You know how it goes. You’re at home enjoying a very lazy Sunday afternoon when the phone rings. It’s your college roommate, and she’s in town. No, she’s not just in town. She’s in your neighborhood, and will be over in about 35 minutes.
You can’t possibly turn your apartment into a sparkling centerspread from Better Homes and Gardens in that time, but you can still get it in shape for an unexpected guest.
All you have to do is relax, breathe, and follow these 17 cleaning tips. They won’t take care of everything — and they cut a few notable corners — but they will get your home ready for company, however unannounced.
1. Take a picture of your place.
Before you rush into panic cleaning mode, snap a few quick photos of your space on your phone. Now look at them. Does anything strike you as glaringly out of place?
It can be easy to get used to the gym bag you dropped in the corner two weeks ago, but a photo can help you notice things that don’t belong. (This tip comes courtesy of A Beautiful Mess blogger Emma Chapman, who clearly knows all about messes.)
2. Focus on rooms your guest will actually use.
You don’t have time to make every inch of your apartment spotless, so narrow your scope. Millennial Moms host Jordan Page makes an excellent point in her quick clean tutorial (embedded above):Your guest is only going to hang out in a few spots in your home.
Your guest is only going to hang out in a few spots in your home.
That means there’s no need to clean your home office, since you won’t be showing Aunt Diane how to use your new printer. Simply shut the door on that space and worry about it later.
3. Pick up dirty clothes and towels.
Speed walk through all those rooms we just mentioned, with your eyes trained on the floor. Do you spy crumpled T-shirts next to your bed? Damp used towels by the shower? A rogue sock peeking out from under the couch?
Grab them all up and toss them into your hamper. You don’t need to wash them today, but you definitely need to get them off the ground.
4. Deposit empty glasses or dirty dishes into the sink.
Time for speed walk, round two. This time, you’re looking at your tables and counters.
Do you see a coffee mug stained with this morning’s latte? The plate you used last night for your Bachelor snacks? Anything else that clearly belongs in a kitchen cabinet?
Collect all those dirty dishes and drop them in the sink. You’ll get to them in a bit. But until then, onto the next task.
5. Caddy your cleaning supplies.
Now is the time to bust out your detergents and disinfectants. Keep your cleaning supplies in one portable place to make this step a lot easier on yourself .
You can use a bucket, caddy, bag, or any other portable item that can hold all your sprays and rags. This way, you can clean more quickly from room to room.
And when you’re all done? Everything goes back in the same place.
6. Give the toilet, sink, and bathroom mirror a quick clean.
Your guest is going to ask to use the bathroom at some point. So wipe down the main fixtures like your toilet, sink, and mirror with your preferred cleaning agent. (But first, put away any hair dryers or shaving cream you have sitting on the ledge.)
GQ cleaning expert Jolie Kerr recommends spraying the toilet and sink with Scrubbing Bubbles. Since the bubbles need a few minutes to work their magic, you can run off and do other tasks while you wait.
When you return to wipe everything off, make sure to Windex your mirror, too, for any streaks or spots. And straighten out your hand towels while you’re at it.
7. But just keep the shower curtain closed.
Yes, your tub should be clean, but it’s also way more work to scrub it than a toilet bowl. Plus, your friend dropping by isn’t going to hop in the bath for an hour-long soak.
Save yourself the time and effort by simply snapping the shower curtain shut. No one’s going to look inside, unless they’re the kind of person who also snoops through medicine cabinets. In which case, why do you even invite them over?
8. Tidy up your surfaces.
As you move out of the bathroom and into your three remaining rooms (kitchen, living room, and bedroom), start looking for out-of-place items on your surfaces. We’re talking about your coffee tables, nightstands, and countertops.
If you spy something that you can easily put away in a second, do it. For everything else? Stack and clump together what you can into semi-neat piles.
Is your counter in need of more than a light dusting?
Wipe up any obvious spills or stains for now, and make a mental note to give your surfaces a more thorough clean tomorrow.
9. Toss stuff in baskets.
So what about the junk on your counter that isn’t so easily sorted or stacked?
Here’s a cleaning secret:
You don’t have to put it away right this second.
Grab a laundry basket and load it up with all the stuff you’re not quite sure what to do with. Then set it aside, so you can move on to the next step.
If you happen to have extra time at the end of all this, feel free to put away all the items in your laundry basket. But if you don’t, just slide it under your bed before company arrives.
It’s okay, we won’t tell anyone.
10. Make your bed.
Maybe your throw pillows spend more time on the floor than they do delicately perched on your comforter. But no one needs to know that.
Making your bed is the easiest way to make your apartment look more put-together than it actually is. And besides, there’s a very good chance your guest will end up storing a coat in this room.
11. Take out the trash.
If you just took the garbage out last night, you can skip this step. But if your trash can is packed to the brim with banana peels, eggshells, and coffee grounds, it’s time for a purge.
Bag up all the trash — not just from the kitchen, but the bathroom and bedroom, too — and get it out of your apartment. Don’t forget to add fresh new bags immediately, in case your friend needs to throw something out.
12. Do the dishes.
Remember how you put this off eight steps earlier?
Well, you can’t do that any longer. No one likes the sight of a sink stacked with smudged, stinky plates, so you have to do something about this mess.
If you have a dishwasher, just throw everything in there and move on. If you don’t, wash the biggest pieces and place them on the rack to dry. A sink with a few forks isn’t so bad. But a sink with a skillet full of last night’s stir fry? That’s not great.
If you really don’t want to leave anything behind in the sink but are running out of time, Cosmopolitan has a funny fix:
Simply stack all your dirty dishes together and hide them in your freezer or oven. What they don’t know won’t hurt them.
13. Take care of pet hair.
You probably don’t mind the fur your pup seems to shed every five seconds. But other people might, especially if they have allergies. Run a dust buster over the couch for stray animal hairs and give the floor a quick sweep.
While you’re at it, clean out your cat’s litter box and/or pick up the chew toy your dog left right by the front door. Then remind Winnie to be on her best behavior because you have company coming.
14. And vacuum if you can.
Vacuuming is a big time suck (pun intended), and realistically, you might not get around to this task. But if you can give your floors a cursory clean, it will make a big difference.
To ensure maximum vacuuming efficiency, cleaning pro Laura Dellutri suggests tackling the entire length of the room in one straight row. Then adjust and start again at the front of the room.
Loop the cord over your shoulder while you’re making these long rows, so you don’t trip in your mad dash to cleanliness.
15. Fluff your couch pillows.
It’s a silly, simple step, but it will not go unappreciated. As a final touch before your friend or family member arrives, fluff the pillows and cushions on your couch.
If you happen to notice a stain on the cushion as you’re fluffing, flip it over to the cleaner side. Also, fold up any throw blankets hanging off your sectional.
16. Spray a scent or light a candle.
Between the garbage can you just emptied and the dog fur you vacuumed up, there are a lot of weird smells floating through the air right now. Make your home less musty with a fresh scent.
Spray some Febreze, plug in the Glade, break out the essential oil diffuser, or light your favorite candle. The welcoming aroma will trick your guest into thinking your place smells (and looks) this good all the time.
While you were cleaning your home in a hurry, you may have found some things you love but don’t need in your home right now. Instead of putting them back after your guest leaves, only for the items to take up unnecessary space in your home, schedule a MakeSpace pickup.
We’ll pick up your stuff and transport it to our secure, temperature-controlled storage facility. We’ll also create an online photo catalog of your stuff so you never forget what you have in storage.
That’s not all.
When you want something back, you won’t have to spend hours rifling through a bunch of boxes in a storage unit. Just log into your MakeSpace account, select the item’s photo, and we’ll deliver it to you.
Last-minute visits from your family will always be stressful. But with MakeSpace, storage never is.
Top image via Flickr/Living Rooms London