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ADVICEBURG: “Miffed in Mahone Bay”

People often dream of living in a cooperative community. Well, Anne Macleod Weeks did for 40 years. As a teacher, dorm parent, guidance counselor, coach, principal, and advisor to faculty and parents in boarding schools, she pretty much experienced all that life can throw at you.  She welcomes your questions and concerns.

Submit your questions for Anne at and receive guidance in next month’s Barnacle!

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Hi Anne!

Lately, I have noticed when I host dinner parties, no one offers to help with the clean-up afterwards. I was raised to always help the host with dishes and I have been surprised that this seems to keep happening. Maybe it’s just me? Do you have any advice for how to handle this going forward? I don’t want to stop hosting but it’s turning into a lot of work on either end of the event.

Miffed in Mahone Bay

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Dear Miffed,

Until you asked this question, I never knew it was such a controversial topic! As someone who is a bit of a control freak, I always turn down offers of help at the end of a party because it takes more effort for me to give directions than to just do it myself (glass of wine in hand, music turned up). So, I asked around and educated myself. This is when I found out there are so many different approaches and preferences.

I could be silly and suggest you find your inner Loretta Lynn and start singing:

“Y’All Come -”

Grandma’s a-wishin’

They’d come to the kitchen

And help do the dishes right away

But they all start a-leavin’

But even though she’s grievin’

You can still hear Grandma say

Y’all come! (Y’all come!)”

Then there’s CK & GK who are more like me, playing dishwasher tetra (

Seriously, though, this is what I gleaned from my conversations with others:

Proper etiquette suggests not starting to clean up until all guests have left, so you can be fully attentive as a host (I concur). Following this guideline, choose one friend who you know would be willing to stay after the party to clean up with you. Maybe someone who enjoys sharing the evening’s conversations. Ask them when you send the invite to be that designated helper.

As you begin to gather dishes and trash, politely say, “anyone willing to take out the trash?” or whatever chore will help.

Designate a spot in the kitchen where people can put dirty dishes, etc. and let people know this is the best place to put things for your later clean-up. That, at least, consolidates what you will need to address afterwards.

My partner suggested just using all paper products that can be thrown away – you can venture a guess at my reaction to that!

If part of the problem is also clutter in the kitchen from prep for the party, take care of that as you prepare. One thing my mother taught me was to clean as I cook. It has been a great adopted habit, making after dinner clean-up easier.

As for how you were raised, I was as well. When I am at others’ houses, I now realize I am one of the few who carry dishes to the kitchen and offer to help, often when others are donning coats and shoes. I am not sure if this is generational or just a simple lack of manners.

In the end, though, please don’t stop hosting! This world needs gatherings to remind us we are human, need companionship, and the best way is to share food and drink in a relaxed atmosphere, especially in someone’s home.

Best of luck!



2 responses to “ADVICEBURG: “Miffed in Mahone Bay””

  1. Sheila W

    Dear Miffed,

    I think the answer lies in the use of dishwashers. Nowadays most people have one and each has their own way of loading, which is better done by the homeowner, than trying to tell someone else what to do. The dishwasher also changes the process from washing, drying and chatting, to just sorting, maybe rinsing and loading. Personally I prefer to do this by myself and would turn down any offers of help and similarly I rarely offer to help a host. Times they are a changing, as they say!

  2. Wade Garrison

    I agree with Anne and Sheila. Clean up as you cook. Serve items that can be made ahead. Have the dishwasher at the start of the party.

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