Having people over is always more work than you think it’s going to be. Even if you go in with the intention of keeping it casual, there’s usually the moment about a half hour before guests are set to arrive that you realize that your home—which you initially didn’t think was that bad—actually looks pretty sloppy.
You’re basically out of time, but fortunately, it’s possible to clean up in a quick, efficient way before anyone rings the doorbell. In an article for Better Homes and Gardens, Jessica Bennett walks us through how to do it.
Start with the entryway
This is the first thing people will see as they come into your home, so Bennett says it’s important to pick up any messes on the floor, and declutter the space. Make sure there’s room for your guests’ shoes and coats (if there’s a spot for them there), and either give the area a quick pass with a vacuum, or at least shake out any rugs.
Head to the kitchen
If you’re serving food, you have an excuse as to why there might be a slight mess on the kitchen counters, but even in that case, clear off as much as you can. Put clean dishes away, and put dirty dishes in the dishwasher, or at least in the sink (if you don’t have time to wash them). Then wipe down the counters, do another speedy vacuum job, and move on.
Spend a few minutes in the bathroom
Bennett suggests starting at the toilet: Specifically, applying toilet bowl cleaner and letting it sit while you’re working on the rest of the room. Then wipe down and sanitize the counters and faucet, and use a glass cleaner to get rid of any streaks or spots on the mirror. Make sure there’s plenty of soap and toilet paper for your guests. Then grab the toilet brush, scrub down the bowl, flush, and move on.
De-clutter gathering spaces
When time is of the essence, you don’t have the luxury of making sure everything ends up in the correct place. But, Bennett says, you should de-clutter the main gathering spaces in your home. Her solution: Put everything that you can’t put away immediately into a laundry basket and put that in another room where it’s out of sight (like your bedroom).
Vacuum high-traffic parts of your home
Now, run the vacuum through the living room, dining room, and hallways—anywhere people will be spending time. Don’t bother with bedrooms or parts of your home that are off-limits to guests.
Tidy up the living room
Nothing major—just fold any throw blankets, make sure the couch cushions and pillows are straightened (Bennett suggests giving throw pillows a “karate chop” down the middle to get them to look better), and if there’s time, vacuum any crumbs off the couch.
Bennett also suggests dusting the common surfaces in your home. If there are any items that are covered in a noticeably thick layer of dust, by all means, wipe them down. Otherwise, don’t go too much out of your way (unless you find yourself with extra time.)