You know the drill. You’re being lazy, sitting on the couch and watching TV. The phone rings. It’s your mother-in-law and she says, “Are you home? I’m just going to stop by for a minute.” And you immediately panic because your house is a mess. That’s when you decide to clean up as much as you possibly can in the next 30 minutes. You might even buy yourself some time by asking her to stop at the grocery and pick you up some random, hard-to-find ingredient.

Start with the kitchen, as that seems to be the room that most guests end up in. We want the kitchen to be as clean as possible on the off chance that this is the only room she comes into before saying, “Well I can’t really stay, I just wanted to stop by.” Load the dishwasher, put away any leftover food, and wipe down the counters and table. You should be able to tackle the kitchen in 10 minutes as long as the dishwasher isn’t already full of dishes.

Next there’s the risk she wants to sit down and talk about something. So, tackle the living room next, unless there’s more important things to worry about first like dirty dishes or kids’ toys. This is known as the fluff and fold. Fold the blankets, fluff the pillows. Spend 5 minutes on the family room and you should be able to get it looking better in only a couple of minutes.

Now you know she’s going to ask to use the bathroom. If you have a guest bathroom, it’s usually not too dirty. But when your kids’ bathroom doubles as the guest bathroom, that’s a problem and can be embarrassing. Using Lysol wipes, wipe down the toilet and wipe the toothpaste out of the sink. Pick up any wet towels and replace the hand towel that has a few weeks’ worth of toothpaste mouth wipes on it. Close the shower curtain and quickly wipe up the hair all over the floor. You can do this in 5 minutes if you hustle.

Next is vacuuming. This is especially important if you have shedding pets. You might need to spend your remaining 10 minutes vacuuming. You can also spend this time to circle back to anything you feel you rushed too much.

When you answer the door and you’re all sweaty and flustered, it’s important to blame that on something else. You can say something like, “Sorry I’m all sweaty, I just got done working out.”  It’s also vital that as you walk your guest into the house you very casually over your shoulder remark, “Sorry about the mess, I was planning to clean house today.”

Hopefully, you at least had enough time to clean up the most problematic areas before your guest comes over. 30 minutes may not seem like a lot of time to clean, but if you focus on the dirtiest areas that people will notice first and move quickly, you will have a cleaner and neater home in no time.


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