I was wiped out and still working on deadline when my parents-in-law, whom I love dearly, called to say that they were about two hours away.
They were driving up from Florida to stay with us for a couple of weeks. I had seven loads of (thankfully, clean) laundry in my bedroom, a spare bedroom full of bags and boxes designated for the attic, and carpets so full of fur from my rapidly shedding dog that I considered scraping it all into a pile and telling the kids we had a new pet.
It was time for extreme measures. And my favorite extreme measure, in cases like this, is what I call “fake cleaning.” Here are five ways you can whip the house into some semblance of order—as long as your guests love you (and don’t look too closely):
- Clean up the air. A fresh-smelling room seems cleaner than it really is. I pour lavender-scented Epsom salts (purchased on sale at the drug store for the me-time baths I rarely get around to taking) into pretty jars and placed them on bookshelves and windowsills.
- Declutter. Quickly. I go through the most public spaces in the house with a big storage bin, collecting things that I don’t want to throw away but I can’t leave out there for guests to see. The bin goes into the basement or attic—or, sometimes, into a kid’s room with a blanket on top (look, honey, a bench!). Is there space under the spare room bed? Throw clutter into slim boxes and slide them under there temporarily. (Be careful, though: It’s easy for days to become decades with this method.)
- Clean the bathrooms. You don’t have to get out a toothbrush and scrub the grout, but give the cabinets, counter tops, mirrors, fixtures, and floors a quick wipe down with a cleaner-dampened cloth. I spray the bathtub, sink, and toilet with Kaboom Foam-Tastic cleaner (that’s not an affiliate link, I just like the product) and let it sit while I wipe down the rest of the bathroom; it rinses away and takes most of the grime with it without me having to scrub, which is a lifesaver sometimes.
- Clean up only the worst of everything else. That means vacuum (especially if you have a pet), but don’t worry about doing a stellar job—your goal is to remove the bad stuff. Do a quick check for any spills or stains, and clean up (or hide) them as best you can. Throw rugs hide a multitude of sins in my house.
- Fake-make the beds. Well, make the guest’s bed for real, but fake-make everything else: Straighten the pillows, pull a comforter or a blanket over the whole bed, and you’re done. Even a toy-filled child’s room looks a little bit better if the bed’s made.
- Clear off the kitchen table and do the dishes. Relegate bills and magazines to a bin somewhere, throw a table cloth or clean place mats onto the table, and push the chairs in. Do the dishes, or at least shove them into the dishwasher. It’s like the kitchen version of fake-making the bed.
How do you whip your home into shape when you are running out of time?