My sister called me a few weeks ago in a panic. She says, “Ouick! I have people coming to the house this afternoon, what 5 things do I make a priority to clean first?!” She had just gotten a call from a dog rescue foundation and they wanted to know if they could stop by in just a few hours to do the home check for the dog they were adopting. Although it took me a few seconds, I thought of a few ideas for her and have since come up with a few more to share with you guys. I am no expert, but I do know that I love cleaning, so hopefully this post helps you simplify things for those unexpected occasions.
[Before I get started let me just say if you are a personal friend of mine and I visit your house often, I don’t care if you haven’t cleaned. Let’s be real, I am a mom looking for socialization through the form of a messy play date. I won’t judge your mess if you don’t judge mine. No really, I won’t judge it at all- if anything I’d help if you wanted! This post however, I wrote mainly to prepare for guests that maybe aren’t at your house every day or if they’re visiting for a more formal gathering.]
The thing to remember about cleaning your house is most people (maybe not everybody, but most…) notice clutter and not cleanliness. When I go to someone’s house, I don’t spot every crumb or piece of dog hair on the floor but I might notice if their counters are covered in dirty dishes or if their table has several stacks of mail on it. Think about what is most obvious to the eye. And if you want to make occasions like this easier then create ways to de-clutter quickly, like having storage areas in place already within the space.
If you have guests arriving in just a few short hours here are the 5 areas I’d focus on. Better yet…there are also a few tips to de-clutter those areas, rather than deep clean. Because let’s be honest, you just may not have time for that.
And by bathroom, I mean the only one you’d direct your guests to use. This is the only area that may require some real scrubbing, so do that first because it could be time-consuming.
My friend gave some great advice the other day, that also happened to be quite humorous to me. She said that once her powder room on the first floor is clean, she closes the door and doesn’t allow her husband or kids to use it. She will clean it almost a week in advance before hosting friends at her house and her family knows it is OFF LIMITS after that. Like seriously, if you feel the urge to go you better ‘get to gettin’ up those stairs so you don’t have a mess. I thought it was a genius idea though, as long as you have other bathrooms in your house to use in the meantime!
Cleaning the bathroom is really a three step process in my mind – toilet, sink, and air freshener. I don’t know about you but besides a few dust balls or strands of hair, the floor in my bathroom rarely looks dirty. If you have little ones, you might want to quickly wipe around the bottom of the toilet (in case they missed) but other than that skip scrubbing the floor! Remember, they will be there in an hour and you are only cleaning what is completely obvious to the eye.
So take some wipes to the sink and toilet seat. Then a little cleaner in the bowl; some scrubbing with the toilet brush; and last but not least, a spritz of air freshener. Close the door and voila, the bathroom is done!
The Kitchen Counters
The kitchen counter is probably a close second to the dining room table in terms of housing the most clutter. And with dirty dishes on top of that, I would tend to clean this second, as you may need time to find places to put things.
First, take a step back, look at your kitchen, and consider these 3 things – what doesn’t belong? what can be hidden? and what is taking up too much counter space?
Tackle the things that don’t belong by getting them out and back in their original storage spaces. Then, start hiding! And what I mean by that is load the dishwasher with dirty dishes; put food in the fridge, pantry, or cabinets to get it off the counters; and hide anything else in, under, or above that doesn’t need to be out for this event. That includes any larger appliances that may be taking up space.
We made space in our cabinet areas for “random” things and also appliances that we knew we might not want out on the counter 24/7. That way we aren’t hunting for space at the last minute trying to find places to put things. Our island also has storage inside and offers some great out-of-the-way hiding spaces.
Once the counters are cleared off and free of anything that might get in the way of you hosting this event, then wipe it down so you have a truly clean surface.
The Dining Room/Kitchen Table
Ughhh, this is the worst culprit for mail and everything else you want to drop when you walk through the door in our house.
For that reason my husband and I created a spot to hide the bills when we are expecting guests. That way we aren’t randomly hiding bills that eventually need to be paid and then can’t remember where we hid them. If you struggle with the same problem then find a hiding spot and make sure you both know where it is. Just don’t forget to pay the bills that you hide though!
There is something about a table that is already ‘set’ that makes the room look cleaner, am I right? So why not keep your place mats or chargers out all the time? I’m not saying you have to set it with plates and silverware too, but maybe even a few candles on the center of the table to make for a nice centerpiece.
I have been doing this for years and, honestly, even if there happen to be a few pieces of mail on the table, it still looks pretty and on occasion I even get compliments. It’s especially helpful for these impromptu type meetings though.
The Couch and Chairs
This is the spot you really just need to re-situate, which if you have the right things in place it’s easy to do. You may be thinking…wait a minute, what about vacuuming the area rugs or carpet? Honestly unless your carpets really easily show dirt then I’d say forgo vacuuming. This is why it’s always a good idea (if it goes with your decor) to stick with patterned non-black rugs – they just tend to show less dirt.
Here is what I would do though…first thing, fluff the couch and re-situate the pillows. If you don’t have throw pillows on your couch, make the investment and get some! In my opinion they can be a quick fix to make the room look more put together. Grab a few magazines and put them on your coffee table while getting ride of any leftover snacks or drinks.
If you have kids, and I am sure any mom will agree, your life may be a little simpler with quick ways to store/hide away their toys. This not only makes it easier for you to clean up after them, but also for them to clean up after themselves.
If you have an old cedar/wooden chest or cute large baskets, they make great quick storage options for toys, blankets, movies, and games. Because I have a cedar chest and two large baskets in the room, I can have it “clean” or rather de-cluttered in less than 5 minutes.
This should be the least involved, simply because entryways typically don’t take up that much square footage. It is your first impression though so it should be clutter-free. If it’s where you store shoes then having a small rug as well as a place to conveniently place shoes out of the way or in a closet is always a good idea. This is also another great spot to have a cedar/wooden chest that seconds as a bench to sit on but also conveniently hides the things you don’t want guests to see. If you don’t have a chest then a closet is always a good hiding place too, just make sure it’s not busting at the seams.
Other than de-cluttering I’d recommend lighting a candle in or near the entryway so the first thing they think is, wow it smells good in here. And when things smell good, they give the sense that things are clean. So basically it’s a good mask.
So there you have it, if you don’t already have things like simple storage options, air fresheners, or decorative pillows I’d go ahead and grab a few. Then the next time you’re in a pinch and need a quick fix to make the house look de-cluttered and “clean”, those things are already in place.
The bottom line is putting things away and creating a de-cluttered over deep-cleaned look gives the illusion that you’ve swept, vacuumed, and wiped everything down. So don’t stress, just pay attention to the 5 areas above – in that order; then take a deep breath, and get to it.