Succos is here and there’s nothing that says Yom Tov more than having a house full of guests – for a meal or two or even overnight. Having guests is a mitzvah and makes us feel good. Rivka Malka Perlman says it well, guests are called orchim because they bring ohr, light, into your home.
However, light is not the only thing guests bring. They can also bring messes, lots of messes, either through the additional food prep that is needed, the extra dishes that need to be washed, or because of the extra bathroom wipe down.
So how do we cleanup after our guests while still maintaining the light in our home?
Try these tips below and see if they make things a little easier:
Start with a clean and tidy home. As you will be much more tired after your guests leave, do whatever you can before they come to make your job as easy as possible. Make sure there aren’t any dishes waiting to be washed, change the garbage bag, and finish your laundry. Mostly importantly, clear away any extra clutter lying on the counters and bookshelves, especially expensive or important things that you don’t want little hands or inquisitive eyes to see or touch.
This brings me to my next point. If children are coming over, discuss with your children which toys, books and games they are okay with sharing (and possibly losing a piece of, or having a page ripped out of), and which possessions they are not okay with sharing. Those items that they want for themselves should be hidden away. Children cannot expect to play with things they cannot see, after all.
Once you greet your guest, feel comfortable setting some basic rules. This is your house, after all. Keep the rules to a minimum, and state them in a calm, unapologetic voice. My two rules are: 1. Food is eaten only by the table, even, and especially, by young children. There is nothing worse than cleaning up sticky crumbs from all over the house. 2. Upstairs toys stay upstairs, basement toys stay downstairs, and outside toys stay outside. This way, when clean up time comes, and nobody else is cleaning up, I don’t have to run around the house to put the toys away. These two rules cut down on the clean up time tremendously and are not overburdensome to guests.
Probably the biggest time saver you could use when having guests is to use disposables. This cuts down on the washing and makes for a much easier clean up. However, there are many who do not like to set a Shabbos or Yom Tov table with disposables, or are queasy over the amount of garbage the disposables make. In that case, I would at least insist on a disposable plastic tablecloth over the linen one. The table still looks beautifully set, but you don’t have to deal with crumbs and sticky messes. Once the dishes are stacked and cleared, you can quickly change the tablecloth for dessert.
Soak your dishes right away. It will make cleaning up much simpler.
Lastly, if your guests offer to help, by all means, say yes! Even one less trip between the table and the sink makes the night less tiring. Whatever they offer, accept, even if something as simple as serving dessert.
If you are having overnight guests, it’s okay to make a few more rules and have a few more expectations, as they are staying longer, and costing you more in terms effort and space. Some good rules could be that coats belong in this closet (not on the chair), shoes belong in these baskets (not under the couch), and asking them to wash their own breakfast dishes, and strip the linen from their beds.
Finally, after your guests leave, take a minute to be thankful that you have the home, the space and the resources to host your friends and family. It really is a blessing.