Speed clean for guests

You know the scenario: Friends are
coming over and you’ve procrastinated all week and haven’t cleaned the house.
Now you’re panicking out because you’ve got less than two hours and nothing to
show for yourself but a sloppy house and an empty pantry. This happens to me
almost every other weekend, so I’ve compiled a handy check-off list for speed
cleaning. It covers exactly what needs to be done to make it look like you live
a neat and tidy life. My husband and I try to beat our old record each time we
entertain. Our best time—for everything on the list—is 17 minutes. I am NOT
kidding; we are like a pit crew. Make sure to enlist your husband and kids to
help; it’s their house too.


1. The toilet

At some point, somebody’s going to
need to go. The toilet needs to be spotless if company is coming. Keep
disinfecting wipes in your kitchen and baths; they’re great. Like baby wipes,
all you do is rip them out of the tub and wipe—instant shiny and clean.

Run one over your sink, then hit
the seat of the toilet (don’t forget the underside). Check the mirror. Empty
the waste-basket. Check for any hair on the floor. Run a wipe over the
worst,who’s got time to mop?

BTW: All of the eco-companies are
coming out with their own versions of non-toxic recycled or recyclable wipes,
so don’t feel guilty.

2. Clutter

I try to keep some sort of basket
with a lid in every room. Ikea makes a big basket “trunk” that can serve as a
coffee table and a clever stash spot for toys and blankets. Scan all the
horizontal surfaces in your home. Are any of the surfaces cluttered with old
mail, remote controls, dishes, and homework? Loads of clutter makes you look
like a total slob, so this is a priority. If you’re in a real pinch, grab a
trash bag, or laundry hamper. Load it with your clutter, and hide it in a
closet. Don’t forget that the dishwasher and oven work well as temporary
stashes for dirty dishes. Just don’t forget to empty out the clutter when the
guests leave.

3. Floors

This is the area where you can
probably cut some corners. I find that running a vacuum over the carpet and
floors is just fine. If you’ve got any sticky spills, hit them with some spray
cleaner and a Swiffer-type mop. Another option is to spray some cleaner on two
rags. Throw them on the floor, and get your kids to skate around on them instead
of using the mop. Concentrate on the high-traffic areas only. Remember, we are
cutting corners here; if you’re lifting furniture or getting on your knees at
any point, you’re overdoing it—take it down a notch.

4. Excessive Dust

A little dust is fine; no one sees
it but you. However, if it’s come to the point where the dust is thick (perhaps
the children have scrawled WASH ME on the dining table), it’s time to grab a
duster. It’s always a good idea to polish your finer wood pieces with quality
wood oil when you can, but for those in-between times, I find a feather duster
works just fine. For the lazier housekeeper, it’s the perfect tool. The beauty
of the old-school duster is that it’s much more of a redistributor of dust than
a true cleaner. It gets rid of enough dust so that you won’t notice the spots
you missed, and you save valuable time because you can just dust around those
pesky knick-knacks, frames, and vases without having to lift and move them. If
you have allergies, there are loads of disposable dusters on the market. They
do a superb job of removing the dust in a hurry. You can also use facial
tissues. You have to use the ones with lotion. Puffs and Kleenex both carry
tissues with lotion. Great for your nose, great for dusting in a pinch.

5. The Fridge

If you are having a dinner party,
someone is bound to ask if they can help and reach for the refrigerator. This
is the one place where clutter and disorganization is fine but sticky grossness
is not. Clean any puddles or drips with a swipe of disinfecting wipe, and dump
any suspicious-looking leftovers.

6. Mirrors

Slightly dusty or filmy is fine,
but if you have fingerprints, smudges, or splatters, grab a bottle of glass
cleaner and a micro-fibre cleaning cloth. Micro-fibre cloths don’t leave
streaks and can be washed and used over and over again.

7. Cobwebs

Check ceilings and light fixtures.
Chandeliers can be the worst offenders, so double-check that dining room
fixture before the dinner party.

8. Your Bed

In a perfect world, you would make
your bed and tidy the bedroom. But let’s face it; you probably don’t have time
for this. If you find yourself strapped for time, just shut the bedroom door
(and lock it).

FYI: This plan will not work if you
are having guests over for the first time. They always want a tour. See page 38
for my simple bedding and bed-making advice.

9. You

Save primping till the end. All
that speed-demon housework is bound to wreck your look. You want to be
ravishing, so better to freshen up afterward. However, feel free to move this
step up if you’re running out of time.

10. The Final Touch

Spray a fine midst of nontoxic
spray cleaner in the air right by the front door. You didn’t really clean
anything, but it smells like you did. Remember, perception is reality.