No need for a frantic movie montage—get your house clean enough for guests without a moment of panic
It's a code-red situation: You've just glanced at your book club schedule and realize that you're hosting 15 people in . . . one hour. Cleaning your house for company with little-to-no time can be challenging, but it’s far from impossible. The trick to a fast clean and an organized home comes down to prioritizing, organizing, and keeping a cool head.
1. Take a Deep Breath and Get Organized
The last thing you want to do is sprint around without a plan—take a moment to outline your cleaning tasks so you can work quickly and efficiently. If possible, enlist the help of your housemates for a smoother plan of attack.
Here’s a basic run-down of what you’ll want to get done:
Clear and put away clutter
Wipe down and disinfect major surfaces
Clean glass and windows where needed
Put out clean towels and linens
Vacuum the floors
Mop the floors
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, many professional home cleaners offer emergency cleaning services for last-minute schedules. Cleaning costs range between $30 and $50 per hour but expect the higher end of this range for same-day requests.
2. Gather Your Supplies
If you're ready to tackle this task on your own, begin by gathering your cleaning supplies. You won't have to dig around looking for the hand vacuum later on if you have everything organized from the start. Throw your all-purpose cleaner and a handful of clean rags in a handheld carrier to move from room to room easily.
3. Prioritize Rooms
If you’re pressed for time, avoid getting sidetracked in rooms your guests might not even see. Tuck away clutter and close doors so those messes are out of sight, out of mind. There's no harm in shutting your bedroom door if it's in total disarray.
Instead, focus on the main entertainment areas of your home. Here’s a quick breakdown of what to get done by room: The entryway, bathrooms, and living room are most common. If you have to make up a guest room, put this on the top of your priority list as well.
Here’s a breakdown of what to tackle in every room:
Wipe down tabletops
Wipe down counters
Wipe down kitchen table
Dust or wipe down appliance fronts
Wipe down coffee table
Dust or wipe down side tables
Dust TV screen
Dust or disinfect remotes
Wipe down tabletop
Dust or wipe down buffet/china hutch
Wipe down countertops
Scrub bathtub/shower (this is skippable for non-overnight guests)
4. Accomplish Each Major Cleaning Task as a Whole
Many professional house cleaners follow the top-down method: Start with the top of the room and work your way down to the floors.
In the same theme, it's best to tackle your main cleaning tasks—such as mopping, vacuuming, and dusting—as a whole instead of finishing one room before moving on. That way, every room will receive at least a bit of love in case you run out of time—instead of having a shiny bathroom and a hot mess of a kitchen.
5. Clean Up the Clutter
Are there piles of bills hanging out on the kitchen counter? A sea of toy blocks strewn across the living room floor? Start your cleaning tasks by making space and decluttering your home. You may also want to tuck away personal items (such as toothbrushes and razors) to make the space look cleaner and more inviting.
While it’s tempting to put things wherever they’ll fit, try to avoid hastily stuffing important items into places they don't normally go. It's easy to lose important paperwork in this phase, so while time is of the essence, try to stay mindful about where everything ends up.
6. Tackle Common Chores Like Dishes and Laundry
Next, make sure your standard chores are not caught in limbo or need finishing. Now is a great time to clean all the dishes in the sink, fold the pile of laundry, and clean the cat box. If your guests will see any of your bedrooms, make sure the beds are made as well.
You may want to wait to empty the main garbage cans until you're done cleaning, but check out smaller bins such as those in the bathroom and guest room.
7. Dust and Clean Surfaces
Dusting and cleaning surfaces are your next priority. Start with large surfaces used by guests in each room. Spend extra time on the bathroom sink, the kitchen counter, the dining room table, and coffee or side tables. Don’t forget to sanitize door knobs, light switches, and other commonly-touched surfaces. Unless your windows are visibly grody, leave these for another day.
8. Vacuum and Mop the Floors
Now is the time to make a grand pass through the house with the vacuum. Afterward, break out a regular or microfiber broom to pick up the dust that eluded the vacuum. This step is particularly important in the bathroom or a kitchen with white tile.
If you have a quick-dry mopping tool, give the non-carpeted surfaces one more pass. Pay extra attention to the entryway so your guests get a burst of fresh air when they enter the house.
9. Add Finishing Touches
Congratulations on making it this far! Your home—or at least a few rooms—is now a blank slate to prepare for your guests. Move through each space and make the fun last-minute upgrades. Are the couch pillows in order? Are there extra toilet paper rolls in the bathroom? How about lighting a forest-scented candle? Now's also the time to bring out any food serving dishes, glasses, and snacks you plan to serve.
But most importantly, you've made it! Brew a pot of coffee and try to take a moment for yourself before the doorbell rings. It may have been an unexpected moment of madness, but now's the time to enjoy your friends' company and unabashedly accept all their compliments about the house.