Your schedule is as cluttered as your dining room table, and you realize your home will never star in the "after" photo of a home decorating magazine. However, the mere threat of visitors means facing your domestic disharmony head-on. Since you can't shove your entire house under the rug and in your closets, here are some tips for making this last-minute mission possible.
With only a short amount of time, forget about passing the white-glove test and go for simplicity. "People start to feel panicked or guilty about the fact that their home isn't spotless," says Stephanie Denton, author of "The Organized Life: Secrets of An Expert Organizer." "Piles and dirt they had become immune to suddenly seem to be everywhere, so they overcompensate by trying to do an entire 'spring cleaning' on very short notice," she says. Instead of exhausting yourself with a detailed cleaning, think "less is more" by decluttering first.
Even the youngest of kids can help pick up stray toys, books, and art supplies. "Give each child a large bag with handles or an empty laundry basket and have them gather all their possessions and take the container to their room." Kids love using feather dusters and sponges -- so let them.
"Figure out the rooms that your guests will be in," says Denton, who cites the living room, guest bathroom, and kitchen as the usual suspects. "Attack the bathroom first," she says. "No matter how short a visit, chances are guests will need to use the restroom." Using convenient cleaning products such as moist wipes will save time.
"It's much easier to keep up than to catch up," says Denton. Cleaning and decluttering public spaces even twice a week can make a huge difference when unexpected company drops by. Denton also suggests keeping cleaning supplies in areas like the guest bathroom for easy access for last-minute cleaning.
Have plenty of beverages on hand in an extra refrigerator, if you have one, says Denton, and keep some snack mix, nuts, or pretzels on hand. "Most people have the necessary supplies for entertaining already in their house," she says. Putting together a tray, glasses, and small plates will do the trick in a pinch.
Finally, don't draw attention to any perceived flaws in your home. "That only serves to focus attention on a situation that you don't want to draw attention to in the first place," says Denton. "Simply welcome your guests into your home joyfully while at the same time lifting the pile of clean laundry off the couch so they have a place to sit," she says.
A few household tricks and accessories go far in the effort to get your home company-ready.
- Spray mops with attached cleaner save labor while adding instant shine.
- Feather or fabric dusters accomplish a lot in a little time.
- Glass cleaner + cloth diaper = instant sparkle.
- Handheld vacuums can be kept anywhere near an outlet and are easier to use than lugging a full-sized vacuum.
- If time permits, grab fresh flowers from your local grocer, farmer's market, or florist.
- Scented candles create an inviting ambience.