You get the call. Your friend is coming over ten minutes to deliver your gift now that Christmas is over. Or maybe you’ve been so busy cooking for the impromptu gathering you’re throwing that you haven’t actually had time to clean. Perhaps you’ve just procrastinated your least-favorite chores. Whatever the reason, your house is messy and guests are on their way. Listen, you fake-cleaned your room plenty of times as a kid; you can do it again now.
Start with the rooms where guests are most likely to visit. First, declutter: Grab a laundry basket, tub, or other container and start tossing in books, pens, mail, toys, jackets, whatever is covering your countertops, couches, and tables. Yes, this will be a pain to go through later, but remember that you’re not cleaning; you’re fake-cleaning. Fold a blanket and throw it on top, if the basket is presentable enough to leave out. If not, shove it in a room and close the door.
If your dishwasher is mercifully empty, put your dirty dishes in there, pre-rinsing and organization be damned. No dishwasher, or it’s full? Let them soak while you’re attending to the rest of the house, then hide them away in your oven of shame. If anyone finds this, he or she will be very, very concerned. Use a damp cloth to clean the counters. If you have clean towels, great! Swap them for the dirty ones. Just flip dirty towels to the other side, if you’re out of clean ones. Is the scent of this morning breakfast still lingering? Whip up some mulled wine by dumping a bottle of wine, some OJ, brandy, cloves, cinnamon, honey, and nutmeg in a pot. Your house will smell fantastic, and your guests might get too tipsy to notice your hidden messes.
The same goes for bathroom towels. This is one room you’ll want to spend a bit of time on. Pour some bleach toilet cleaner in the bowl; leave it for now. If your bathroom mat can be saved by a little shake, by all means, do it. If it’s too gross to contemplate, into the washer or hamper it goes (preferably a different hamper than the one that’s holding your mail). If you can sweep your toothpaste and other toiletries into a drawer, don’t be shy. No room? Toss them in the shower and close the curtain. Wipe off the counters, sink, mirror, and faucet, then clean any noticeable stains on the floor. A spray bottle with half water, half white vinegar can clean most surfaces. Flush the toilet, and wipe down all the surfaces with cleaner and paper towel, especially if they’re looking suspect. Deodorizer is your friend, here, there, and everywhere. Candles? Light ‘em if you got ‘em.
In the living or family room, use a microfiber cloth on dusty surfaces. Don’t bother dusting the blinds; just flip them inside out. Run a lint roller over couches and chairs to get rid of pet hair, or do the same with damp rubber gloves if you think there’s enough time for everything to dry before someone has a seat.
Quick sweep, literally. Shoeless guests are going to notice crumbs, pet hair, and anything else that sticking to their socks, so this is one step you don’t want skip.
Next step: Shut. It. Down. Close all the doors in the rest of the house, especially the kids’.
Remember: This is for emergencies only. This is not your new Sunday afternoon routine, but for now, conceal; don’t feel.