Think fast: Your house is a total disaster, and you just found out company is stopping by. What do you do? It can be difficult to stay on top of endless cleaning chores, especially if you work long hours or have pets, kids, or really anyone living in your house. But there is a way to put your house back in order in less time than it takes to cook a box of macaroni and cheese.
The key is to focus on the tasks that have the biggest impact, and let the little things go. Another important thing to remember? You’re probably being a lot harder on yourself than an outsider would be. Your real friends and family will only be interested in spending time with you and won’t care if your mirrors have some fingerprints on them.
1. Make the bed
There’s something about a crisply made bed that makes the whole room look more tidy. And, conversely, something about messy bed sheets makes everything look messier. It’s been scientifically proven that people who make their beds might even be happier and more productive than those who don’t.
One pro tip for bed-making: Skip the top sheet, and just use a duvet and fitted sheet instead. You’ll have less laundry to do, and it’s way easier to pull the duvet smooth every morning than it is to fiddle with straightening the sheets. This trick is also fantastic for kids rooms, so they can make their beds themselves.
2. Empty the sink
Similar to the bed-making principle, a sink that’s free from the remnants of last night’s dinner automatically makes your kitchen look 10 times tidier than it really is. If you only have a short amount of time to devote to kitchen cleaning, start with the sink, and tackle the rest only if you have time.
Plus, because it’s been found that your kitchen sink might be dirtier than a toilet seat, it’s vital to keep it clean to prevent the growth of bacteria and risk getting your houseguests sick. Quickly clean your stainless steel sink by dipping half a lemon or lime into baking soda, and giving the sink a good scrub. Rinse with water, and be on your way.
3. Clear off tables and countertops
Take a critical look at all the surfaces in your home. These are the areas most likely to accumulate clutter because the natural tendency is to place things down where there’s room.
To clean in the short term, gather everything into a reusable shopping bag, and tuck it away into a closet to sort through later. Just don’t forget it’s there.
A good long-term solution to combat countertop clutter is to designate a specific space for the items that tend to pile up. Sort your incoming mail immediately, and invest in some cheap dollar-store baskets to hold bills and other action items. Recycle junk mail immediately.
4. Freshen rugs with baking soda
If you only have 10 minutes, then you definitely don’t have time to break out the rug cleaner. But you can do a quick refresh of your carpeting by sprinkling a bit of baking soda over high-traffic areas a couple of minutes before you vacuum.
Baking soda is a natural deodorizer and cleaner, and it does all the work for you. This trick also works for your upholstered furniture. So go ahead, and sprinkle it around generously.
5. Use a lint roller for quick dusting
Pet hair and crumbs everywhere? Grab a lint roller, and do a quick walk-through of your whole house. Use it on couches, countertops, baseboards, curtains, and pretty much everywhere debris tends to accumulate. It’s better at trapping loose particles than a feather duster, which often just pushes dust from one place to another.
6. Vacuum high-traffic areas
You might not have time for moving furniture and getting cobwebs out of corners, but running the vacuum over your main living spaces can take your house from disaster to delightful in just a few minutes. And don’t skip places, such as the bathroom and kitchen. Vacuuming picks up way more than sweeping and goes faster, too.
Just be sure to tackle vacuuming last, so the rest of your cleaning efforts don’t undo all your hard work. Remember, cleaning from top to bottom is always a good idea.
7. Don’t forget to clean the air
Right before your guests arrive, try diffusing some essential oils or lighting a citrus-based scented candle to instantly make your house seem cleaner than it really is. According to a study put out by the National Institutes of Health, certain scents have an impact on the brain’s emotional center and can influence your mood. So the cleaner your house smells, the cleaner it will appear to actually be.