It’s summer. The weather is awesome, and you are spending as much time outside as possible. Your friends have just called and, at a moment’s notice, want to pay you a little visit.
Even though you haven’t lately tackled any major cleaning, you can still appear as if you have. True. You can fake it with this room-by-room, quickie clean-up system and be ready in under a half hour.
This may seem humorous, but seriously, it works! And if you have what’s on our house-cleaning checklist below, you may even be able to apply makeup or comb your hair before your guests arrive!
█ Wipe down the sink and rim with a moist micro-fiber cloth. If dishes are piled up to faucet, put them into the dishwasher. If you have no dishwasher; hide them in the stove (3-4 minutes depending on how many dishes are in sink).
█ Clean any splatters and spills off countertops and stove with a wet microfiber cloth or lint-free cloth. If oven has a window and dishes are hidden there, drape a dish towel over the stove handle (2 minutes).
█ Using the same cloth from the countertops, provided the cat doesn’t sleep there, wipe off any spots, spills, or sticky spots off floors (2 minutes, unless it’s the weekend and the kids treated you to their special pancakes—then add 15 minutes).
█ Fold or hang dish towels. (Remember the oven door trick if needed.) Taking a few moments to tidy up a jumble of dish towels gives a sanitary and decorative look (10 seconds).
█ Use a pre-moistened cloth—a baby wipe or face wipe—to sweep across the sink, rim, and faucet handles. Or use a washcloth or paper towel with a glass and surface product on it that won’t leave streaks (30 seconds).
█ Clean splatters of toothpaste or debris off the mirror with the same cloth you used on the sink — unless the man of the house shaved that morning (15 seconds if you don’t have to shave the bathroom sink too).
█ By doing the toilet seat and rim last, you can use the same cloth to save time (15 seconds).
█ Swish toilet bowl interior with a brush and flush. Give a quick scrub if there’s a ring (30 seconds).
█ Remove water droplets on glass shower door with a squeegee. No squeegee? Use a dry, lint-free cloth (30 seconds).
█ Bath/shower combo? Even easier. Just pull the shower and curtain liner over and hide the tub and walls (5 seconds).
█ Shake out the rug or bath mat to fluff it up and make it look recently vacuumed. Do this over the bathtub or shower stall as a receptacle for debris, and make sure curtain or shower door is closed (5 seconds).
█ Tuck stuff from the vanity into a cabinet, drawer, or under folded towels—or put in the shower or bathtub (15 seconds).
█ Put out fresh hand towels. If nothing’s clean, put a roll of paper towels on sink rim (30 seconds).
█ If the bathroom is beyond a quick cleaning, tape a sign over door that says, “Out of Order” (15 seconds).
█ Make your bed and forget the tidy hospital corners—just pull up your puffy down comforter or bedspread right over messy sheets. Voilà! Totally polished! Even better, if you have tons of pillows, place them at headboard to hide a multitude of sins (2 minutes, depending on how many pillows you have).
█ Fold, hang, or hide any clothing lying around. Don’t be picky—you only have a few minutes for this (4 minutes if you hang your clothing at night and put away your trinkets and 6 minutes if you don’t).
█ Tidy sofa and chairs. If you have pets, put on rubber gloves and remove hair first. Rub hands over the arms, seat, and back of the furniture. Save time and don’t do back if it’s up against a wall. Ball up fur and discard. Dampen gloves if upholstery can withstand water for a quicker pick-me-up. Now fluff pillows, giving each a vertical push (a decorator’s tip—you want it to look chic, right?); fold throws and casually drape over arms of sofa and chair backs, hiding any stains or wear; and remove any toys. (2 minutes. Add 10 minutes if you have more than one kitten and toys can’t be tossed down cellar stairs or into a playroom with a locking door).
█ Concentrate on surfaces in plain sight, such as sofa cushions, coffee table, and area rugs. Spot clean wherever you see fingerprints, and use a moist cloth on any streaky or sticky surfaces. Don’t forget furniture legs—dust bunnies hide there. (3 minutes, as you won’t be going under the cushions—you’ll be serving fresh snacks).
█ For wall-to-wall carpet—haul out the large vacuum and do only portions most visible. For wood floors, kick debris around to diffuse while doing other clean-ups. Pick up crumbs with a handheld vacuum (45 seconds-1 minute).
█ Collect old newspapers and put in recycling bin or under couch if it has a skirt. Get all remotes and non-decorative items, and corral them in a drawer—any drawer for now! Now place coffee table books and magazines in a decorative way to give it that interior designer look (4 minutes).
█ Clear out and hide any major clutter, such as video games, toys, wandering laundry, and anything that wouldn’t be on the pages of House Beautiful. This can be done quickly if you have a large basket and extra pillows to place atop clutter (4 minutes).
Mudroom or Entryway
█ If there’s mud on floor, wait until it’s dry and crusty; then open door and sweep into yard. Also, shake out doormats. Just make sure your company is not in the doorway (20 seconds).
█ Stash any hall-table clutter, such as keys, mail, or doggie-poo bags, in a plastic or paper grocery bag. Also, load bag with any socks, hats, shoes, or diapers, and hide in nearby closet. Remember it’s summer, and guests, most likely, won’t have coats to hang in closet (30 seconds).
█ Quickly cover any stains, scuffs, or scratches with a throw rug; make sure it’s the kind that doesn’t slide, so your guests don’t take a tumble as you rush them to cleaner surroundings (10 seconds).
There…you’re done! If there’s someone to go buy some wine, have him/her do so while you’re cleaning; this way guests won’t notice anything you may have missed!