Company Coming? 10 Areas to Clean to Make It Count


I do not need a sparkling house. What I need, and what I think the average person wants, is to not be embarrassed if someone drops by. I realize that I have set a low bar here. If we have the same mindset, you are probably also wondering where you should spend your time cleaning to make it count.

Fortunately, several Wise Bread writers share the same house-cleaning goals. After reading their posts and taking an informal poll of some friends, I came up with a good plan of action and road tested it. Here's all you need to do to keep your home presentable. (See also: Your One Month Guide to Spring Cleaning)

1. Declutter

Andrea Karim explains why it's important to manage the clutter in your life: clutter clouds the mind and saps our energy. An empty laundry basket is great for this — load it up, and then go empty it. I probably could have used a wheelbarrow. My mother used to have a quote about this process: “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” If I could force myself to declutter once a day, I am sure it wouldn’t be so overwhelming under the pressure of an arriving visitor.

2. Stow Your Cleaning Products in a Plastic Tote

Cleaning will go a lot faster if you have everything close by, from cleaning products to wipes, trash bags, and vacuum bags. I noticed I had been putting some cleaning products in the kitchen and some in the closet with no particular rhyme or reason. It’s so nice not to run back and forth.

3. Clean Top-Down

Start with the cobwebs, then move to the dust, and then your floors. If you do that in the wrong order, you’ll make yourself crazy recleaning.

4. Multi-Task in the Bathroom

I know that sounds odd, but bathroom products need time to soak in and work before you wipe them down. I like to spray the shower with an anti-mildew cleaner, squirt toilet cleaner into the toilet, and then wipe down the mirrors, windows, and counters. Then I go back and clean the shower and the toilet after the chemicals have done the hard work for me. If you prefer not to use harsh chemicals, check out Nora Dunn’s post about all-purpose vinegar. If visitors are on the way, make sure you empty the trash can and put out fresh towels and fresh soap.

5. Make Your Bed

If it takes you more than five minutes to make your bed, you probably have too many throw pillows (guilty!). If the tangle of sheets and blankets is too much to deal with on a daily basis, check out duvets.

6. Put Away the Dishes

A good rhythm is to run the dishwasher after dinner and then empty it in the morning. If you do dishes by hand, wash at night, and empty the drainer in the morning. Change your kitchen sponge and towels frequently and keep your dishwasher clean inside and out.

7. Don’t Forget the Stove

Cooking is messy, and no matter what type of stovetop you have, it gets grimy. I have a small commercial range with burners that get bad build-up. I fill my sink with Dawn and hot water, gently set the burners in to soak, and then attack the surface of the stove. Be sure you check your stove manufacturer’s manual to see what products they recommend. The stove knobs may also need your attention, and if you have stainless steel like I do, it will need to be wiped down.

8. Clean Your Counters

Hopefully your decluttering rounds included the kitchen. If so, the counters can be quickly wiped down.

9. Sweep or Vacuum

If you decide to vacuum, is the bag fresh? If it’s not, the house will smell musty. If you write the date on the bag when you change it, you’ll have a good idea of how long it has been since you last emptied it.

10. Make Your Decorative Items Decorative

Blankets and throw pillows don’t look very HGTV-esque if they are strewn about randomly. Take a minute to fluff, fold, and arrange.

How do you keep your place prepped for visitors?

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Guest's picture

Wait...I'm supposed to keep my place prepped? :P I don't. Not right now, at least--not with a baby due in less than a month!

Marla Walters's picture

Ah, Jenny, you get a pass - if your place is messy and people stop by, they'll be like, oh, she has a baby. No worries for you. You can milk that one for quite a while. ;-)

Guest's picture

... and if you don't have time for all the putting away in the kitchen, use the oven as temporary storage. (Unless of course dinner plans require the oven, in which case the dryer will do in a pinch.)

A friend of ours recently said if they could do one thing over in remodeling the kitchen, it would be to have a second dishwasher: one for clean stuff and the other for dirty stuff. :)

Marla Walters's picture

William, you're tricky. If I tried this I would either (a) bake whatever I had put in the oven or (2) tumble it. A second dishwasher - wow. But you'd have to be very firm with yourself. I'm so lazy, they'd both be dirty . . .

Guest's picture

I have tried using the oven as storage when guest were coming over...I forgot that I put stuff in there. Just a warning - Tupperware will catch on fire in an oven! I needed the fire extinguisher for that one. :)

Guest's picture
Susan D.

My approach is (1) make sure the bathroom is presentable; (2) remove excess clutter from the public area of the house; and (3) have people over in the evening and use candles for lighting. The less they see, the better!

Marla Walters's picture

I really like (3) and (4). Awright, going to file those away. Tx for writing!

Guest's picture

When I know I will be having visitors, I make sure the place is spotless! I pay special attention to the kitchen area. It is easy to forget the dishes or to clean the counters.

Marla Walters's picture

Cami, some of you needs to rub off on me.

Guest's picture

I am a complete neat freak and always compulsively clean my home and I do all of these things! I tend to even go overboard sometimes, I love to de-clutter and donate items that I no longer need (or I think I don't need) and then I will be up and about looking for the item a week or two later, I need to start taking it easy!

Marla Walters's picture

Morgan, you crack me up. As long as you aren't buying back the stuff you donated . . .

Guest's picture

My approach is always to make sure the bathroom is clean and the kitchen, that way you only have to run round and declutter if you have a last minute guest. Keeping on top of the clutter is definitely key overall though.

Guest's picture

I have friends that don't judge me by my home. I am the daughter of a father who was in the Navy. We had to have the house pin neat. It took me a long time to relax my housekeeping standards to a point that the family could take without driving them crazy.

Now, we have a happy medium. When we have company, everyone pitches in and it gets pin neat. In between, it is reasonably clean and picked up.

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