Fastest way to Clean House
Scrambling to get your house guest-ready? Try these sanity-saving tips from Donna Smallin, a certified house cleaning technician and author of Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness.
Where to start? It might seem counter-intuitive, but Smallin says the first step to prepping your house for company is to step outside your front door. Since many of us routinely enter through the garage, we might not be aware of a grubby doormat or a pile of dirt and leaves collected on the porch. It's your guests' first impression of your home, so give it a quick once-over—and maybe a sweep. "You have to pretend that you're seeing the house for the first time, " says Smallin.
Do a Walk-Through
Once you step inside, follow the path your guests will take. Hosting a dinner party? Tidy up any rogue shoes or coats en route to the dining room. However, your bedroom will likely be off-limits, so there's no need to focus your attention on fluffing your pillows. Limit your scope to high-traffic areas.
Hide Clutter (For Now)
"An uncluttered home looks cleaner, even if you haven't done any dusting or vacuuming, " Smallin says. So, as you walk through the house, toss any out-of-place odds and ends into a laundry bag or basket that you can shove into a closet until your guests depart. Why a laundry basket? To prevent you from letting clutter linger there. "You'll need it back to store your dirty clothes, so this will only be a temporary solution, " says Smallin.
Don't Mask Odors
It might be tempting to make the house smell "cleaner" by lighting a scented candle—but that smell can be a literal headache for people with fragrance sensitivities. Instead, Smallin suggests opting for cleaning supplies that have a subtle, fresh scent without being overpowering. (Her fave: J.R. Watkins' white tea and bamboo.) If you need to eliminate odors from a garbage can or litter box, she suggests spraying Lysol, which neutralizes foul scents without piling on additional ones.
Speed Clean the Guest Bathroom
Wipe any gobs of toothpaste or stray hairs from the sink basin with a damp microfiber cloth. Sink draining slowly? Try Smallin's quick solution: Flush it out with 1 cup of baking soda followed by 1 cup of vinegar. Let it bubble for a few minutes, then rinse with a kettle of boiling water.
Clear Away Grimy Kitchen Messes
Things that will attract unwanted attention? Piles of dirty dishes in the sink, sticky countertops, dust bunnies on the floor, or an overflowing garbage can. Deal with these major messes that just make a house feel less clean, and you'll have already made progress.
3 Cleaning Rules to Live By
Want to make housekeeping easier in the future? Memorize these mantras from Smallin's book to keep your home ship-shape:
1. Don't add to existing piles: Instead of tossing bills on top of the existing pile, work through the pile until it's gone—and keep it that way.
2. Corral pens, receipts, and other often-misplaced items in envelopes or repurposed paint swatch pockets pinned to a memo board.
3. Don't just throw all of your cleaning sprays under the kitchen sink! For example, tub-scrubbers are better stored in the bathroom to cut down on time spent looking for the right cleaning supplies.