Oh, poop. You look around your house with panic rising in your gut. You don’t want guests to see your home like this!
Whether your house has progressively gotten away from you this week, or you climb out of the shower to realize your kids trashed your house in seven minutes flat, you’ve got visitors showing up within the hour and you’ve got to get your house together, and FAST!
Especially around the holidays, you may want a strategy and system under your belt to be prepared in case you’re in the situation where company is coming over very soon, and your house is not company ready.
In this post, I’m going to walk you through your speed cleaning strategy, give you some helpful tips, and take you step by step through a super streamlined process to get your home guest-ready in just minutes.
Also, make sure to grab my free cleaning routine so that you don’t end up in a panic before company comes!
The Strategy to Speed-Cleaning Your House Before Company Arrives
Your primary goal when speed-cleaning for company is efficiency.
Every minute counts, so you don’t want to be wasting any of it running back and forth pointlessly, or wondering what to focus on next.
Here’s how to make sure you’re maximizing each second.
One of the best things you can do to cut down on wasted time is to batch tasks.
For example, if you need to sweep or vacuum multiple rooms, do them all at once.
Rather than vacuuming your living room, then dusting, then lighting a scented candle, then vacuuming your hallway…. Knock out all of your vacuuming at the same time.
You can easily batch tasks like dusting, wiping down surfaces, picking up clutter, etc.
Try not to switch between tasks any more than you absolutely have to.
Maximum impact, minimum effort
When speed-cleaning your house, you want to prioritize the tasks which make the maximum impact with the minimum amount of effort.
Unless your guests will be in your bedroom, you don’t need to make your bed.
If they can’t see your kitchen, don’t worry about cleaning it.
Don’t worry about your dusty baseboards or a little stain on the furniture, since your guests very likely aren’t going to look closely enough to notice those things!
Rather, focus your attention on simple tasks that make the biggest visual impact in the spaces your guests will spend the most time, like clearing clutter off of surfaces, picking up objects strewn about the floor, wiping toothpaste out of the bathroom sink, etc.
Start with the quickest tasks that make the biggest difference, and go from there.
That way, if you only have 5 minutes, you weren’t so distracted scrubbing the grout in your shower that now you have to clear off your couch while your guests stand awkwardly waiting for a place to sit.
Don’t worry about areas guests won’t see
In case you missed this tip in the last point, don’t worry about tidying the areas your guests won’t see!
If they won’t be spending the night, don’t clean the bedrooms.
If they won’t be using your shower, just pull the curtain shut.
This is not the time to reorganize your kitchen cabinets or get paranoid about the cobwebs on the back porch.
If your guests will be staying longer, and you just can’t clean EVERYTHING before they arrive, still focus on the areas where they’ll be first and spend the most time (likely your living room, right?), and tidy what’s left later.
For example, when you step away to use the bathroom at some point, then you can give the shower a quick wipe down and no one will be the wiser.
Your guests are just happy to be there with you and they are not going to mind if you say, “Hey, while you’re working on that coloring page with [kid’s name], I’m going to toss some linens in the wash so the bed will be fresh for you tonight!” Or whatever it is you still need to do.
Tips for Success When Prepping for Last-Minute Guests
Don’t run all over the house trying to do everything at once.
Keep your strategy in mind: maximum impact, minimum effort!
Stay focused on what you’re doing, and don’t let yourself be distracted by little tasks calling your name.
Whatever you do, don’t panic. That’s the fastest way to sabotage your efficiency.
Remember, your guests probably won’t notice a lot of the things that seem like glaring messes to you, so don’t sweat.
Do what you can with the time you have, and after that, just enjoy visiting with your guests!
If your kids are little tornados like mine, you would do well to contain them in one area.
(A tasty snack with their favorite video is a great way to keep them occupied.)
Preferably, contain them in an area that can stay messy, and you can just close the door before guests arrive, but if necessary, pick an out of the way space that you can wait to tidy until the last minute.
Otherwise, the glass table top you just wiped will have fingerprints on it again in 10 seconds, the carpet you just vacuumed will already have new crumbs, and the lovely throw blankets you so delicately draped over your furniture will be in the floor. Not that I’m speaking from experience….
Make sure to leave yourself time to tidy yourself
Don’t get so caught up in cleaning that your guests pull into the driveway and you realize you still haven’t brushed your teeth, or changed out of your pajamas!
No matter how little time you have to clean before they arrive, leave yourself a small buffer to make yourself a presentable host.
A Step by Step Guide to Cleaning Last Minute for Company
The fantastic thing about speed-cleaning in a crunch is that most tasks will take you way less time than you think. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you’re focused on powering through the task at hand!
Step 1: Set a timer
Give yourself a visual of just how much time you have before your guests arrive.
You might want to short yourself about five minutes just in case they’re early, and then you get plenty of bonus time if they’re not!
Step 2: Collect clutter (5 mins)
Right now, the goal is not sustainable homemaking. This is crunch time!
This is not the time to deliver each little item to it’s proper home and nicely stow it away.
Grab yourself a bin, laundry basket, or in a pinch, a large bag, and go room to room picking up any clutter or objects that don’t belong there.
Remember, you only need to do this in rooms where your guests will be spending time.
This should be super quick and only take you a couple of minutes.
Once you’re done, hide your clutter collection in a closet or any room they won’t see and close the door.
Step 3: Close any doors to areas you don’t want seen (1 minute)
You can do step 3 as you continue on with your cleaning.
As you move through your house, close the doors to any spaces you don’t want your guests to see.
Step 4: Clean guest bathroom (3 mins)
Cleaning your guest bathroom should also be very quick, so we’re going to tackle that next.
Grab your cleaning spray and a cloth or paper towels and head to your guest bathroom.
You don’t need clean every bathroom in the house; just pick one for your guests to use and close off the rest.
Don’t worry about the floors, bath, or shower right now.
Just spray down your counter, sink, and toilet, then using one rag, wipe down surfaces from cleanest to dirtiest (i.e. counter, sink, then toilet. reverse order would just be gross).
Then, if needed, squirt some cleaner in the toilet bowl and swirl your brush around. Don’t leave your brush under the seat to drip off. Just put it back away and worry about drying it off later (it would be a shame to forget it and one of your guests have to put it away for you).
Once you’re finished, make sure there is plenty of toilet paper, and empty the trash on your way out the door.
Seriously, you can probably do all of this in under three minutes.
Step 5: Tidy living room (3-5 mins)
Your living room is very important since your guests will probably be hanging out with you there most of their visit.
But, that doesn’t mean we need to spend a long period of time cleaning it.
Since you’ve already decluttered anything that doesn’t belong in the living room, you should have an easy job.
Tidy up any throw pillows and blankets, straighten things up, dust if any surfaces really need it, but we’re still not worrying about floors yet. That’s a task we’ll batch to do all at once.
Step 6: Clean floors (5 mins)
Now we’re finally getting to the floors.
We are not mopping. Simply sweep or vacuum, whichever you prefer.
Your top priority is the living room, then any pathway that leads between the front door, the living room, and the bathroom. If required, also sweep or vacuum the bathroom floor and kitchen/dining room.
Step 7: Spot clean (if necessary and time permits)
IF you’re doing well on time and IF you really feel that it’s needed, you can spot clean any messes or dirty spots you’re feeling insecure about.
For example, a particular window or door with lots of little finger prints, a sticky spot on the floor, crumbs on the dining room table, etc.
Remember, just because you clean one window does not mean you need to do every window in the house. We’re only spot cleaning.
Now might be a good time to quickly spot clean yourself, if needed.
Step 7: Focus on kitchen (5-20 mins)
We’ve saved the biggest task for last.
If your kitchen is visible to your guests, or your guests will be coming into your kitchen, now is your chance to clean it.
If your guests won’t be in your kitchen and they can’t see it from your living room, then don’t worry about it!
The great thing about saving your kitchen for last is you can work on it for the remainder of your time, right up until your guests arrive (or until it’s clean!).
Apply the same strategies from the rest of your house to your kitchen: maximum impact, minimum effort.
Take any stinky trash out quickly, focus on clearing your counters, wiping them off, and just basically working through tasks in order of impact.
If you don’t have a dishwasher where you can hide dirty dishes, you can always grab a plastic bin and stash as many as you can fit in the cabinet under your sink.
If you need to wash dishes, go in order from cleanest to dirtiest (for instance, plates and cups first, then dirty pots and pans last).
Your kitchen does not have to be perfect and spotless! People understand that it’s a room that gets used throughout the day.
Once you’re satisfied, if your guests still haven’t arrived, you can move on to Step 8.
Step 8: BONUS – Hospitality touches
If your guests haven’t pulled into your driveway yet, take a minute to add those homey touches, like lighting a candle/starting a diffuser/spritzing a little room freshener, starting a pot of coffee or water kettle, laying out a snack on a plate or tray.
Take a deep breath and relax. Your house looks great, and you’re going to have a great visit.
If you still haven’t tidied yourself, take a minute to do that as well.
When your company arrives…
Enjoy your time with your company!
Don’t continue scurrying around to clean things after your guests are in your home.
Simply be confident and own the space you’re in. No need to even apologize!
Chances are, they wont’ even notice most of the things you’re worried about.
How to Avoid the Panic-Clean All Together
With kids, a quick speed-clean before guests arrive is inevitable.
But having a regular cleaning routine during the week can be the difference between a quick tidy-up and an overwhelming mad-dash to do the impossible.
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