the entryway, the bathroom, the kitchen and any other common area that we will be using. Putting dishes away that are on the counter and quickly dusting, wiping down common areas and vacuuming is a great way to make the environment tidy.

I also like to light a candle or two to make sure that the rooms have a good smell. Taking out the trash and lighting a candle makes it so that house smells better.

There are also ways to clean ahead of time, so that when your guests leave, you don’t have that much left to do. I’ve gotten in the habit of cleaning as I go while cooking, so I wipe the counters and clean pots and pans when I’m done using them. By the time guests arrive, oftentimes I just have the serving dishes left to clean after they leave.

Tidying quickly after dinner

I’m the type of gal who takes food safety very seriously. If food is left out too long, I won’t eat it because I don’t want to risk consuming something that could be unsafe. Subsequently, to avoid food waste, I believe that it’s important to start packaging up leftovers after everyone has eaten.

My method is simple. I ask if everyone has eaten enough and then begin clearing the dishes. I package up the food as I go and put the dishes in the sink filled with warm, soapy water. I make sure to give my guests some leftovers and express to them that I’m packaging them up because I want to make sure that the food stays safe. I also make sure to carefully clean any dish that they may have brought over and pack it away for them.

Any pots and pans that I didn’t clean before they arrived, I just leave until after they leave. Clearing the table and getting the dishes soaking in water is a way to remove clutter and start the cleaning process without being rude.

Typically, after dinner, my guests and I will play a card game while having a delicious dessert or snack. Before playing the card game, I like to take a moment to wipe off the table and quickly sweep up any crumbs around the table. I think maintaining a clean and orderly environment is important for the enjoyment of my guests. If a guest offers to help, I politely decline and say that I’m doing it quickly so the environment is comfortable.

Then, when we play the game and enjoy dessert, the environment feels tidy and comfortable. When guests leave, I give them leftovers and the dishes that they may have brought as they leave. Adding a nice bar of chocolate or a thoughtful note is a nice touch.

After guests leave

When guests leave, I immediately wash the dishes or put them in the dishwasher. Then, I wipe down all the counters, sweep and vacuum the floor. This takes care of the bulk of the cleaning. Doing it immediately after, even when I may be tired, makes sure that I actually get it done on time.

Others may have different methods of hosting that work for them. As long as you’re considerate and careful of your guests, then you’re being a good host.