by Susan Caplan McCarthy
“Hey, we’re in the area; mind if we stop by for bit?” You stare at your phone, wondering why your friend or cousin thinks you’d be up for spontaneous entertaining. “We won’t stay long.” Of course, you say, “See you soon!” with as much enthusiasm as you can muster. It’s not how long they’ll stay that’s your concern but what they’ll be walking into.
Or, maybe you invited a coworker over for an after-work chat, and they said yes. Oops, is the laundry still piled in the living room waiting to be folded? To buy some time, you ask them if they’d mind picking up a bottle of wine or a pint of ice cream before arriving.
So, how can you clean and tidying up the entire house when you have 15-to-30-minutes?
Prioritize Your Efforts
Obviously, you can’t clean and organize your entire home in a quarter of an hour. You can touch on a few areas that will make your home look welcoming. Start with the area that bothers you the most and then fit in other tasks as you can. And, remember, that your real goal is to enjoy time with your guests.
If you spend your time with your guest thinking about the mess (or, worse, pointing it out), you won’t have fun, and neither will your guests. Let’s face it, they know they are entering your home without you having much notice.
Travel Your Guest’s Path through Your House
Start with a quick walk-through your home, following the path your guests are likely to take. Is there space for them to hang their coats in the entryway? Will they linger in the kitchen or will you direct them right to the living room? Do you need to move stuff off the chairs and couch? And, you know they’ll need to use the bathroom.
Tidy Up Fast
Clean What’s Most Noticeable
Ignore These Tasks
Unless there is an obvious cobweb hanging in a corner, skip dusting anything beyond the dust-dulled coffee table you’ll be gathering around.
Don’t vacuum because if you try to vacuum quickly, you’ll just end up sweaty from your efforts. And, chances are, they’ll hear the vacuum when they ring the doorbell.
Don’t bother trying to clean the kids’ rooms. If there are other kids visiting, things will just end up pulled out anyway.
You Just Want Your Home to Seem Cleaner
Avoid apologizing for the mess, no matter how large or small. If you point out clutter, that’s where your guest’s eyes will go.
Chances are that you’ve cleaned your house in the past month, so remember that your goal is to do some last-minute cleaning in a few obvious locations so that your guests feel welcome.
What's one thing you do when guests drop by unexpected? Share in the comment section below.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
I (usually) do a weekly housecleaning involving changing the bedsheets, dusting, vacuuming, doing laundry, cleaning the bathroom and shower, sweeping or mopping floors, wiping down the shelves in the refrigerator, and sweeping the front deck. My house is approximately 1500-square-feet and I spend about three-hours cleaning.
And the rest of the week, I’ll ignore the house. While I’ll push myself to scrub and wipe and sweep once a week, I resent when I have to tend to a spill on the kitchen counter during the rest of the week. But, while I thought I was ignoring the house during the week, I realized that I do a series of small tasks that make up my daily minimal housecleaning plan.
There are a few areas that I struggle with (like the kitchen counter), but most of these tasks take so little time, I wasn’t really paying attention to my daily routine.
How to Have a Clean House with Minimal Effort
What’s your definition of a clean house? Your goal and the effort it will require to get there will depend on whether you’re single, living with your spouse, or have a house full of kids or teens. And, unlike me, you may rotate cleaning different rooms or doing major tasks (like vacuuming or laundry) on different days of the week.
However, there are a few areas that get the most use and probably need a moment of attention each day. So, what’s the least that you’re willing to do daily to maintain clean at home?
Make Your Bed
I know, you may be tired of hearing this suggestion if you’ve never developed this habit. However, it’s pleasant to walk into a bedroom where the blankets have been smoothed. Making your bed doesn’t involve adorning the surface with a dozen pillows … and if that’s the reason you don’t straighten the cover – because you’ll then have to pick up and place a bunch of pillows; think minimal fuss … and fewer pillows.
Empty the Kitchen Sink
This could involve washing the dishes or moving them into the dishwasher. Oh, and cleaning the gunk out of the sink strainer.
Sweep the Kitchen
I live on a dirt road and have an unpaved driveway so when we enter the house and walk through the kitchen to go into the dining room/living room area, we always leave a trail of dirt and leaves. I keep telling myself that spending two-minutes sweeping our most-used path into the house will make a huge difference in the dirt that builds up over the week.
Keep a Running Shopping List
Ninety-percent of my grocery list contains items that I get every week (so before I tear off the list I just shopped with, I transfer those items to my new list) or items that I used during the week and immediately add to the new list. Before I take the list to the store, I add a few items I don’t usually have in the house that I need for specific meals.
Rinse the Bathroom Sink
One spray of cleaner and a quick wipe with a cleaning cloth will leave the area free of puddles, toothpaste, hair, and any grooming products.
Wipe the Toilet
Wipe down the seat and give a 10-second swipe with the toilet brush. (And, honestly, I often do one mid-week wipe-down of the toilet and sink instead of keeping after it each day.)
Sort the Mail
I walk in the door and toss junk mail in the recycling barrel. I’d used the app PaperKarma for a year to dramatically reduce the junk mail. Any paperwork that lands on the dining table usually sits there a couple of days before I carry it to my desk in the basement. Bad habit.
Hang Up Your Clothing
If you’ll be wearing something another day, hang it up so it can air properly. I usually spray this clothing with a squirt of Febreze.
Put Dirty Clothing in the Hamper
I don’t understand people who can’t put their clothing in the hamper or a laundry basket. It shouldn’t require any special effort. I judge when I need to do laundry when my basket is full.
Do a 5-or-10-Minute Tidy-Up
I don’t live in a minimalist home; we have stuff. If I’ve done some of the tasks listed above, tidying up at the end of the day takes a few minutes and I usually do it as I walk through the house closing the blinds. There’re a few areas where stuff piles up in my home – the dining table, beside the sink where anything that doesn’t go into the dishwasher air dries, wherever I was sitting and crocheting, and the surface of my desk.
If you have kids, set a timer or put on a song, and have them pick up the mess in their room as quickly as they can and put their things away.
What Is the Very Least You Can Do to Keep Your House Clean?
I consider everything listed above as maintenance. If I don’t get a chance to do my regular cleaning on the weekend, this “routine” keeps things clean and tidy – enough. They’ll probably be crumbs on the kitchen counter and a trail of dirt going through the kitchen (but, hey, brown tiles), but nothing that we can’t live with.
What are your minimal housekeeping tasks? Leave a comment below.
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm a professional organizer-coach with 26 years' experience as a teacher. I believe that an organized home isn't your destination but a step on the path toward the life you want to create. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; and speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.