The Genius Way to Clean Fast for Last-Minute Guests

It’s all about priorities. Oh, and hiding messes. That, too.

What in the world made you invite your new workmates over for a little “whine” time tonight? You never dreamed they’d actually say yes, but they did.

Gah! While your place isn’t a total mess, it’s not exactly guest-ready. You’ll have maybe an hour before they get here.

What to do?

The trick is to focus on the obvious, says Dana K. White, creator of “A Slob Comes Clean” website. Her top tip? If you can’t see it, forget it. Here’s how to prioritize your tidying in a pinch:

Follow Your Guests’ Path

You don’t need Google Maps to plot out your guests’ likely route. The places on this path are the ones to tidy first.

“Prioritize,” White says.

For example, they might start in the foyer (where your boots are currently dripping on your gloves that you threw down when you dashed in), and move through your living room (oh look, this morning’s yogurt cup), and into the kitchen (oh man).

Stuff clutter into grocery totes and toss the bags in a closet until your guests are gone.

Deodorize

Cooking an apple pie is an old real estate trick that makes the house smell good and conjures thoughts of happy family meals.

You don’t have to go that far. Once you’ve decluttered your guest’s path, light a citrus candle to burn as you clean. Blow it out at the end of your cleaning binge (or as you spot your guests arriving, whichever comes first) — that’s when the aroma really hits.

Dump the Dishes

“Dirty dishes in the sink are the main thing that makes your house look like you’re not keeping up,” says White. Stick them in the dishwasher (don’t bother to scrape plates this one time; new dishwashers can handle it), and turn it on. The hum signals you’re a diligent homeowner.

If you don’t have a dishwasher, stash dishes under the sink or in the oven. Definitely set your phone’s alarm to remind you they’re there — or a monster stink will jog your memory tomorrow.

Flip the Cushions

Flip your cushions instead of vacuuming them to save a couple of minutes.

Tip: Try to buy furniture with cushions that can flip; designate one cushion side for yourself and one for guests. That way your sofa will always be guest-ready.

De-Gross the Bathroom

To get the essentials clean in hurry, White says:

  • Grab a microfiber cloth that picks up dust easily or a disinfectant cloth and run it over every visible surface, including the mirror.
  • Shine up the faucets, and take five swipes at the sink.
  • Unless you have a septic system, pour some bleach into the toilet, brush, swirl, and flush.
  • Put away anything that’s nobody’s business but your own.
  • Install a fresh roll of toilet paper; fold the ends into an arrow like they do in fine hotels and really impress your guest.
  • Last, replace your hand towels. White says fresh hand towels show you care.

Set the Mood

We mean mood lighting — lamps, candles — anything but overhead lighting that highlights dust. Lamps also make nice focal points to distract from whatever you missed.

Vacuum Last

“Vacuuming and sweeping is the very last thing,” White says. Otherwise, you’ll just get the floors dirty again with your speed cleaning.

Concentrate on the areas guests will see, like the middle of rooms. Forget corners and baseboards. Just suck up the big dust bunnies and dog hair. You can at least pretend Max won’t shed all over your friend anyway while saying hello.

Know When to Stop

Remember, these are your friends, not your boss. You don’t have to white-glove the place for people who only want to open a bottle of red and whine a little.

Get it tidy, but drop the broom the moment you open the door. It’s hangout time.

Article by LISA KAPLAN GORDON

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