Your husband just called and said he and his boss are swinging by on the way back to the office from a meeting. They’ll be there in 15 minutes.
And then the darling, clueless hubs says, “Don’t worry, it’ll be very casual, so don’t fuss,” as you look around at the dishes piled in the sink, the mail heaped on the counter, and the dog hair dust bunnies tumbling across the floor.
I, too, have felt that panic rising, but you’d be surprised how much you can accomplish when the clock starts ticking!
Here’s how to get your house company-ready in 15 minutes!
So, set your timer and work from space to space. Depending on how many areas your guests might see, try to focus mainly on the area where they will sit, the bathroom, and then tackling the most messy areas they will see, but not linger in.
First of all, let me make it clear that this is only for emergencies. I am a professional organizer, so please promise me you won’t make this your permanent cleaning routine, okay? 🙂
(BUT, lest you think I am scolding you, you will notice that I mentioned I have been in that same boat, meaning even us professional organizers have days where our houses are bad, too!) I am simply passing on the wisdom I learned from having been in this situation myself (more than once, I might add). You’re welcome!
Focus on only cleaning/straightening up the areas your company will be seeing.
This is the key! I live in a 2-story house. When I clean for unexpected company, I only focus on the downstairs area. Fortunately, when you walk in from the front door, you see our formal (i.e. not used much – score!) living room and dining room (which we do use every day). The kitchen is just to the left, the family room behind that and our home office and bathroom are there as well. Those are the only areas I focus on.
The boss is not going to go upstairs at all so I don’t have to worry about anything up there.
First: The Kitchen.
Most kitchens tend to be in the central part of the house, so chances are your guests will see or walk through it.
Load the dishwasher (or oven – yes, oven) with any dirty dishes.
You can organize them neatly later, just get them out of the sink. Don’t have a dishwasher? You can stack them on a cookie sheet in the oven, but don’t forget about them later! Wipe down the sink and faucet when you are done.
Corral the piles of mail.
If you have piles of mail, grab everything and put it all in a grocery bag so that you don’t lose any of it. Tuck the bag in a cabinet (not the one with glasses – in case you want to offer your guest a drink later!). You can (no, promise me you will) then go back when the coast is clear and sort through it all.
You’re probably not going to have time to mop the whole floor. Here is how I get up spills from my tile floors. I grab several paper towels, fold them up, dampen them into one big square. I toss it on the floor over a spot, scrub it with my shoe tip and shuffle around from spot to spot scrubbing them up with the toe of my shoe. (My high school soccer training is still good for something, especially since I don’t have to bend over or kneel to scrub). No chemicals, dries fast, and a quick and efficient way to spot clean. It really is fast, and no lugging out the vacuum or broom.
Give your countertops a quick wipe down. Nothing says “Ewww” like 3-day-old dried spaghetti sauce on the counter.
Garbage can and recycling bin.
If they are filled to the top or stinky, take a second to empty them. (On a side note, we are fortunate enough to have a second lidded 13-gallon garbage can we use for recycling in our kitchen. If you can find the space I highly recommend having one – it really saves time in sorting and lugging recyclables out to the garage all the time).
Wipe down the front of the fridge and the handles, if they are sticky or covered with smudges. Clean off the top and front of the stove. (If you have a baked-on spill on the stove top, squirt some cleaner on it (or pour a bit of water or cleaner on it, and then go tackle another area of the kitchen, giving it time to loosen up the spot.)
Then The Bathroom.
(Because you never know if the boss may need to go… )
(This post includes some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to see my full disclosure policy.)
If there is stuff on the countertop, store it (for the time being) under the sink or in the medicine cabinet. Give the vanity top, sink and faucet a quick wipe down with a Clorox Wipe.
Put out a clean hand towel.
(If you have a “company-only” one, now is the time to use it!)
Replace the toilet paper roll, if it is very low.
If the toilet is bad, give it a quick clean. I use a wad of dampened (with water, people) toilet paper around the edge where the lid is attached to the bowl. I wipe everything there straight into the garbage can. Then I use a Clorox wipe to clean the seat (including underside), top of bowl and on floor around the base, and, if it really needs it, I use a Clorox Toilet Wand to do a quick clean of the inside of the bowl. Use another Clorox wipe to clean the top of the tank (where the dust settles at our house).
Close the shower curtain to hide the tub.
Shake out the mats if you have them and sweep up the floor. Having a nice, fluffy mat goes a long way in making your bathroom look nice. I use a Bissell 3-in-1 Vacuum for all my non-carpeted areas downstairs. (I keep my heavy-duty vacuum upstairs where the carpeting is). And you don’t have to empty it after such a small space, saving you valuable time, but a broom and dustpan work just as well.
Empty the garbage can.
Company doesn’t need to know how dirty it was. Remove the evidence. 🙂
Most Important: Living room (or wherever you will be sitting with your guest).
Devote the most time to this space.
Grab a duster (I use Swiffer dusters) and dust the tables, lamps, and any knick-knacks in that space. Don’t forget the blinds, and if they are seen, the windowsills. Because, I don’t know about you, but windowsills are where all the dead bugs in my house end up. The main thing is to dust all the areas that can be seen from any seat in that space.
Use a sticky lint roller or big pieces of wide packing tape wrapped sticky side out around your hand to get pet fur off the cushions, so your boss doesn’t leave with his Armani-clad backside covered with hair from Fluffy. (You can also use the lint roller to dust the lampshade if the Swiffer duster doesn’t work on it.) Straighten and fluff up the cushions.
Sweep or vacuum the floor if there is dirt or dust bunnies.
Take it up a notch.
If you have a bottle of Febreze in your arsenal, a quick spray on the couch or curtains will make your room smell clean and fresh, but not overpowering. (Strong perfumes make my family sneeze, but since this goes on the fabric it is not as strong – Score!)
If you know the most current issue of your favorite magazine is in the mail pile, you can quickly grab that and put in on the coffee table, but putting a candle or one knick knack on the coffee table makes it look all put together, too.
And Finally: Other rooms company might see.
Shut the door!
Of course, if you can just shut the door to your messy office that’s on the way to the loo, then just do it! Otherwise, take a few minutes to at least make it look neater.
What if it’s an open space, like the family room?
Use storage boxes and bins you already have in there to at least get everything corralled in one place. You can go back and sort through everything later, when you have more time.
Don’t worry about dusting in there. You can straighten up the couch pillows and whatever is on the end tables, but since company won’t be spending time in there, it just needs to look presentable, not prepared for the white-glove test.
Toys/shoes/backpacks/jackets, oh my!
If you already have storage boxes or bins for toys, just toss the toys in.
If the kids are around, have them take their items (toys, shoes, etc.) upstairs while you do the downstairs.
Have the kids hang up or neatly stack their backpacks in their designated spots. If there really isn’t one, then have them take those upstairs, too, or if you are the only one home, try to just make their homework area neater by straightening papers or, again, you can stack things in one of downstairs rooms that will be off-limits.
We keep a large woven basket at the bottom of our stairs (like this), and we put items in there that need to go upstairs the next time someone goes up. That also makes a convenient place to stash things quickly.
Just do your best to make areas look neat and tidy.
Do a quick last-minute check in each area.
Don’t forget – if you were letting a stained area on the counter top or stove soak, now is the time to go back and wipe it up! 🙂
Bring on the company! You’re done!
Take a quick peek in the mirror. Make sure there are no cobwebs in your hair and put on your best smile! You did it!
You can have a chat with the hubs later to ask him to give a bit more notice next time, but, now he can help you sort through all the stuff you tucked away and your house will truly be neat and organized again – like I know it usually is! See, I’ve got your back because I’ve been there 🙂
A presentable living room, kitchen, and bathroom, suitably impressed guests, and kudos for you on your housekeeping skills!
Good luck! (And don’t forget to take those dirty dishes out of the oven) 😉
P.S. Once the company is gone, you might want to check out these tips: 10 ways to REALLY get your kitchen clean!
Ready to get organized?
Get your FREE copy of professional organizer Pam Hoepner's Top 20 Organizing Tips, full of easy, inexpensive ways to organize your entire home!
Bonus: You'll also receive our weekly newsletter full of even more easy, frugal organizing, cooking & DIY ideas!