CHECKLIST: Thanksgiving Cleaning

( – The holidays are upon us and while we will all be happy to see our family members, things will go much better if you take a few precautions. No matter how hard you work or how much you try, at least one of your holiday guests will find something to gripe about. Maybe it is an in-law or maybe a jealous sibling. This year will be the year that all goes perfectly if you follow this checklist.

Thanksgiving Cleaning Checklist

    Make sure you have enough tables and chairs for your guests.
    Check all serving dishes, flatware, and glassware.
    Polish silver. Wrap in tarnish-resistant silver cloth and set aside.
    Shop for any paper goods you need for the event.
    Take an inventory of your tablecloths and napkins.
    If any of your items need to be cleaned, do it now.
    Clean your refrigerator to make room for your Thanksgiving items.
    Shop for nonperishable groceries on your shopping list.
    Match up recipes with serving dishes and silverware. Drop 3×5 cards into each bowl and platter indicating which dish goes in each.
    Plan and make decorations, place cards, and wreaths.
    Plan seating arrangements.
    Review your recipes and prepare a cooking schedule by day for the days ahead, and by the hour for Thanksgiving Day.
    Check thawing time for frozen turkey.
    Prepare guest room with fresh linens and other amenities
    Do any needed outdoor work like raking leaves or cleaning the glass on your front door.
    Will you need a high chair, crib, or booster seat? Bring them out and clean, or arrange to borrow these items from a friend or the parent.
    If children will be attending, get out games or movies for them. Or ask parents to bring things for the kids to do.
    As appropriate, begin defrosting the frozen turkey in your refrigerator.
    Save money on ice — start making your own ice cubes now. When they’re frozen, dump them in a freezer bag.
    Do major housecleaning and organizing.
    Put up wreaths and nonperishable decorations like candles.
    Phone guests regarding menu plans and find out what oven space they may need. Also inquire if they are bringing serving pieces or if you should furnish these.
    Plan ahead for leftovers. Organize containers, bags, and wraps so guests can take home the meal’s bounty.

Two Days Ahead

    Chill beverages.
    Have centerpiece delivered or buy flowers for the table.
    Shop for perishable items.
    Clean vegetables and refrigerate.
    Set out bread for homemade stuffing.
    Make cranberry sauce.
    Fill salt and pepper shakers and butter dishes.
    Complete light housecleaning.
    Lay a fire in the fireplace, ready to light later.
    Put up decorations.

One Day Ahead

      Peel potatoes, place in a pot of cold water. Keep in refrigerator.
      Clean vegetables and refrigerate.
      Make all dishes that can be prepared ahead. Don’t forget the pies and any chopping, peeling, or toasting that can be done ahead.
      Check your bathrooms. Be sure to have extra paper goods and hand towels available.
      Prepare stuffing.
      Do spot cleaning of the rooms that will be used.
      Let your family set the table in the evening.
      Make the side dishes that can be baked ahead of time.
      Make a staging area for coffee, desserts, and drinks.
      Stock with flatware, sugar and creamer, cups and saucers, etc. This could even be set up on a tray stashed in the pantry until needed.

Thanksgiving Day

      Get out all serving pieces. Set out in order on a counter or buffet table.
      Fill condiment dishes with your choice of pickles, olives, cranberry sauce, etc. Cover each dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Lay serving spoons on top.
      Assign specific family members or relatives to be in charge of tending the fire, pouring drinks, answering the door, hanging up coats, and watching the children.
      Remove turkey from the refrigerator for one to two hours. Add stuffing to the bird or place into casseroles to bake separately.
      Preheat oven.
      Put turkey in oven and baste every half hour or according to your recipe.
      Prepare coffee and brew 20 minutes before serving.
      Remove stuffing from turkey and let it rest, covered, for about 20 minutes before slicing.
      Microwave food to quickly reheat if all the burners of the stove are occupied.
      Make gravy and last-minute vegetables.
      Set out refrigerated dishes including condiments, cranberries, and salads.
      Heat bread or rolls as needed.
      Pour drinks.
      Carve turkey.
      Keep the oven on the lowest setting to keep foods warm until the meal is over.
      Enjoy the dinner! Clear the table and serve dessert.


      Before leaving the table, blow out candles. Collect used cloth napkins and place them in the laundry.
      Quickly fill the dishwasher with one load of dinner dishes and glassware. Add soap and run a cycle.
      Fill the sink with hot soapy water and drop in silverware and any items to be hand-washed.
      Put away leftover food in containers, foil packs, or plastic bags. Distribute into labeled bags for guests to take home. Refrigerate everything.
      Wash items in the sink, then refill with hot water to soak pots and pans.
      Clear and wash kitchen counters.
      Wash serving pieces belonging to guests. Set labeled bags in a mudroom or hall, ready to take home.
      Organize games or other entertainment.
      Finish dishes as time allows, or after guests depart.
      Launder tablecloth and napkins.
      Put away dishes, serving pieces, and glassware.
      Return any borrowed tables, chairs, games, etc.
      Make notes on what worked — and what didn’t — and keep in your recipe box for next year.

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