How To Get a Messy House Company-Ready in 23 Minutes

It always seems to happen—the day your house most resembles a disaster zone is the day that company’s coming. But even if you only have a few minutes to spruce up, you can get your house in tip-top shape. Here’s your battle plan to clean house and get ready for company. Will your house be spotless? No. But your unexpected guests will never know the difference.

Focus your efforts (1 minute)

You won’t be entertaining in the master bedroom (we presume), so there’s no need to clean there. Shut the doors to any rooms that aren’t company worthy, then get everything else ready to sparkle: living room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom.

Contain the clutter (5 minutes)

Grab a laundry basket and a trash bag and make a sweep of your house. Collect everything in the basket that doesn’t belong where it currently is, and bag up any trash.

If you’ve got a little more time: Make a second sweep and put everything in its rightful place. But if you’re really short on time, you can skip the second sweep—and simply stash the full basket in a closet, your bedroom, or some other out-of-the-way spot until after your company is gone.

Stop the smudges (3 minutes)

Toothpaste splatter on the bathroom mirror or in the sink may be small, but it can definitely give the impression of a not-so-clean house. People will always look in the bathroom mirror — so a once-over with a paper towel and some window cleaner will make your bathroom seem clean. Use the same paper towel to wipe down the chrome on the faucet and knobs. The extra shine definitely helps create an impression of clean.  Wipe out the inside of the sink, give it a rinse, and you’re on to the next room.

If you’ve got a little more time: Make a quick run through the house with a cleaning spray and soft cloth to buff away any smudgy spots.

Vacuum only where you really need it (5 minutes)

No need to give the whole rug the once-over, if you don’t have time to spare. Just run a hand-held vacuum over those high traffic areas, where dirt tends to build up fast, and any place there’s visible crud.

If you’ve got a little more time: Sweep or vacuum the stairs. Dust bunnies and dog fur tend to accumulate in the corners, so a quick sweep will make a clean impression.

Fluff the pillows (1 minute)

Straighten the cushions on your sofa—that’ll go a long way toward making your house look more tidy.

If you’ve got a little more time: Straighten items on tabletops, put the remotes away neatly, and push all the dining chairs under the table.

Manage the dishes (4 minutes)

Load any dirty dishes into your dishwasher, hand wash anything that isn’t dishwasher safe, and put it away. Wipe out the inside of the sink with a cloth so it’s dry. It’s amazing how that little trick will make your whole kitchen look cleaner.

If you’ve got a little more time: Replace any dishtowels you’ve been using with clean, freshly-laundered ones. Hang them neatly.

Wipe off the kitchen counter (1 minute)

Give the counter tops a quick run-down with a sponge.

If you’ve got a little more time: Use a damp mop or rag to get any obvious stains or spills off of the floor. Sponge off the stove-top and wipe the front and handles of the fridge.

Do a quick dusting (3 minutes)

Grab a microfiber cloth to swab your surfaces for any obvious dust.

If you’ve got a little more time: Dust the screen on the TV and the arms of the chairs.

Don’t sweat it.

Your company is there to see you, not give your house the white-glove test. So if your couch still looks a little rumpled or you’ve got a dust bunny in the corner, relax—no one’s judging. Especially if you hand them a glass of wine as they walk in the door.

Lisa Milbrand & Amy Laskin

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Lisa Milbrand

is a writer for Bed Bath & Beyond. She constantly battles the chaos that comes with cramming one husband, two daughters and four pets into a standard-sized house—and when she's winning the war, she loves to throw a good party to celebrate.

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Sue A November 20, 2012 at 3:28 am

The laundry basket declutter idea is great. I think I need to buy a few more laundry baskets.

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Helen Cross November 20, 2012 at 8:21 am

Love the quick clean up. Plan to put it into action when needed. Thank you!

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Amy Laskin November 20, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Glad you found it helpful Helen. It comes in handy, especially this time of year!

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