"Hi! I'm in the area, and I'd love to say hi and see the kids. I have a little gift for the baby. Can I stop by? I won't keep you too long..."
You can't say no, it just wouldn't be right. Sure, you could come up with some feeble excuse about how you're just running out. But then another 6 months might go by. Instead, try this:
"Great! I'd love to see you, just give me fifteen minutes to freshen up".
You can do this! I'm going to show you how. I guarantee your house will look and smell REALLY CLEAN in 15 minutes or less, you'll be proud of it - and you won't look like you just did it. I swear! Set a timer and test it yourself. Just make sure you have the following on hand at all times, and if you're wearing a sweater, take it off so you don't break a sweat and look like you ran a marathon before they arrive.
- Swiffer or Vacuum shown here: Swiffer Sweeper+Vac Starter Kit. Keep this hung somewhere convenient in the house where you can recharge it after every use (mine's just outside the garage door in the attached garage).
- Collapsable Basket or two like this Whitney Design Pop-Up Hamper with Black Polyester Mesh Bag
- Disinfectant Wipes
- Windex & Paper Towels
- Spray Bleach Cleaner
Now, here's what you're going to do. Before you begin, determine a visual path that your guest is most likely to see, and close off any other areas: bedrooms, 2nd bathrooms, garage doors, basement doors. For most of us, the path of vision is the front hall, powder room, kitchen, living room, family room, dining room, and hall stairway. Plan on moving as fast as you can, and set a timer between each task so you don't get sidetracked (and then feel unprepared when your guest arrives). My stove timer works perfectly. IMPORTANT: Do this in the order written! There's a reason for it all.
3 MINUTES - Clear the path's floors & tables except for the kitchen counter (we'll do that in the next step). Formerly in the home design business, I learned that a clean floor and cleared tables gives the illusion of a cleaner house, even if it's not. That's why we're doing this first. Take your collapsible basket, and run through the rooms in your determined path; picking up EVERYTHING you see on floors & tables. Toys, books, dirty socks, papers, doggy bones, bath towels, magazines, remote controls, whatever. Do this as fast as you can.
Put the filled basket in the attached garage, a bedroom closet, or a basement (whatever's closest and not likely to be seen). If there's clean laundry on the furniture or tables, use your second basket for this (don't mix chewed up doggy bones and dirty socks from the floor with your clean clothes).
4 MINUTES - Swiffer the path with a dry orange scented cloth, using the vacuum feature at the same time (or if you have carpet - vacuum, using some orange carpet-fresh product). While you're Swiffering, carry a damp cotton rag with you to spot clean any really obnoxious dirt spots. This will accomplish two things: pick up debris, pet hair or dust, and it will make the house smell better, quickly. Stay on task and stick to the 4 minutes - you not halfway done yet.
6 MINUTES - Kitchen attack:
- Empty your kitchen garbage and put a new liner in it. If the house smells bad, that's all your guest will notice - no matter how clean the floors are. To save time, stick the garbage bag in the garage for now (or just outside the back door). If you have a cat litter, you'd better do that, too - but move quickly, I didn't include it in the timing (add 1 minute).
- Empty sinks & counters. Throw every visible dish into one of the following: dishwasher, oven, or dryer. DO NOT spend time organizing right now. This is a trick I learned from a realtor (there is nothing more depressing than a kitchen full of dirty dishes)! Just don't forget they're in there when you go to preheat the oven next time. Quickly spray your kitchen sink with bleach cleaner (like Lysol with bleach). Don't clean it, just let the spray sit on there and do its work a bit while you move on. Many of us have white or light-colored sinks- this stuff will knock out the stains in three minutes.
- Everything else into one container (preferably a decorative basket) at the furthest end of the counter, or hidden in a cabinet or closet. Exeption: food. Just stick the food in the fridge or a nearby cabinet (not the cabinet with glasses, in case you need to offer a drink). Otherwise, it includes phone chargers, bills, clean dishes, snack boxes, pens, sunglasses, calculators, etc. I keep a large basket on one end of the counter to put everything for this occasion. The trick is to keep it as empty as possible at other times so it doesn't build up!
- Wipe down the counters, stove, faucet and kitchen table with disinfectant wipes. Then go back and rinse out your sink so it doesn't smell like bleach when your guest arrives. It will be clean enough by now.
2 MINUTES - Bathroom Swipe.
- Start with the toilet. Use your disinfectant wipes and do the rim, the bottom of the basin, the underside of the seat, and the back behind the seat. Then use your wipes to do a quick clean just around the floor of the toilet, and along the perimeter of anywhere you see hair (how many times have you sat on someone else's pot and examined the hair and dust in the corners across from you)?
- Spray bleach cleaner along the top of the bowl of the toilet if it's particulary yucky (didn't add this into the time, so it'll take another 30 secs). Let it do its work for a few minutes while you finish the rest of the bath. If your kids' potty is in there, you might want to temporarily move it to the other bathroom if you think it's smelling (one less thing to clean right now).
- Using your windex and paper towels, clean the mirror above the sink (splatters), the faucet (a shiny faucet always looks like the cleaning lady's been there) and the counter or sink rim.
- Take the little trash can out on your way and dump it into the one in the kitchen (less likely to be smelly and you won't waste time walking all the way to the garage). Bring the windex and paper towels out with you too. Oh, and if you used the bleach cleaner, flush it now so it doesn't smell strong like bleach for your guest.
YOU'RE DONE! Your house is officially "CLEAN". Now, as long as the doorbell hasn't rung, here's some finishing touches:
- Put all the cleaning stuff away, quickly.
- Brush your hair, and either put it neatly in a pony, or stick a fun mommy-cap on.
- Put on lipstick, mascara, and brush your face with bronzer. Even if you don't wear makeup, this bronzer is one thing that will always make you look great and one jar will last you a year (I'm not kidding, I've been using it for years)! Original Indian Earth Makeup Powder - 5 Gram Jar
If you still have time left:
Straighten pillows. Light a smelly candle. Place a silk arrangement on the kitchen table - I like this one: Foglia Bouquet Red - Roses with Green Hydrangea Blossoms
Replace your powder room and kitchen towels with fresh ones. Brew a pot of coffee. Reward yourself with a piece of dark chocolate and freshen your breath at the same time (good antioxidants and still a treat). You deserve it! These look cool out on a candy dish for your guests, too:
Look around, and smile. You surely must feel better with a clean house. The best side effect of this last-minute "cleaning": after your guests leave, you'll still be feeling good about how the house looks great. So when you go to retrieve the hidden basket and the dishes out of the oven - you'll be motivated to put everything in it's proper place. The last thing you'll want to do is put the clutter back!
And P.S. : for all my friends reading this, you'd better not be peeking in my oven when I'm not looking :) !