It’s happened to all of us: you’re enjoying a relaxing day at home, surrounded by a sink full of dishes and a week’s worth of paperwork and suddenly your phone rings. Your Great Aunt Mary has just rolled off the interstate exit and is ten minutes from your house.
Don’t panic. You’re ten minutes away from a company-ready home that’ll even fool Great Aunt Mary.
Step 1: Tackle the Bathroom
Spray some diluted bleach on the tile in your shower and sink and let it sit while you clean the rest. Clean out the toilet bowl and wipe down the seat with cleaner. When you’re done, rinse out the sink and spray down the bathtub to wash away the cleaner. We keep a bucket with a sponge and bathroom cleaner dedicated to this purpose, and in no time at all, I can take care of this while the kids hang fresh towels and tidy their toothbrushes. If you keep a hamper in your bathroom and it’s full of clothes, move it to another room and close the door.
Step 2: Bag It!
Give each child a paper bag (or reusable shopping bag with handles) and have them go from room to room, collecting odds and ends. Anything that belongs to them goes in their bag, and that goes into their closet until the items can be sorted later.
I keep a few wicker baskets on hand to use as emergency receptacles for newspaper, mail, school papers or coupons that I don’t want sitting around but don’t feel comfortable keeping out when company’s over.
Step 3: Sink or Swim
Fill a sink with warm, soapy water and let dirty dishes sit while you clean off your table and do a quick assessment of your snack situation. While the dishes soak, figure out what you’ll serve as a snack and assemble any ingredients you’ll need so you won’t be scrambling while your guest is over. Rinse your dishes and empty your sink water. You can then load them into your dishwasher to get them out of sight, or you can give them a quick wash. Have your kids pick up any school things and take them to their room or work area until after the visit.
Step 4: Path to Greatness
The first impression should always be a good one, so make sure your entryway is clear of shoes, backpacks and extra clutter. If you have time, heat up a pan on the stove with some water, cinnamon, cloves and some lemon slices; as it slowly warms, it releases a subtle, welcoming smell that will greet your guest when you open the door.
Wipe down the stove top and countertops, and close any doors you haven’t had time to tidy up.
Your Great Aunt Mary will never know that you rushed through a precision emergency cleaning session, and you’ll feel much better knowing that you did your best to make her feel comfortable. Get the whole family involved and you won’t feel quite so frazzled when unexpected company comes to call.