Throwing a party seemed like a fabulous idea three weeks ago, but now you are in a panic because there is less than one hour to go before the doorbell rings. Maybe you were held up at work or got stuck in traffic. Or perhaps you just procrastinated — whatever the reason, you need to tidy up fast and save a few minutes to spruce yourself up as well. Fortunately, you don't need to deep-clean your home to get it party-ready.
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"Your kitchen and your bathroom are the most important rooms to tackle when you have guests coming over," Frank Trotta, owner of urbanmaidgreen.com, which was named the best green cleaning service in 2011 by New York magazine, tells Yahoo Shine. "No matter how big your house is, everyone always congregates in the kitchen." Trotta recommends cleaning any shiny surfaces that might catch the eye, including appliances, fixtures, and mirrors. He's also a fan of microfiber cloths—they are miraculous, reusable dust magnets — and says use them to give the furniture in public areas a quick once-over.
Don't waste your time on big projects like scrubbing the bathtub: It's the clutter that really makes a home look messy. Guests won't notice a few crumbs in the carpet, and you can always draw the shades to cover grimy windows. Instead, Trotta says it's important to stow away magazines, papers, remote control units, and other loose items.
Other speed-cleaning tips:
- If your sink is full of dishes or silverware and you don't have time to wash, hide them in a big stockpot and deal with them later. Or stash them in the oven if you aren't going to be using it.
- All those school drawings and grocery lists that are stuck to the fridge with magnets? Take them down for the party — they make your kitchen look messy.
- Get really friendly with microfiber cloths. You won't need additional cleaning products for this guerrilla-style attack, just a little water and elbow grease. Look for obvious sticky or dirty spots, instead of tackling an entire counter or other surface area. The same goes for floors and stairs — just turn up the lights so you can see any dirty spots and give them a quick rub.
- Spruce up your bathroom in one minute or less: Shake the bathmat into the tub and close the shower curtain. Clear any personal items from the counter. Microfiber-wipe the mirror. Change the hand towels and light a candle. Bam.
- That lint roller you use on your best clothing also works great on the cat's favorite chair.
- Polish kitchen and bathroom faucets. This may not seem important, but Trotta says if they sparkle, the whole room will look better.
- While microfiber cloths are ideal, if you don't have any, grab the dishtowel or hand towel that's already hanging in the room, get it damp and do a spot-clean.
- Keep one side of your sofa and chair cushions "for company only." Just flip them over when you want the room to look special and you won't have to worry about stains, pet hair, and fading.
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- Don't have much storage space? Grab a laundry basket or even a big cardboard box, and walk (OK, dash) through all the public areas. Use it to stash all your clutter — you can always sort it out later. As a last resort (or if you like a more "lived-in" look…ahem), stack piles of books and magazines neatly and top with a knickknack or small vase — your clutter will suddenly appear fashionable.
- Make your bed neatly. It's the one thing guests will focus on if they see your bedroom. Don't worry about clean sheets — they are hidden under the bedspread. Remember when you were eight years old and your mom told you to clean your room? Shoving everything under the bed still works.
- Tidy up your entrance area. Clear away extra coats and shoes, stash your mail, and put out some flowers if you have the space. It's the first area guests will see and, if it appears organized, it will make the rest of your home appear cleaner.
- Take out the trash and open the windows for a few minutes to eliminate any bad odors. You will need the empty garbage cans for the party, anyway.
- If your home has been invaded by an army of dust bunnies and you need to clean the floor, forget using a broom and just do a mad vacuum through the high-traffic areas where people are likely to gather.
In the final few minutes before guests arrive, after you have applied your lipstick or tucked in your shirt, take a deep breath, dim the lights, and make your home smell inviting. You can simmer mulled wine or cider on the stove for a warm and spicy scent or just spritz a little deodorizer near your living room seating area, bathroom, and kitchen. Trotta likes the biodegradable products made by Simple Green. And never apologize for the condition of your home — your guests came to have fun, not to give the white glove test to your countertop.
—Sarah B. Weir