You left work late. Your nap lasted longer than you had planned. Your errands went long. Running late is not usually too much of a trouble, but when you are expecting guests at your home and do not have time to do a thorough cleaning, it gets more serious. Here are the three most important areas to prioritize, as well as some recommendations for setting the right mood for your company.
First: the living room and dining room
Fold and put away blankets and straighten any pillows. Clear any clutter off of the coffee table and dining room table. Larger pieces of furniture should be kept clean and tidy since they draw the eye immediately. Stack any books or movies that have wandered away from their shelves. If it cannot go on the shelf, at least make it look intentional. Since you will likely spend the most time in one of these two rooms, make sure they feel welcoming.
Second: the bathroom
The bathroom is easily forgotten, but oh so important. A dirty bathroom can ruin an otherwise spotless impression. Make sure your counter and sink are free of hair, soap residue, and water splashes. Pour a cup of baking soda and half of a cup of white vinegar into your toilet bowl to remove those stains like magic. Close your shower curtain. Take your trash bag out to the kitchen (we’ll return to it in a moment). Make sure there are a few rolls of toilet paper and a fresh liner for the trash Do a quick sweep if there is a lot of hair lying on the floor.
Third: the kitchen
If you wash your dishes by hand, organize the dirty dishes. Stack plates, bowls, and cups together in the sink or next to it. Wipe down counters. Put away clean dishes. Take kitchen and bathroom trashes out and put a fresh liner in the can. Do a quick smell test of your refrigerator. If something smells particularly bad, find it and take it out with the trash.
Do not worry about tidying the bedroom or office. Unless it is an intimate acquaintance, it is unlikely that you will spend time in either room.
Do not overly apologize for the messiness or make remarks like, “I’m sorry, I did not have any time to clean before you arrived.” This gives the impression that your guest should not have come at that time, as well as forces them to politely and untruthfully declare, “Oh no, your apartment looks wonderful!”
Do not continue to clean up once your guest has arrived. This puts them in an uncomfortable position, and they have already seen the mess you are trying to hide. Do your guest the honor of paying attention to them.
Do start some background music. Jazz classics like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday set the mood for a grown-up evening in. Acoustic music from Bon Iver, Ray LaMontagne, and Iron & Wine are a perfect backdrop for conversation and a meal.
Do light some candles. They give a softer feel than lamps or overhead lights and freshen the air.