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House Cleaning Tips for the Desperate Host!

Updated on October 15, 2012

"Hi dear, it's your mother-in-law. We are about an hour away from you and thought we'd drop in to say hello and see the grandkids. Be there soon!"

Crap. Uninvited company will descend on your rat's nest of a home in less than one hour. How the heck do you clean a house that quickly? Your vision starts to blur, you begin hyperventilating, and decide that happy hour at the bar down the street sounds like a good idea.

Do not panic! This article will give you step by step instructions for spiffying up the house quickly before company comes. There is one disclaimer however: You must take off your "Martha Stewart Type A" vision or you will not like this plan.


Essential Cleaning Supplies You Should ALWAYS Have

Necessary Items
It is nice to have these too
Lysol wipes
fresh lemon (to make things smell nice)
Paper towels
toilet bowl cleaner
All-purpose cleaning spray
Fresh flowers
garbage bags
Counters are empty. This is good!
Counters are empty. This is good! | Source

Step One: Bathroom

This is the room most guests inspect the most critically. After all, sitting on the crapper for a few minutes means ample staring time at all the nooks and crannies. Not to mention, people are skeeved out by a dirty bathroom. Since you are on a 60 minute time schedule, you need to spend no more than 10 minutes in the bathroom! Set that timer and let's go!

  1. Take everything off the vanity countertop and stuff them in a drawer. If you can put away in the right place, even better. But just get stuff out of sight.
  2. Using a lysol wipe or paper towel and lysol spray, wipe down the toilet. Use a brush and scrub the inside quickly (spray a little lysol in the bowl). Take only two or three minutes to do this.
  3. Moving to the shower, quickly wipe down the tub edge, arrange the shampoos, and shut the curtain so the tub is blocked. No time to scrub the tile.
  4. Next, use a lysol wipe to wipe down the vanity sink and handles. It doesn't matter if the sink bowl is spotless, just rub down the handles and the faucet. Those are the shiny parts that people see.
  5. Wipe down the mirror quickly.
  6. With your last minute, get a broom and sweep up the dust from the corners. Do not mop the floor! You don't have time. If there is a spot, grab a lysol wipe and get it off.
  7. If you are on schedule, replace the dirty hand towels with a clean one and light a candle.

Time to move on!

Step Two: Living Room

This is where most people visit. It is also a heavily used room with lots of space. You have 50 minutes left, so let's spend no more than 15 minutes in the living room. Ready?

  1. Grab a garbage bag and quickly pick up anything that doesn't belong in the room (i.e. clothes, shoes, toys, books, magazines, etc.). Put that bag in a closet and tell yourself you will go through it after they leave. No need to run all over the house right now.
  2. Take out your vacuum and run it over the visible areas of the carpet. No need to move furniture or attack corners. Just get the spots where you know your guests will see.
  3. If you have pets, grab the hose from the vacuum and get up all that dog or cat hair. If it's really stuck on there, toss a throw blanket over the back of the chair or couch. You can also use duct tape or a sticky lint brush to get up the hair.
  4. Wipe down the coffee table with a cloth or lysol wipe, light a candle, and get rid of anything that doesn't need to be there.

If you have time after all that is done, you can use a duster to wipe off any obvious dust from picture frames and whatnot, but don't stress. Most people don't notice.

Don't feel like you have to actually clean the room of its furniture!
Don't feel like you have to actually clean the room of its furniture! | Source

Step Three: Dining Room

Okay, we have 35 minutes until people arrive. No more than 10 minutes in the dining room.

  1. Grab one of those garbage bags and pick up anything that doesn't belong. Sorting and organizing are for later.
  2. Quickly sweep the floor and wipe down the table. Make sure the table has nothing on it (remember the garbage bag). If you have a candle or vase of flowers, stick it in the center of the room.
  3. Use a duster and wipe off any areas on the hutch that look dusty.
  4. Put a large pitcher of ice water on the table with a couple of cups.

Here's a tip: Even if your house isn't clean, when you make small impressions (candles, water pitcher, etc.) people get distracted. They feel like you invited them because they notice the small touches and ignore the dusty corners. It's like a toddler. Distract, distract, distract!

You know there is a crapload of dirty dishes in a container right outside that window. Don't be fooled!
You know there is a crapload of dirty dishes in a container right outside that window. Don't be fooled! | Source

Step Four: Kitchen

Chances are you will be working in this room preparing food, so we aren't going to spend too much time cleaning it up (since it will get dirty). 10 minutes here and we can come back to it later if you have a spare minute.

  1. Sweep the floor.
  2. Pick up everything off the counter that doesn't need to be there and stuff it in a bag or put it away.
  3. Wipe down the counters.
  4. Do you have a sink full of dirty dishes? You have some options: You can load the dishwasher (if it's empty). If your dishwasher is full of dirty dishes already, turn the damn thing on and run it. Now you will have to find a laundry basket or some big container. Take a deep breath and put all your dirty dishes in the container. Stick them out the back door or in a closet. You can clean them later when company leaves or the dishwasher gets emptied.
  5. Scrub the sink quickly and squirt some lemon juice so it smells nice.
  6. Light a candle or start cutting something up so it looks like you are working hard. It'll have a homier feel and they will be less likely to notice other imperfections.
  7. Take the garbage out.

15 minutes remaining...ack!

Okay, with your 15 minutes left, you might have to make some crucial decisions. You are feeling like Obama in the situation room right now I know. Take a deep breath. Here are some of your choices.

  1. Sweep the front room and shove all the shoes and coats into the closet.
  2. Pick up the littered lawn full of toys in the front yard.
  3. Make your bed if your nosy mother-in-law is the type to want to go in your room.
  4. Get yourself freshened up.
  5. Get onto cooking since you know she will want something to eat.
  6. Run through the house and stuff the hampers of dirty clothes in the laundry room.

If you have children, use them like slaves! Bribe them with money, do whatever it takes. They've got hands and even if you have them stick lysol wipes to the bottom of their feet, something is getting cleaned.

Your house is now blessed. Amen.
Your house is now blessed. Amen. | Source

Once the guests leave...

  • You will have to grab those dirty dishes and wash them! But hey, at least your sink is empty and the counters are wiped off!
  • You will have to find those garbage bags, unload them, and deal with each item. You might find it isn't that stressful though since you went through the trouble of picking everything up already.

See, that wasn't so bad! In fact, your house is reasonably clean. Maybe this new method isn't all that bad. You see, the problem with people who get paralyzed when they clean, is that they see every detail and it overwhelms them to the point of doing nothing.

The FlyLady says it best (if you don't know her, look her up, she's hilarious),

"Imperfect housecleaning still blesses your home."


About the author

Julie DeNeen is a freelance writer and mother of three. She is the queen of desperate cleaning, since her small home not only holds children but four animals! She also writes interesting articles about psychology, music, and technology.

Are you interested in writing for Hubpages? Sign up and publish your first article today!


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    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 

      6 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I absolutely loved this... I have to say, I don't understand why it seems to go so much faster when company is coming over. Yet, when you dwell on it, nothing gets done. I used to have to do this version all the time when I worked. Now I just make excuses for company ;) Just kidding. Because I stay home my house is usually pretty clean because I use my kids to the best of my ability. Like tonight for instance - my oldest daughter was forced to clean the whole house so she can have a sleep over! SCORE!

      P.S. Did you use my closets as reference???

    • Jamie Brock profile image

      Jamie Brock 

      6 years ago from Texas

      Wow, this made me tired just reading it! You didn't leave anything out. I hate to admit that sometimes when I'm just so sick of things lying all over the floor (I have a 4 year old) I'll get a big tub and just stuff everything in there just to clear the floor up and then go through it later.. Actually, I usually don't have a change, my son has usually already drug everything out of the tub again LOL! Ah.. anyway, kids will be kids. Great hub, voting up :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Oh wow...huh, I always wondered how my mom cleaned the house so quickly before parties! Huh...this is great and thought provoking! Great job, Julie!

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 

      6 years ago from Northeastern United States

      Julie, mind you that I write all about organizing, cleaning, etc on my blog, but you are the funniest and I TOTALLY identify with ditching the dirty dishes somewhere. It can be done.

      Years ago there was a sit-com called Green Acres where the glamorous Lisa Douglas (played by Eva Gabor) cleaned up after dinner by throwing the dirty dishes out the window! Out of sight, out of mind!

      Your comment about Martha Stewart in your summary proves my point about her...none of us are Martha Stewart. There is just one of a kind!

      Voted up and funny, Julie....very funny...and useful too!

    • newusedcarssacram profile image


      6 years ago from Sacramento, CA, U.S.A

      Great tips you have shared for house cleaning...Sometimes it will be very difficult to clean your house quickly when some guests will suppose to come...this tips will help me now...thanks a lot.

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 

      6 years ago from The City of Generals

      A very enjoyable hub Julie. Doing everything in one hour is like calories off, hahaha. I like the way you presented everything, cleaning the house that quick means a lot but you made it fun and light. THANK YOU!

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      If my inlaws said they were coming over I would just go ahead and lock that door. Maybe nail a few boards over it too.

      hahaha! just kidding - might want to though:)

      Excellent tips and heck I oughta know! lol

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @Everything- thank you! I am surprised at how many people agree with me. I was afraid I would catch flack for advising dirty dishes be put outside! LOL

    • Trinity M profile image

      Trinity M 

      6 years ago

      Julie this was fabulous. I have a few friends who will put up a shrine in your honour for this advice. I work from home and so does my hubby who is very handy at home… he messes up faster than I can clean it up. LOL! Great hub. Voted up and useful.

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania


      WOW! Who knew someone could make a hub about cleaning your house and make it funny and interesting both? LOL Great job Julie; I love your creativity and imagination!

      P.S. The comment regarding the dishes outside of the window, hilarious!

    • debbiepinkston profile image

      Debbie Pinkston 

      6 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

      Great advice, Julie! I have had that happen to me many times, not my mother-in-law but other unexpected guests. I love those wipes that can be used for everything! Lighting the candles adds a nice touch and says "Welcome"!

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 

      6 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Enjoy this so much. I shared it on FB because I have many friends who would benefit from this knowledge. Great Hub.

    • Elise-Loyacano profile image


      6 years ago from San Juan, Puerto Rico

      "Distract, distract, distract!" I like that. Great article that manages to take a less-than-fun topic and make it funny. I'm afraid our house is such a mess now (it's part construction storage), that I've decided it's got imaginary yellow tape around it. If anyone - anyone -asks to pop in to use the bathroom, I will lie through my teeth and say, "Bathroom? Oh, I'm so sorry. The toilet broke this morning. I'm actually waiting for the plumber to arrive."

      Once the house is in better shape, though, your method will be duly applied.

    • maggs224 profile image


      6 years ago from Sunny Spain

      At last a realistic tip hub, for for real people, written in a fun way, yet actually giving some sensible and practical advice.

      I loved it, voting up and hitting some buttons on my way out :D

    • denisemai profile image

      Denise Mai 

      6 years ago from Idaho

      Oops. My kindle cut me off. Good article and I'm making the hubby read it. Maybe he'll believe you!

    • denisemai profile image

      Denise Mai 

      6 years ago from Idaho

      Oh, hilarious. I remember those panicky times when I lived in the same city as my husband's family and they used to come by periodically. Here's the rub in my house: my brain and my husband's brain operate on entirely different wavelengths. I immediately begin glossing over the major areas as you suggest and he decides that that is the moment he should attack that oh-so-nagging job of cleaning the wall behind the toilet tank. And no. I am not joking.

    • bridalletter profile image

      Brenda Kyle 

      6 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      I know I have done something similar a few times, but this adds a better organization and timeline to work from. I like how quickly it all comes together. I do have my kids help when they are home. First comment when ex-mother in law comes into the kitchen, "Oh, your kitchen looks so clean and the counters all clear." So you can guess, that is where I start, the kitchen. Great hub!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      6 years ago from New York, New York

      Julie, I have to tell you Lysol wipes have truly become my best friend and have perfected the hour cleanup like nobody's business with my in-laws who pop in whenever the spirit moves. So your article truly is a gem and others should definitely read, because it gives such great advice here for a quick cleanup. Have shared and voted up too!!


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