How to Get Your Home Ready for Guests in 30 Minutes or Less

Do you fear the last minute “pop-in”? Whether you call it the “fly by,” the “drop-in” or just plain “I completely forgot so-and-so was stopping by,” most of us are unprepared to welcome guests into our home without some major straightening up.

If you find yourself expecting guests on short notice, fret not. These tasks will help you give the appearance that you are ready to receive.

1. Instant aroma

Our noses can quickly get used to our home smell, so the first thing you’ll want to do is ensure that your home smells good. Open your doors and windows while you combine a large pot of water with of any of these two ingredients: chopped citrus fruit (orange or lemon are the best), spices (such as cinnamon or cloves), herbs (such as rosemary or sage) or vanilla extract. Put the temperature on low and be sure to check on it often. (Never leave a pot unattended.)

Pro Tip: It’s really easy and fast to make your own room spray if you have supplies on hand. Take a clean, small spray bottle and fill with tap water. Add about 20 drops of an essential oil, such as tea tree oil, lemon or rosemary, and spray well-used areas such as around a couch, in the kitchen and the bathroom. Organic oils act as disinfectants and can quickly make your home smell amazing. (See also Tip No. 5.)

2. Dim the lights.

Good lighting can save a messy house. Like moths at dusk, we are drawn toward bright spaces. So if you want your guests to see the clean areas and not the dirty ones, turn on or off lights in those respective areas. Additionally, if you do have a room that’s ready to receive, think about quickly borrowing a lamp from another room and adding a bit more light to the space.

Pro Tip: Dimmers are a must on lamps. Warm, soft, glowing light is the most flattering on our faces and most flattering in our rooms.

3. Focus on the front door.

The space just outside your front door is more important than the space just inside the front door, because your guests will spend more time lingering outside. When inside, you can quickly whisk your guest toward the “good” rooms. Open your front door, toss the muddy boots or dirty sneakers inside a closet (or in the garage), do a fast straightening up and you’re good to go.

Pro Tip: When you purchase your outdoor welcome mat, purchase two at a time. This way you’ll always have a brand-new one ready in the waiting.

4. Scoop up clutter.

There’s probably no way you’ll completely clear clutter out of sight in 30 minutes or less. But keep this in mind: Having “stuff” is normal for nearly every household in America, so don’t stress too much about having your real life exposed to visitors. If you’re working from home or if kids have been working on a project, it’s OK to leave important papers and supplies where they need to be. But for things like recycling, laundry or other personal items you won’t have time to put away properly, find a closet or room that the guest won’t be opening (yes, you can even use your car), and put them out of sight. Got dirty dishes? Quickly stick them in the dishwasher

Pro Tip: Sometimes our homes simply don’t have enough storage space and our piles always seem to be in the way. Consider taking a weekend to solve one storage issue that bothers you the most; you may actually find away to permanently get rid of a pile.

5. Wipe off surfaces.

You won’t have time to wipe down every surface in the home, so simply stick to the one or two rooms your guests will be in (and don’t forget the bathroom). To wipe away dust bunnies, toast crumbs or sticky messes in one “foul” swoop, lightly spray an all-purpose cleaning product (or water) onto a dry cloth or paper towel and wipe away. Feel free to wipe around objects (known as the quick and dirty method) and make a mental note to go back later and wipe it down properly. If your floors also need a wipe down, use this same method and focus only on the worst areas.

Pro Tip: Don’t spray directly on electronics or surfaces such as wood or lacquer. Most surfaces can withstand a bit of dampness, but too much can leave marks.

Photo Credit: 1. Fieldstone House by De Meza + Architecture, Inc. | 2. Canvasback Lane by Benco Construction | 3. Sag Harbor Project by Foley & Cox Interiors | 4. Rumson Project by Foley & Cox Interiors | 5. Sunset Idea Town by Brian Paquette Interiors