You just got home from work or being a chauffeur for your kids-- 20 minutes later than usual to a sink full of last night's dinner dishes, baskets of laundry and piles of kid's toys that could rival Toys "R" Us on Black Friday. And then, panic sets in as you remember that you have company coming over in less than an hour. Don't freak out. Take a deep breath and do some desperation or "half fast" cleaning. Ready, set, go!
1. First thing's first, let's make the house smell clean. Light a candle or let some cinnamon sticks simmer in water on your stove. Scoop the cat litter if you have it. Take out the garbage.
2. Clean the entryway or area that your guests will see first. Sweep or vacuum and cull any clutter. I like to use a laundry basket and if it's super cluttered (why, oh why is there a dirty sock on my pendant light?!) I sometimes use a laundry basket for each person in the house. Throw their stuff in the basket for them to sort out later.
3. Hide the evidence. This isn't laziness, it's just practical. Time is of the essence right now and there isn't enough of it to organize clutter. Take anything that is not in it's place, including the laundry baskets and put them in a room that your guests will not be visiting. Close the door(s).
4. Put the most time into the area that your guests will be spending the most time. Pick up (and hide) the clutter, dust the most obvious surfaces, vacuum or sweep the floor. If you are going to be in the kitchen, put the dishes that are in the sink into the dishwasher. No dishwasher and no time to wash them? No problem, stick them in the oven for now (if you're not going to be using it, of course). Remember, this isn't a deep cleaning, we're just trying to make the house look clean. If you're going to be in the living room, straighten the pillows on the couch.
5. If you have mini-blinds and they are dusty, close them them upwards. The dust is a lot less noticeable this way. This also prevents your kids from not only making hand prints on them, but also from practicing their cursive with phrases such as "clean me" and "help". True story.
6. No matter where you are going to be spending the majority of your time, someone will have to use the restroom. Put some toilet cleaner in the bowl while you wipe down the counter tops and mirror(s). If you have clutter, I like to keep an empty basket under the sink a a catch-all. Again, you can sort later. Put in a fresh hand towel. Take a rag and quickly wipe over the base boards and corners. Finally, clean the toilet.
7. Remember, you are your own worst critic. This is so cliché, but so true. Most people aren't going to notice a little dust or clutter. And if they do notice it, they aren't going to shouldn't judge you for it. If I walk into someone's house and it's not meticulous, I don't think that they are lazy or dirty, just human. If it is meticulous, I start looking for the nearest exit. Just kidding, sorta. So, relax and enjoy your company. If they are judgmental about your home, quite frankly: ain't nobody got time for that. Both literally and figuratively. Love me, love my occasional mess.
We once went out for lunch with one of my husband's co-workers and his wife. She proceeded to tell me that she put a piece of toilet paper behind her friend's toilet to see if it was still there the next time she visited. Needless to say, this was my first and last encounter with this woman. Talk about a frenemy.
Sometimes I wish that I had that drive to keep an immaculate, showroom house and then I think back to a time when I was about 24, Jon and I had just bought our first house. It was 100 years old and the phrases fixer-upper or money-pit don't even begin to describe the nightmare that was that tiny Dutch Colonial.
We were both working and parenting full-time, trying to keep our house from collapsing while also trying to somehow make improvements. We had missing walls in places, no real kitchen to speak of and an exorbitant mortgage that made it all very sad, demoralizing and completely not worthwhile. To make a long story short, I caught my mother doing a white glove test on my entertainment center. A. White. Glove. Test. In the midst of all of this chaos, she was checking to see how often I dusted. As I sit here now, in my 7-year-old cookie cutter house, watching a dust bunny roll across the ground-- I think that I was adopted. I really do.