Friday, November 30, 2012

The guest phenomenon

My house is only messy when I have unexpected guests.


I call this the “guest phenomenon.”


Recently our hot water heater went on the fritz. This of course happened at the most inconvenient time. I cringed in embarrassment when the repairman showed up. Piles of dishes lingered on the counters from all the homemade mixes I had been making, and we don’t have a dishwasher. We had just brought in all of our winter clothes and they were piled up ready to have the “storage stink” washed out of them. The floors were in desperate need of a good scalding hot mopping. And we all had showers to take. I apologized a million times to the repairman for the state of the house. And I was even more embarrassed that I had to call him back for a second time because the water still wasn’t heating up and my mess was still there.

In between the time the repairman showed up the second time, we had guests that were arriving on short notice. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind having guests show up unannounced; we have an open door policy to all our friends and family: come over any time and make yourself at home. And it also keeps me on my toes. “Dirt” I have never noticed before suddenly makes an appearance and I finally get around to cleaning it up after my guests leave because I’d hate for it to still be there should they come around again.


So, since I haven’t had a cleaning post in a while, I thought I would just give a few tips or tricks on how to give the house a quick clean when you have a very short time to do so before guests arrive.

"We musn't panic!! We musn't panic!!!"
(From the movie Chicken Run.)

So let’s say you have a 10 minute window before the guests arrive. And let’s say these are not overnight guests….


Start with the bathroom(s).
Bathrooms, in my opinion, show a person’s true cleaning skills…..or lack thereof. 

Remember this phrase: Good smells equal clean. Even the dirtiest of bathrooms can seem clean if they smell good.

Light a candle or spray some air freshener.

Tidy up the counter space and throw dirty linens/clothes in the hamper (or in the tub, well hidden behind the shower curtain...)

Fold your towels that are hanging out on towel bars if you have them.

Replace the toilet paper roll with a new one and give the end sheet your best hotel paper folding. (This really does make a bathroom look clean!)

Give the sink a quick rinse. You don’t have to scrub it. Just get rid of dust, hair or toothpaste globs.

Then move on to the next room.


Entrances and common areas are next.

Grab the laundry baskets and start piling them with items that do not belong in the room. You can stash these in a room that you can close the door to, that you know your guest won’t need access to.

Give pillows and throw rugs a quick shake if you can.

Light a candle or spray the room with some air freshener (remember…good smells equals clean)

Shut some blinds or curtains if you can and turn on the table lamps. Sunbeams are beautiful, but not when they are highlighting the dusty furniture.

Do a quick crumb check on the floor. You don’t have to break out the broom or vacuum. Look for the big stuff and toss it in the garbage.

Then on to the next room.


The kitchen….it’s my worst enemy when I have guests….

So let’s shine some personal light here….and don’t judge me too harshly because haven’t we all been here…..

You have a huge pile of dishes and no time to wash them. And if you are like me….no dishwasher to stash them away in. If you have one, stash what you can in there. If not…well… use the oven.

Just don’t forget they are there. I will embarrassingly admit I’ve turned the oven on and forgotten about my dirty stash of dishes.

And don’t “hide” dishes you might need to use while your guests are there. Nothing tells a guest you’ve kept a dirty house when you have to open the oven up to get out a cup for them to drink out of…

We are big coffee drinkers, and most of our guests are too. So I always put on a pot of coffee before they arrive. This helps with the whole “good smells equal clean” idea. If you don’t drink coffee, then have at it with the air freshener.

Load up the laundry baskets you used in the common areas with anything else that doesn’t belong in the kitchen.

Give the counters a quick wipe down and empty the trash can if it sits out where guests can see.

And off to the next room(s)



I prefer not to have every door shut in the house should guests arrive unexpectedly. It’s a sure sign that I am hiding a mess.

We do have one room that we always has the door closed (our office/craft room) but most of our friends or family know what’s behind the door and (hopefully) don’t suspect it hides a mess. Just that we want to keep the toddler out of there.

The quickest and easiest way to make a bedroom look clean is to make the bed. There could be piles of clothes on the ground but if the bed is made, the eyes seem to over look the floor.

You can also pile the clothes out of sight, but still in the room. Just stand outside the room and look in. Find an area you can’t see from the door way and stash stuff in that area. Or the closet if need be. If all else fails…pile up the clothes inside the washer and dryer. (Yes…I have done this…and no I am not proud …)

Once again…give it a spritz from the air freshener or light a scented candle.


Other rooms

Do a quick run around to any other room your guests my pass by or look in. Spread out messes look worse than “organized” messes.
Can you pile a few things up together? That way the eyes focus on one group of things rather than a bunch of individual things that are misplaced.
Any over flowing trash cans? Empty them.
Is the room cluttered with papers and books? No need to hide them. Stack them up neatly giving the appearance of clean.


There is one room I don’t worry about too badly when the “guest phenomenon” occurs. My toddler’s bedroom is always a mess of toys. I could, and do, clean up his toys every few hours but he disagrees that his toys should be organized and prefers them all over the floor. It’s an endless battle. So, I cave in and leave it a mess most of the time. But most of our guests are not shocked his room is scattered with toys so I can get away with leaving the mess.



And that about covers it.  A “clean” house in about 10 minutes. Now you can enjoy your guests and give it a proper cleaning after they have left.  
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