After dinner clean-up and guests - Etiquette

oakleyokJune 28, 2012

How do you handle after dinner clean-up when you have company? I'm not talking about formal dinner parties. This is when you cook a decent sized lunch or dinner, and guests brings sides or desserts. Very casual.

When I host, my female guests ask what they can do to help me. I tell them all to just relax and I'll do the dishes after they leave. It doesn't bother me at all, because it IS a casual affair & I'd much rather chat than do dishes! They like it that way too. :)

I always put food up and clear the counter away, and stack the dishes in the sink for the DW. Thank goodness I have a humongous deep sink! lol

When we eat at one of our guest's homes, after everyone has eaten and taken their plates to the kitchen, she just sits down in the LR.

After about 10 min. I get up and start putting food away, and others join me. That's a big deal to me, not leaving food out.

When we start cleaning up the kitchen, rinsing dishes, wiping down counters, the hostess finally gets up and helps without saying a word. There have been a few times the guests have cleaned the whole kitchen while she doesn't join in. It's a very uncomfortable feeling.

I take it as "I cooked most of the dinner so why should I have to clean also?". lol.

I know it's minor, but after dinner we are ALL exhausted. I will keep helping and not say anything.

Just curious how you all handle this situation after you've had a dinner at your house, and also what do you do when you go to someone else's house for dinner?

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When I'm hosting I do the same as you Oakley. As a guest, I follow the lead of the host/hostess.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 12:56PM
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I clear the table, but dishes can wait until guests leave. I will put food away.

Why do you feel you have to clean up at your friend's house if you don't do the same at your own?

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 1:00PM
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I would never start cleaning up anyone else's kitchen without their permission or request. Sitting for 10 minutes after dinner is over, then getting up to start putting food away completely oversteps your bounds as a guest, unless this is something you are expected to do in your mother or MIL's home. No wonder you feel uncomfortable!

For a potluck of 10 people or fewer I get up before people are completely finished with dinner and put the food away. Usually guests help carry plates to the kitchen where they are stacked for later cleaning, and I request everyone either leave the glasses on the table or take their drinks and we go to another room (normally the library, or if it is nice, outside) for coffee or tea and dessert. Unless we are serving a formal dinner I always order small "pick up" desserts that are passed on a tray with napkins. I cut them (pecan bars, lemon curd bars, coconut squares, cream cheese brownies, etc) into quarters so they are almost bite sized, and we generate no more dishes this way.

If someone made her way into my kitchen and started cleaning it I would ask her politely to desist.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 1:03PM
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I like to put the food into the refrigerator even if it is just with plastic wrap over the serving bowl or plate. I agree with you that I don't want to clean the kitchen right then. I would rather enjoy visiting with my guests.

The worst for me are the extra large holiday family gatherings. Someone always gets stuck in the kitchen scraping plates because family members refuse to just stack the plates on the counter and let the host family (usually mine) clear up later which I would actually prefer.

I agree with Terriks that, as a guest, I'll follow the lead of the host/hostess.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 1:11PM
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I put food away and insist on leaving the dishes. No one is allowed to help, even if dinner is for 30+ people and requires a few dishwaser loads.

I do not have an open floor plan in my 1906 home. If I did dishes immediately, I would not be able to enjoy my guests. My MIL thinks I am horrible to do this and complains about the guests not helping but I tell her it is my choice and my choices should be honored in my home. (I have been known to kick 'helpful' guests out of my kitchen.)

My SIL does the dishes immediately after dinner but she has an open floor plan and a teeny kitchen. I help clear the table and let her load her own dishwasher. There is no room for two people in there! That said, she has never hosted an event with more than 10 people and typically only serves about four or five menu items. In contrast, I have a huge buffet filled with options for vegitarians, fish and foul only guests, etc. It is common for me to cook for days before an event and my old double ovens are set up in my basement for these type of events. I have been known to use all four ovens and my warming drawer.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 1:39PM
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One of my pet peeves is jumping up from the table to do the dishes. I lie to clear the table and put the food away but then I want to relax, and if I have company, enjoy the conversation. The rest of the mess can wait until later. I really don't want anyone else cleaning up in my kitchen except maybe my sons.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 1:54PM
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For our guests, I clear the table and put up food, after everyone is finished. I have a relative that starts clearing away while people are still working and that has always bugged me. I feel rushed!! If guests want to carry their dishes to the kitchen, that's fine. I do not do dishes or clean the kitchen while guests or still there. Hubby and I always take care of that afterwards.

If I'm at someone else's home, I always offer to help, but abide by what the hostess says. I wouldn't get up and just start cleaning on my own. Of course, that goes out the window if it is my sister and I - we just kind of take over for each other if needed. LOL


    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 2:03PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

I am definitely in the follow the lead of the hostess camp. If it is my food that I will be taking home, I will make sure that it gets covered up and put away, but if it is somebody else's, then I leave that to their own comfort level.

Honestly, when I have people over, I go, go, go all day trying to get things ready, generally up to the very last minute. When I sit down to eat, I am tired. After eating, I want to sit with my cup of coffee or glass of tea and enjoy the company of my friends. The dishes can wait, even if they are not scraped.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 2:07PM
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I think the reason that it is uncomfortable is because the hostess wants to sit and chat, you jump up to clean and the other guests don't know what to do.

The polite thing to do is to follow the lead of the hostess. If she wants to leave things until after everyone leaves then you shouldn't try to take things over.

If leaving food out bothers you, quickly cover any items you might take home and leave the rest. When in Rome and all that.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 2:13PM
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When you're at someone else's home, I'm with KSWL's general feeling.

"Can we help you clear the table and put some of the food away?"

That one person you mentioned will likely say "No, I'll take care of it later -- come sit and talk!"

Then go sit and talk. It's unlikely any food will go bad, and I don't understand why if you've brought a dish of something you'd expect to take the leftovers home? I've never seen that done, unless it's after the hostess asks if anyone would like to make a "plate" to take home for lunch the next day.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 2:16PM
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Include me in the group that says to follow the lead of the hostess. You can offer to help but if the hostess want to sit and chat then join her.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 2:28PM
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Natal, I did not say I cleaned at my house. I said I put food away and wiped down counters.

I should have clarified a bit more. I didn't mean to imply I was the only one who did this at this particular house, we all do it.

We do follow the hostesses lead, we go sit in the LR and chat. Then it gets to the point where someone should put that food away or it will get old. After a period of 20 min. or so, one by one we trot to the kitchen and start putting food away and clearing the counters.

Sometimes the hostess will come in and help out, but many times she doesn't.

That's why "we" get the impression the hostess feels we should pick up, not her.

Also, since we all bring some of the food, we want it wrapped and put up in a reasonable time.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 2:36PM
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After we eat and hang around the table chatting for awhile, I wait until everyone seems a little restless then start clearing the table. I also put food away, dishes in dishwasher and counter tops cleaned. I think it works out great because the dining room, kitchen and living room are one big room and everyone is hanging out in the kitchen anyway. So the ladies and a few of the men (thanks guys!) help me and we get the disposable plastics out and I tell everyone to take what they want. It's all part of the socializing because everyone is watching, chatting, laughing and cleaning up at the same time.

My mom would never in a million years allow anyone to clean up at her house. I offer, she refuses, we go sit down in the living room - never to return to the kitchen or dining room!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 2:56PM
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I try to put food away right away because I need to keep little kitty out of it! Scrapings must go out.

I generally prefer to wait to put the dishes in the DW or hand-washing the china. Like most of you posted, I between cleaning the house and food prep, I am usually pretty tired (DH too, it's not just me).

OTOH, I used to work catering/banquets years ago, so if I see someone clearing a table, my instinct is to join in.

At others' homes, I follow their lead.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 3:01PM
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Oakley, reread my post. I didn't say you did.

Personally, I think it's a little rude for a guest to take over in a host's kitchen. If she wants to sit and visit the rest of you should follow her lead.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 3:13PM
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I guess I don't understand. Following the hostess' lead means that if she is sitting in the LR chatting, everyone else should do the same. It's difficult to know, not seeing her demeanor or reaction, but if someone just got up and "trotted" into our kitchen to start putting food away I would be completely taken aback. It's her house, and no one else's business what she does with the food that comes as pot luck. It sounds as though you may be taking too much, if you want to take the uneaten portion home with you.

Why not try dividing the amount of your dish into two containers? When you see that the second portion will not be needed, quietly put that in the fridge (or just don't take it out) and collect it on your way out the door. As a guest, I would not expect to take home anything left over from my contribution unless it was untouched.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 3:19PM
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I also would never get up to start putting food away if the hostess was sitting down relaxing. It's her house - let her do it the way she wants. It would really annoy me if my guests did that! I also don't think she's showing an attitude of "I cooked, you clean up" at all. She just wants to sit down. Honestly, I think it's rude and kind of strange for people to get up and walk away from conversation in order to get to work in the kitchen when the hostess is sitting in the living room!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 3:25PM
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Yup, I'd leave the food and sit and enjoy the company. The food isn't going to get old and so what if it does?

My MIL is a jumper upper (all thru dinner and at the end before everyone is finished). I know she thinks she is "helping" us to enjoy our dinner, but really it just puts everyone on edge and makes us all feel like we're not doing enough to help (and we all help with bringing food and dishes after).

It's my humble opinion, that the food is secondary to the company. I've been to some dinners where the food was fab, but the company was excruciating, I'd much rather have the food go bad while laughing with good friends than insult my hostess by attending to her kitchen uninvited and keeping the food "safe."

Maybe next time you are at her home, you could follow her lead. When the others start to clear up, you could call out for them to just leave the dishes and sit and talk. I'm sure she'd enjoy the company.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 3:29PM
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My friends and I are of the same mind set. As soon as it looks like all are done, everyone just automatically starts pitching in to clean up before dessert. Usually it's the women and the men usually are in charge of the grilling and carrying things.
I also like to put food away. Also if there is left over dip and it was out a few hours, I toss it.
I have a SIL that shouts out, as she is sitting in another room, if she can help. To me, this means she is announcing her intention to everyone, but really doesn't want to help. My friends do not ask, they just start doing. And I really like this. No matter how easy and simple you try to make things, it is always a big deal when you have a group of people.
My sister just clears the table and then does everything when we go. Interestingly that when she is at my house, she doesn't help at all, figuring that she doesn't want help at her house.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 3:57PM
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I would be unhappy if other people started to clean up my kitchen. If I feel like chatting or relaxing, that doesn't give people permission to take over administration of the other rooms in my house--kitchen included!

I would not do more than take my plate to the kitchen in someone else's house unless they either asked or were a very close friend and I knew how they liked things done AND that they would appreciate the help.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 4:32PM
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I don't see how it's rude to go into a kitchen and start picking up, especially since we're all good friends. Although I'd never do that if I don't know the hostess very well.

My friends have done the same at my house, I'll be outdoors then come inside, and they'll be putting food away, clearing off the tables, etc. I think it's sweet of them. That's when I tell them to just make a pile next to the sink because I'll do the dishes later.

The Hostess I'm talking about is extremely quiet. She's really not chatting when she goes to the LR. She usually gets her iPhone out and checks email and such.

Leftovers aren't an issue. But letting food get bad IS an issue, especially certain salads and such which needs to be put in the fridge ASAP.

I guess the gist of the problem is we all feel awkward doing it when she never says a word about what to do or when to do things. And she never says thank you either, but she's not angry.

The gist of it is, we know this person DOES expect us to clean. Even if we sat there for hours visiting, she will not get up.

My dh has even helped us out. He's the most laid back guy in the world and even he has said it's kind of strange how she never helps out, or tells us to leave things a nice way.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 4:37PM
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But Leafy, we ARE close friends! Even if your friend had no desire to do anything in the kitchen the rest of the day, wouldn't you still feel it's polite to help out?

It goes with the territory of being good friends, you help pick up (not do dishes) after the meal.

I guess we're backwards out here in the country. lol

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 4:41PM
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Have you tried asking her what she'd prefer? Assuming you know someone's thoughts on a subject can be tricky. As a relatively quiet one myself, I know that I often think others should figure out what I'm thinking and am often shocked when they have no clue or have drawn the opposite conclusion (I'm working on this -some call it passive aggressive).

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 5:00PM
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You say she's quiet but somehow you "know" she wants you to clean up? She's a close friend but you're complaining about cleaning her kitchen (which she has not asked you to do). And you're also complaining that she checks her emails instead of socializing with the group.

So...why do you go to her house? Why don't you invite everyone over to your own house and not invite her and her husband?

YOU seem to be the one who cares about the food going bad. What's wrong with leaving it right where it is and when you collect your dish, scrape the extra into the trash?

I don't understand the pressing need to store leftovers at a potluck. Nothing in the OP or subsequent explanations has convinced me that the hostess wants or expects the others to clean up her kitchen. Maybe she is so quiet and ignores the rest of the group because she knows these people are not really her friends?

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 5:16PM
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I also am in the camp of storing food asap, my house or at others.

I find that most people will say no if you offer to clean up but if you just start doing it, it's appreciated. Personally, after sitting for hours at the dinner table, I feel like
getting up and moving around and if there's a mess in the kitchen, I'm up for digging in and at least making a dent in the cleanup.

Of course, I exercise judgement and would not start cleaning up too quickly, I'll do it when there's a lull and people are just sitting around.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 5:33PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

If I prefer not breaking the conversion to hop up and store food, so be it. Maybe as the hostess, conversation, your company, is more important than leftovers. Maybe I'll throw them out. As the hostess, it's my decision.

If you want to go clean my kitchen and I would prefer to sit on the sofa because I have been in the kitchen since 5 AM, preparing the house and meal for this event, it's my decision.

If I want to take three days to carefully hand wash and cherish, the dishes, and shoo you out of my kitchen, it's still my decision.

If you feel uncomfortable, stop worrying so much about yourself and sit down and follow my lead.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 6:05PM
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While the OP is clearly steamed that her hostess isn't pitching in on the chores, perhaps the hostess is fit to be tied because a guest is creating such an unplanned disruption to an otherwise congenial party.

Such fervent attention to the clean-up could easily be interpreted as a criticism of the housekeeping standards or the attractiveness of the guests' interactions.

Who cares if the leftovers spoil -they'll likely be tossed anyway. But a more egregious thing is acting as if you are not completely enthralled with the conversation and party atmosphere the hostess has attempted to create and offer for your pleasure. If it appears that you think scraping kitchen offal down the disposal and applying cling-film to unwanted food is more fun than staying engaged with other guests at my party, then I would feel I had utterly failed as a hostess.

After the party when I was processing my chagrin at such a debacle, I might come to my senses and conclude that I wasn't going to risk boring you to death again. And summarily scratch you from any future invitation lists. It would seem to be the kindest thing to do, afterall.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 6:15PM
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Maybe the hostess comes in and joins you because everyone else has gotten up and left the room, and she is sitting there by herself.

Maybe the times she has not helped at all is to make the point that she would really prefer you Not do it. (Which apparently, no one got.)

Food does spoil that rapidly inside the house at room temperature that it needs to be attended to immediately. This is late 20th century hygiene paranoia rearing it's head.

I don't understand why people have to be so coy about people's offer to help out. If I want them to, I say "Yes, thanks" and if I don't I say "No" and that's what I mean.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 6:22PM
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It should say food does Not spoil that rapidly indoors at room temperature.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 6:26PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

P, I agree.
I have left food out for hours and I am still here. And, no food related sicknesses either.
The only time I got truly sick, for weeks, ( I believe I had e-coli, or related) it was from a nice restaurant meal.

I do understand the concern, however. My Dad is elderly and I watch what he eats but if I thought leftovers were truly infected, ruined or spoiled in anyway, I would not give them to him to eat.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 7:09PM
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I am downright shocked at how this topic has become so hot. It really does confirm a few things though.

First, I'm not talking about a "party." I'm talking about a few couples, maybe 10 of us at the most. It's not a party atmosphere, it's just a small gathering of friends.

If it helps any, they have an open floor plan, and if we didn't clear away the counters, there is no place to put our drinks.

My friends and I have been close for years. I have never been to a lunch/dinner with them where no one helps clear the table after eating, whether immediately or an hour later, without being asked. It's called "Good manners." It keeps friendships alive.

I can assure you the hostess in question has NO desire to clean up after dinner. That's the sticking point. It makes the rest of us feel awkward because we KNOW the food needs to be wrapped. She is not in the LR keeping up a party atmosphere. In fact, she's the least talkative person I know.

Believe it or not Pal, even in this day and age there are some foods that need to be wrapped immediately, like deviled eggs and various kinds of salad which will wilt if not put in the fridge.

I can also assure you the leftovers ARE eaten by the hostess and her family.

I guess I'm shocked that when you go to a friends house to eat (not a party) you won't help without being asked first, and to think it's rude to do so just boggles the mind.

Oh well.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 7:20PM
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It appears the real issue here is a need to be in control.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 7:22PM
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Oakley, first you said everyone was in the livingroom, now you say if we didn't clear away the counters, there is no place to put our drinks. Which is it?

I can also assure you the leftovers ARE eaten by the hostess and her family.

Obviously her lack of speediness in getting food into the fridge hasn't impacted her or her family's health if she's well enough to host dinner parties for her friends. That should tell you something.

Volunteering to help is one thing ... taking charge is another.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 7:29PM
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Oh I don't think it is rude to offer help at all, don't get me wrong.

But, If someone asks and I want help I say "yes", if not, I say "no". If I ask and the person says "no" I assume they mean no.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 7:35PM
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And if she did die, it would be okay since she doesn't contribute much to the conversation anyway. I'd let the dishes sit.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 8:01PM
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I still say ask and don't do it if she says no - even if it makes you cringe to watch the salad wilt.

My dad has always been the party host extrordinaire (he does all the cooking, cleaning, etc). He is an absolute control freak and HATES to have people in the kitchen cleaning up after a party or gathering. He very clearly tells his guests they are not to help and god help those that touch a dirty dish after his warning (don't get me wrong, he is also the life of the party and says all this with a smile and laugh).

It sounds like you think your friend isn't pulling her weight at these gatherings and therefore leaving all the work for the others. Have you tried to talk to her about it? She might not realize others feel as you do. Again, I don't think you can assume her motives without asking. Having a chat about it will probably help to maintain the friendship, whereas if you let it continue as is, it sounds like you will become more and more resentful and she'll never know why. Usually in the these situations, someone ends up saying something unkind either to the person's face or behind their back and the friendship suffers. If you're open and up front about it, things can be worked out.

I'm kind of surprised by how vehement some of the responses have been. Maybe I'm missing something. I know there is big divide on the social etiquette continuum just as there is on the food spoilage and germ continuum, but we've had these discussions before without the heat, no?

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 8:06PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Chickadee, my first good belly laugh today! (and probably the only, I'm sure).

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 8:07PM
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When I host, my female guests ask what they can do to help me. I tell them all to just relax and I'll do the dishes after they leave. It doesn't bother me at all, because it IS a casual affair & I'd much rather chat than do dishes! They like it that way too. :)

I don't understand why this is okay at your house but not at your friend's house. If she and her DH aren't worried about the food, you shouldn't be either. Stay in the living room and put your glass on an end table.

And to go off on a tangent, it's really annoying that the women are always the ones who are expected to help or offer to help in the kitchen. I know that many men also volunteer, but they seem to get "bonus points" for doing so. It's not expected of them.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 8:19PM
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How can the hostess not be "pulling her weight?"---- It's HER house!

If the guests are not taking the leftover food home, why do they care if it spoils?

Ten people at dinner = party, or should. Maybe there's no party atmosphere because all the women guests despise the hostess' slothful ways, lol.

Oakley, I am sincerely sorry if my comments offend. I am genuinely baffled at the whole situation. I keep thinking i am missing something!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 8:33PM
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Oakley actually I think you read my post backward. Nowhere did I say it was rude to ask the host if they wanted help cleaning up.

I know a number of people who are really touchy about the way they do things, and "helping" them just breaks down their system.

I also know someone who flung the host's brand new French Door refrigerator open "helping" and put a $400 dent in it, because it hit the oven. She does not really appreciate that kind of help. If I were that guest I would have paid for a new door. The "damaged fridge" was actually a buyer's negotiating point when she had to sell the house.

If I break my own glasses or dishes it's on me. I know I would get over it but if someone broke something that belonged to my great-grandmother or grandmother, I would be pissed off. Yes, we still use that stuff in my family even if we are very careful with it, and yes, I know friendship should come first, but if someone is going to ruin or break something I treasure, it had better be me.

Many people have a system and a method, and "helping" can be more of a hindrance to those kind of people. Things get put away in a certain place in a certain order. Sterling can't be put in the dishwasher touching any other metal. Some things do not get thrown in the laundry basket with everything else. So sometimes, No I will do it myself means exactly that, no matter how good friends we are.

So YES, it is polite to ASK. But take the answer at its face value.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 8:33PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

All this reminds me of various informal parties ( get togethers, whatever you want to call them) that I have held for years and there is always several certain close friends who feel the need to clean up my kitchen.
I always protest, it is ignored, then I am forced to act grateful to them for washing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. NOT.

After they leave ( and I truly love these people) I go unload the dishwasher of all the stuff they put in there that I prefer to handwash, and give a sigh of relief mixed with a tiny bit of annoyance and I admit, gratitude.

I'm torn though.
I'm annoyed they decided when the "party " would end. Cleaning up, in any form usually signifies a break in the atmosphere and a sign for people to leave. (because I need to clean up, grrr)

Gratitude, because my precious friends didn't chip or break any of the dishes or glassware I decided to use. Yes, I use "precious" stuff. I don't advertise it but I enjoy using it and having it out for friends. I planned on handwashing it myself. With a towel lined sink.
Commenting on that or even bringing any attention to that fact is priggish/petty and not what I want.
But there is a tiny bit of gratitude that it is all done, but it stresses me out.
So, Oakly, this not a commentary on your situation, but I hope you do see there are different perspectives and points of view.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 8:35PM
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I'm with you terriks. I elbow my husband to make him offer help when we are at someone's house. Hoping he will set a good example for the other guys. He still doesn't do it automatically like most women do though. Sigh

I'm in the "Follow the lead of your host" camp. When I have people over I might quickly put food away or I might not. If someone offers to do it for me I'll say "It's fine thanks. I'll take care of it later." If they then got up and started doing what they seem to consider "my neglected job" I'd be pissed off.

Why is this a "hot topic"? It's just people voicing their opinions on a pretty minor issue.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 8:49PM
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I know I keep chiming in, but I want to give an example that is not even a "get together"

One of my friends came home with me for a few days to my parents' house and most of my siblings were there.

After the first time we ate dinner at home my father said "I will do the dishes", so we all just stayed in our seats and my father, who was about 85 at the time proceeded to wash and load the dishwasher and put certain things away.

My friend INSISTED on helping and we told her it was a mistake, to just let him do it. She thought it was a sin that we let an 85 year old man do the dishes while we sat. She went ahead and helped, and after protesting once or twice, just let her.

Why was she surprised when she went out in the kitchen and found him laboriously unloading the Dirty Dishwasher and Redoing everything she had done to "Help"...we had Told her, because we have been through it many times before.

He also complained to me that the "Inside of the refrigerator was so _____ed up for weeks after that [he]could't find anything." Yes he dropped the F bomb. He likes things a certain way, and it throws him off (especially at 88(now), if things aren't done the way they are always done.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 8:52PM
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Oakley it seems like you are upset that you have to clean up but no one told you that you have to clean up! Don't you see that by her sitting there and not joining you she is trying to tell you that she does not want the kitchen cleaned up right then?

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 9:07PM
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No Oakley, it is not good manners to get up and go clean someone else's kitchen while they are still sitting down.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 9:09PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Oakly, I do want to comment on the fact that you all bring food.
I still think that the food brought belongs to the hostess and for her to do as she pleases. 20 minutes is nothing unless you are outside and it 90 degrees+.

Still, it is her home and the food brought essentially becomes hers. Covering YOUR food (nobody else's and NOT clearing tables) or quietly putting it in the refrigerator is possible if it does not disrupt the conversation or bring attention to the fact that you are doing so.

Otherwise, let it go.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 9:26PM
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I remember one of the first gatherings I hosted as a young bride at my home. We invited two other couples over for a casual barbecue. I was nervous about it because these women were very fussy about their houses and I felt like I was more laid back, and possibly not as particular about decorating, cleaning and general homemaking. You all have brought me back to how I felt when I found the two women in my kitchen yacking away and doing MY dishes! I couldn't believe it! I was angry. It was like they stopped the flow of my party and cut it short. There was nothing that would spoil. They made me feel like I was a bad housekeeper to not want to jump right on the cleaning. I planned to do that on my own after they left. I don't recall inviting them over again. However, since then, when I'm invited to someone else's house, I linger and talk and enjoy their company. At dessert time, I take my plate along with a few others into the kitchen and offer to help serve dessert. Then we linger and talk some more. Before I leave, we clear the table and I offer to help with the dishes. If the hostess is cleaning, I help. Otherwise I do as she asks. I would NEVER want to make someone feel like I did.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 11:02PM
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I have scratches on a crystal bowl after a helpful guest 'helped' clean up the kitchen. The first scratch in my new sink was also put on by a helpful guest -after I asked them to leave the dishes and visit.

I'm not so nice now. If someone has left the party to clean my kitchen, I toss them out. Many of my things I use are precious to me and I care for them in certain ways. Nothing tics me off more than seeing that a helpful person has put my precious 200+ year old cast iron skillet in the sink to soak without asking me. Its hard to feel grateful for the help when i discover it later and have to reseason it, which takes time and effort. (Don't touch my stuff!! If I say I don't want help, I mean it!!)

... And don't use metal scrubbers on my Le Creuset or use them as a dish pan for other dishes, thank you!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 11:18PM
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Does this same hostess do the same thing at others homes? Sit and not help till later? If so, I'd think she's pretty selfish. If she does help out at other homes, then I'd follow her lead.

It doesn't seem that she cares that you all clean up at her place, so if you do it, you do it. Doesn't sound like you're offending her, especially if she's checking her messages and things while everyone else is visiting.

How close a friend is she? Does she attend the other gatherings regularly?

I like to just put the food up and leave the rest for later. Primarily because I have such a small kitchen, and if we do it out on the deck, I don't like food sitting out because of bugs or the dogs. As a guest, I ask if I can help, and if I'm told no, then I will visit with the hostess while she cleans (while I do things like take out the trash or other little things). If she lets it sit, I let it sit.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 12:16AM
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Wait -- when she's the hostess and retires to the LR, she checks her e-mail? There's an etiquette issue there, no? (Unless she's waiting for a very impt text?) Maybe she's tweeting "Those women are at it again! They're in my kitchen!"

But I suppose that everyone nowadays checks their e-mail whenever... (well, not me -- I still have a "dumbphone")

Having a talk with that hostess that basically tells her she should be putting things away and cleaning? Oy. Way too hurtful a response. I would not do this. Unless, of course, you and the others just want to end that friendship right then and there.

I think it's probably hard for you not to feel guilty for not pitching in (if she declines your offer for help), but it sounds as if this has turned to resentment because she's not appreciative. Resentment builds, guilt not so much (IMHO). I'd just go with the flow with this gal, and do what's comfortable among the other hostesses.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 1:25AM
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After reading all the replies it occurred to me that perhaps she's not sure how to handle the situation either - you did say that she's extremely quiet. When she's checking her email is it because she's alone in the LR? A quick check of her email is one thing but if she does it for a long time while others are sitting with her then she's being rude.

It does seem like this has bothered you for a while- you said that everyone is "exhausted after dinner" and that she doesn't even say thank you. Has anyone ever asked her if she'd like help cleaning up after dinner? What does she do when she's invited to your home or one of your friend's?

Perhaps the next time this happens you could ask her quietly if she'd like help and then tell her that you feel unsure of what to do.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 6:49AM
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"It appears the real issue here is a need to be in control."

I agree. I would never take over someone's kitchen like that. I think it sends the message that the hostess isn't doing a good job of things, so *you* feel the need to step up and do what isn't being done. But it's likely the hostess is just going to toss the food out so she's not that worried about it spoiling. I feel if the hostess gets up and starts clearing, that's the cue to pitch in and help out and if she isn't worried about it, then just leave it and she'll deal with it in her own time. I just don't get the need to get up and take charge of things, and the other guests are just following suit so I think oakley that it is you who is making the situation awkward by doing this. It's her house and she can deal with the food and cleanup anyway she chooses, it's not a guests role to decide what should and shouldn't be done and in what time frame, even if it's done that way at everyone else's house. I also think it's just bizarre to do this and then secretly feel critical or resentful to the hostess for "expecting" it. she hasn't asked anyone to do anything so that's just conjecture on your part, she probably just feels she'll deal with it all later. I would be insulted if someone did this at my place, no matter how well I knew them because it would seem like they were making a statement.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 8:09AM
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If you are such good friends why aren't you discussing this openly and honestly with her?

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 9:25AM
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Oakley, Oakley, Oakley ... Don't you know by now that we're a highly opinionated, outspoken bunch and when you ask us how we'd handle something, we're going to let you know pointedly? Sometimes it feels like you get ruffled because the responses aren't as "gentle" as perhaps you expected, but I honestly don't think any of what you possibly perceive as criticism is intended as personal indictment against you.

FWIW, I agree with those who say to always follow the lead of your host. If she sits in the living room, just sit with her and enjoy the evening without worrying what will become of the dirty dishes and the leftovers. The company you're keeping is far more important than those things.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 10:33AM
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Since you and the other women seem to be discussing this issue amongst yourselves, I am wondering why you don't include the quiet host. Maybe she is so quiet because she knows or feels that she is left out of some conversations, like the ones about how she runs her parties. (In my group of five or six couples, they are parties, sometimes casual, sometimes more formal, just for the heck of it.)

How do you "know" she "expects" her guests to cleanup? And, if that is the case, just clean up and be happy about it. If you resent it, don't do it. Just put your own away and leave the rest for her. And don't worry about it. It works for her.

It seems like such a simple problem to solve. Just ask her.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 11:03AM
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Maybe she's tweeting "Those women are at it again! They're in my kitchen!"


    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 11:13AM
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It is clear there are different views on casual dinner etiquette, but, at my house, we eat dinner, and sometimes sit around and chat for an hour or so (because usually we are too stuffed from dinner to have dessert yet) and THEN, when we are ready for dessert, I start clearing dinner things up, and serve dessert. Of course, ANYONE, can get dessert anytime they wish (mostly the kids want it asap) as it is out and available. We do not worry about the food sitting out for that long.

I would take it if someone started cleaning up 10 minutes after eating, they had somewhere to go! Part of hosting a dinner is sitting and enjoying everyone's company for awhile before having to clean up.

I never load anyone's dishwasher, but, I do help out, if they let me. My family normally lets me help, mostly by washing or drying the big pans used for cooking. I like to do my own cleanup though, especially load my dishwasher.

Whenever I bring food to someone's house, I don't assume I will bring it back home. If they offer, and I want it, I will (hopefully it will be gone though).

My family get-togethers are different than friend get-togethers, in that, each family almost always brings a side dish or whatever. My family ALWAYS helps with clearing and cleaning, and we do this at each other's house. I do have a SIL though, that insists on leaving early all the time (we think it is because she is too lazy to help clean up) and leaves her big-honkin' casserole dish for us to clean and deliver back to her! I know, not a big deal, but, it's just the fact we KNOW she's lazy. BUT, we've remedied that, by asking her to just to bring Chinette (only) paper plates and cups. Maybe she's happier now too!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 11:28AM
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Our large gatherings are mostly family, so after we're done eating, everyone just puts their plates into one of the dishwashers then goes back to the living room to enjoy the chatting. They know by now that no rinsing is needed and that all the china & silver I use is DW-safe. Putting 2 DWs in our kitchen was one of the BEST decisions we made on our remodel, and I always have them both empty at the start of a party.

Food putting-up is usually done a bit later, and is the understood in our crowd to be the signal that the party is 'kinda over'.

FYI - It's generally safe to leave food out for about 4 hours or so, though it's rarely that long.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 8:02PM
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If I'm the hostess, sometimes I'll try to scrape plates or load some glasses & run them through the dishwasher's express cycle -- I've gotten really fast & discreet at that (the advantage of a quiet dishwasher & not having an open kitchen floor plan). For some of our parties we've needed the clean dishes for nibblers, people wanting seconds, and extra dessert as the party runs late. Guests have had enough wine by then not to care :) Everything else, I'll let wait.

If I'm at someone's house, I'll follow their lead. I've got family members who are offended if you don't help with clean-up, and others who are offended if you DO help with clean-up.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 8:40PM
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Honestly, Oakley, I do get what you are saying. It sounds like in your family and friend circle that you gals have a good understanding of how you deal with clean-up. I also like to do a quick clean (throw the dishes in the sink and/or dishwasher, cover the food, refrigerate when necessary, and basically just wipe up the counter/table mess. We leave a lot of food out for seconds and snacks, and refrigerate things that will get soggy or could possibly spoil quickly. Our family sometimes visits for hours and it is not really comfortable to sit around visiting among food messes. I have an average size house and we tend to mix and mingle throughout the living room, dining room, kitchen bar etc.

I always do a thorough cleaning that night or the next day AFTER the company has left - a total cleaning of the counters, sweeping the floor, rearranging my serving pieces, etc.

One suggestion for your friend who doesn't help clean up. As others have suggested, she may not want everyone in her kitchen. On the other hand, she may not care! You might try suggesting "____ you have worked so hard preparing for us today, why don't we hop into the kitchen and help you clean up so you don't have to". If she says no, just let it be.

Olliesmom - your family gatherings sound like mine. I have the most awesome SIL's who ALWAYS help out, except for the one who always has to be somewhere else at DW time and she too leaves her nasty dish. She's the one who always shows up with the makings for a cheeseball or a dip and wants to make it AFTER she arrives! Now, that makes me furious!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 12:05PM
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Ugh Tuesday-my former SIL was the same way! She'd show up late to an event and have to make her dish on the premesis. I'll never forget how she was late to her stepson's wedding because she 'had' to stop at the store on the way. Right after the ceremony she disappeared to go make her salad for the dinner. It was pretty disconcerting on so many levels, not to mention that she was prepping this food outdoors next to the porta-potty.

And her daughters were plucking flowers from the table arrangements to decorate the cake they'd made. Yeegads.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 11:57PM
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The various points of view are helpful & some I wouldn't even think of. I think it depends on who is hosting the event; how good of friends everyone is; what's being served; & how long it lasts.

I'm usually the one hosting; its rare people even bring anything. We also like to put stuff away within reason; but we also bring out other foods; so there is always something out. Everyone that comes to my house is comfortable enough to help themselves to more salads if it's been thrown back in the fridge. We'll usually have an all day thing; people arrive at noon & can leave 8-10pm. We usually start with things like spinach dip & bread; cheese; pepperoni & crackers; veggie tray. I've learned to use smaller dip dishes; put out smaller amounts of deviled eggs & salads so most times; food does not spoil or if out too long; it can get chucked. I don't believe in wasting food; especially since everything has majorly gone up. When the grill gets going; the 1st cold foods go in the fridge & other cold foods (like salads) replace them.

What we use to eat on depends on how many people are coming. Some days we use paper plates while others we use plates. I've had to wash dishes in order to get more silverware; I don't entertain much these days; I don't think to break out plastic forks for birthday cake.

I've had parties where we left dishes & I've had them where we all pitch in to help clean up. Most of us were raised the same way; we pitch in to clean up so that the hostess doesn't get stuck preparing & cleaning up themselves. Not sure I've ever been to one where everyone did not pitch in. I don't normally use the dishwasher; but when we do; either I will load it or check the way it's loaded before it's run because there are things I don't normally put in. Everyone knows me enough to ask

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 10:55AM
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Question to those that feel similar about these 2 random posts-

YOU seem to be the one who cares about the food going bad. What's wrong with leaving it right where it is and when you collect your dish, scrape the extra into the trash?

I don't understand the pressing need to store leftovers at a potluck. Nothing in the OP or subsequent explanations has convinced me that the hostess wants or expects the others to clean up her kitchen. Maybe she is so quiet and ignores the rest of the group because she knows these people are not really her friends

Who cares if the leftovers spoil -they'll likely be tossed anyway.

If your guests spent money to make a dish; wouldn't you worry that you're giving off the impression that their food isn't good enough to be worth saving since you plan to toss it anyway?

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 3:35PM
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Short answer--- no. I don't take food to a potluck expecting to take the extra home. No one I know does, either. The cost is not really a factor and is usually minimal compared with the drinks, anyway. I guess if there were a guest in fragile economic circumstances present I would try to get all the leftovers together for that family. However, that scenario has never arisen.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 6:33PM
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I don't know that fragile economic circumstances is a reason to not expect to bring left overs home. We're certainly not in that position, but our circle generally brings home extras....perhaps not what they brought, but other food. Fixing up a plate has always been the norm in my life, and at every dinner party or food related event I've ever attended, left overs were freely offered, and taken by everyone.

Things like relish trays or appetizers, not necessarily, but certainly left over entrees, sides and desserts.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 6:53PM
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Pesky, I'm just saying that in our area where people don't normally divide up leftovers that I surely would if I thought they were really needed by one ofthe guests.

Rosevlr, I am LOL because I just realized that all those "random" comments you quoted were mine..... And I proceeded to agree with myself, duh! Sorry!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 11:20PM
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It depends whose house it is~when I'm at one of my kids, I have a tendency to 'take over', whether it be with cooking or cleaning up. I know it's much appreciated, that's why I do it. At the home of anyone else, I always ask, and if the hostess doesn't want help, I have no problem with it. In my own home, I also like to put food away immediately, and dishes in the sink. If guests ask to help, I have no problem saying yes, but if they, don't I'll sit down after I'm finished putting things away. On the flip side, I consider it rude if a guest doesn't at least ask. ;o)

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 5:21PM
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