Spring is the traditional time for class reunions. Generally, you have months to prepare to make a good impression on those high school or college friends you haven't seen in decades. But, on occasion, reunions happen out of the blue, like when the college roommate you haven't seen in twenty years comes to town. One unexpected phone call later and you have 20 minutes to whip your house into shape before she arrives. If you normally keep your home looking like you expect a photo crew from Architectural Digest to happen by any moment, then you probably have time to whip up a perfect souffl before company arrives, instead of cleaning. For everyone else, we offer some strategies to fast-track your way to a clean and clutter-free home.
Start with the first room she'll seemost likely the living room. Stand in the entryway and scan. With the clock running you don't have time to get obsessive. Think big picture, instead.
Trash and Stash: You know how you've been meaning to weed out your collection of dust-collectors? Well, now is not the time. Instead, start with one swing around the room to dispose of anything you don't have to deliberate aboutyesterday's newspaper, junk mail, energy bar wrappers. Next, grab a laundry basket or a box, and pluck those items that add clutter to the room (this is a temporary fix, you can deal with separation anxiety later). Collect knick-knacks, stacks of books, DVDs, magazines, all those items that would add precious minutes to your next taskdustingand stash the basket behind closed doors.
When the Dust Settles: Wipe it away with handy dust-grabbers, like Pledge Dry Cloths. Use them on furniture, electronics and those few remaining knick-knacks. Give the room a once-over with a vacuum and you're ready for the finishing touchesplumping up cushions, putting on music, and lighting candles.
Your guest will, undoubtedly have to go to the bathroom at some point during her visit, which means you've got to go there next.
Improve Air Quality: Open the door and window to let the fresh air circulate.
Counter Intelligence: Follow the same principles you employed in the living room. Trash the obvious, stash the rest. Once your vanity is clear, give it a once over with antibacterial wipes. Ditto for the top of the toilet tank and other outside surfaces as well as the toilet seat.
Be Prepared: When there's no time to spare, you'll be especially grateful to have bathroom cleaners that do the work so you don't need to. Scrubbing Bubbles Toilet Cleaning Gel, for instance, is applied quickly (and hygienically) to the inside of your toilet bowl and then cleans and freshens each time your toilet is flushed. With Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner, all you have to do is press a buttonafter the last shower of the day--and it will do the dirty work for you.
Finishing Touches: Do you have fresh soap displayed? How about clean towels? If there's a stash of bathrobes and towels behind the door, whittle it down to just one towel. Better yet, display your nicest clean set on your towel rack and leave the door uncluttered. Collect the trash and you're ready to mop your way out of the bathroom.
Every guest ends up in the kitchen, so make yours inviting.
Start With the Obvious: Do the dishes. But of course, you knew that.
Smell Check: The Garlic Chicken you baked was great last night. The lingering odornot so much. Open the windows and doors and turn on the fan to ventilate the room. Next, spritz the room with air freshener or cook up some delectable smells. Boil a pot of water and add some cinnamon sticks and cloves to lend a spicy air to a room, throw in some apple slices and you have the aroma of fresh-baked pie. To keep your sink smelling fresh, throw a few extra slices of lemon in the garbage disposal, and turn it on.
Clean Up Completed: Once the air is clear, wipe down all the counter tops, sweep the floor, empty the trash, mop up and youre ready for company. Let the reminiscing commence.