5 Ways to Quickly Prepare Your Home for Guests and Unexpected Company

Are you having company over? Are you overwhelmed with all the stuff you need to do to get ready? Well, just stop right there, take a deep breath, and simply follow these 5 quick and easy steps to prepare your house in an hour or so instead of a full day. You will be absolutely amazed at how efficient these tips and tricks can be for transforming your home.

Tip #1: Get to Know Your Home From a Strangers Perspective

Before you touch a thing, including that pot roast you are about to put in the oven, stop and take a moment for role playing. Walk through your home as if you are the guest and visiting for the first time. Does your company use the front door, when you usually come in the back? Seeing your home through the eyes of your guests will help you prioritize the work that needs to be done before you get going, making you an efficiency master in less time. From the walk through you can easily make a plan and stick to it. Doing this in a calm, non-critical way will also help you become a better host even after the chores are done.

The Entrance – First Impressions Last a Lifetime

Start your walk through with your entrance. Before you clean your bathroom, shouldn’t you clean your entry way? Make sure shoes and dirt, or both, are out of sight. Is there a place for purses and coats? If not, plan on taking peoples’ belongings to another room. The foyers and entry ways of our houses are often also the smallest, least used, clutter free spaces in our homes. Capitalize on their purity before the entire house takes over your attention.

Also make sure your entry represents the welcome you want to achieve. Because our entries are often the least used, they tend to lack personality and draw.

Find the Flow of Your Home

Most entry ways open directly into a primary room. Therefore the entrance is the first place you should start to notice the flow of your house. Where do your eyes move? Where do you immediately want to go next? (This will probably be different than your normal routine, so keep an open mind) Move through your home the way it is set up visually, not programmatically.

Our home has two major flow options depending on how quickly I need to get it ready and my time frame. If I am pushed for time, I do not worry about our overly messy office and just shut the door to the room which is right off of the foyer. Otherwise, it is the first thing you see when you open the door! Yikes. This forces my visitors toward the back of the house where the action is going to be. (Yes friends, this has always been an intentional move on my part to get you to start partying faster.) If I do have time however, I actually only ever clean the half you can see from the entry. Sneaky and efficient, I know.

Our friends, Hope and Ben, have an entrance with a long wide hall all the way down through the house connecting different rooms. Even though their living room is directly to the left of the entry, rarely do guests stop and linger there because of the visual impact of the hall. Their home’s architecture pushes guests all the way down to the back, into the kitchen. They have a “shot gun” style flow – quick and fast movement then bam, open and energetic space.

My sister’s apartment opens directly into her living room and dining room. The sense of space there is actually to stay put and get comfy where you are, so she could probably benefit from having a place for coats and purses directly next to the door. This would help make the entrance a little more defined while solving issues of hiding her guest’s stuff back in the bedrooms, never to be found. This also gives ownership to the guests to go ahead and make themselves at home where they are.

As you can see, each home has a different flow. When you do your walk through, take notice of what people see, how the spaces might make someone move in a different direction and then prioritize the biggest spatial players. If no one is going to be flowing down one direction or into a certain room, close it off and don’t worry about cleaning it at all. Think about it. Are your guests, other than curious people like me, really going to go into your personal bedroom and bathroom? More often than not, the answer is no, so stop worrying about those rooms entirely and focus on quick impact! If you have extra time at the end, you can always take care of those rooms last.

Tip #2: How to De-Clutter Quickly

After my walkthrough, I start to de-clutter. I actually go back to the beginning of the walkthrough process and begin picking up junk based on my previous analysis. I quickly remove all of our mail and paper mess from our foyer console. Yes, the house is looking better already. I then use the flow we talked about before to go room to room and pick up all the items off of every surface that don’t seem to be intentionally put there.

Caveat: What you are about to hear is shameful but efficient. Don’t ever tell your kids or anyone you know that you do this.

I call it Stashing

As I walk through “de-cluttering”, I actually stash things in places they do not belong. There, I said it. Shamed, check.

This practice actually started when we were young and my mom had us clean under strict time constraints. My sister and I would supposedly be cleaning our bedroom only for my mom to come in and find we hadn’t touched a thing. So then we were timed – aka. You have 1 hr to clean your room to her standards or risk punishment and wrath. The timer was set and when it beeped she came back to inspect. (My mother is an extremely brilliant woman because it worked effortlessly, EVERY TIME!) Our room was spotless instantly. Now, if only I had this awesome under bed storage to reorganize items after the stash. That would have been a much more manageable process.

From those early childhood experiences I now get ready for company and do the same thing. Instead of taking 15 minutes to organize and think about where every paper, bill, book, cord, etc. needs to go, I stash them all in a pile to be sorted later. Each room instantly appears clean and organized even though things are hiding in drawers and closets to be dealt with after company leaves. Carrying around a laundry basket would be an even better system because then everything worthy of stashing is in one place to be found and easily organized at a later time. Stashing works beautifully and takes half the time of most de-cluttering processes. It takes the guess work out in a pinch. Also, in most instances, when I don’t go looking for those stashed items over the next 6 months, I realize I could have just gotten rid of them entirely. This realization (pretty much every time) forces me to prioritize my life over my clutter.

The First Rule of Staging

The number one rule of professionals that help home owners stage a home is usually – less is more! So get rid of as much as you can before the party. You will have less to clean later and you might find you can live without most of it. In HGTV’s 15 Secrets of Home Staging:

Bye, Bye Clutter

The most important thing you can do to prepare your home for sale is to get rid of clutter. Make a house rule that for every new item that comes in, an old one has to leave. One of the major contributors to a cluttered look is having too much furniture. When professional stagers descend on a home being prepped for market, they often whisk away as much as half the owner’s furnishings, and the house looks much bigger for it. You don’t have to whittle that drastically, but take a hard look at what you have and ask yourself what you can live without.

Or in our case, what can your guests live without?

Tip #3: Quick – No Nonsense Cleaning

To prepare your home for guests quickly you have to be a fast cleaner. How does this happen you ask? Well, I have seen many blog posts about 10 days to a cleaner home, or How to Clean Your House in 20 Minutes a Day for 30 Days etc., and if that works for you great, but if you are like the rest of us and only have time to put your feet up when you get home from work use this method, in the order listed, instead:

Since all of the clutter is now stashed in a basket, in your bedroom closet, with the door closed, the majority of your surfaces should be relatively bare.

  1. Get some Endust (my all time favorite) and quickly go through your primary event rooms and just use a dust rag to wipe down every useable surface that has either dust or dirt on it.
  2. For the kitchen quickly grab a large box of wet wipes and cleanse the kitchen surfaces in the same way. Just so you cannot see any left over grime, no need to scrub. (This is a trick I learned after college from my sister) Wet wipes work great for a bind because they are disposable and only allow for a quick, surface level clean.
  3. Move to the primary guest bathroom and use wet wipes for those surfaces. Close the shower curtain, make sure there is no serious ring in the toilet and turn off the lights.
  4. Go back to the entry and Sweep your floors. Yup, unless you just love lugging a heavy vacuum around or have carpet, sweeping is quick and effortless. You will fall in love with your broom all over again. If you do have carpet just run it over the most walked through spaces to give it that, “I have just been vacuumed” carpet look.

All of this cleaning can be done in as little as 15 minutes for a 1,200 sqft home. (Remember you are not doing every room, right?) Give yourself a little extra time for the walk through / de-cluttering parts of the process and it will be even easier. If it is your first time using this process, give yourself a solid 30 minutes to see exactly how fast you can move in a pinch. You might find speed cleaning as exhilarating as I do. The impact is incredible for half the effort. Hone your skills, it will get easier.

Tip #4: Highlighting Your Assets

Now remember how I told you to turn the bathroom lights out when you were done cleaning? Let’s be honest – it probably doesn’t look THAT clean with a 3 minute wipe down. But we have a handy solution for that – Candles. Maybe even for your entire home.

Candles and lighting can instantly transform a space while wowing your guests. What kind of party doesn’t have party lights anyways? Candles are a a great and efficient way to add intrigue, warmth, and energy to a home or event. They also smell wonderful! If you don’t like candles find some other types of go to lighting you love and use it every time.

Assuming most people have been to your residence before, they will be pleasantly surprised at how it looks in a different light. Use light to play up some of your favorite features of your home. Or mask some of the less desirables. Warm light makes people cozy, strategic bright lights help to energize activity places.

Outside lights draw people to mingle. Really humans are not that different from bugs when it comes to light. Studies actually show people in public places following light as it moves around a plaza.

If you also use light in this way, then you too can move guests around your home to desired areas without fail.

We use different lighting techniques when we entertain because we want to show case our home in a more public atmosphere. I love playing with different lighting choices and seeing the outcomes. Our kitchen lighting makes it look hideous, no matter how much cleaning we do. So, I finally replaced the sink and stove lights. When we want, we can now turn off the glaring fluorescents that show all the dirty details and use charming warm light instead. We also bought some inexpensive floor lights from IKEA to beam up the walls in some darker corners. It helps activate the space when the overheads are on or off and we liked them so much we actually keep them on all of the time.

Tea lights are great, lamps work, anything to highlight the best parts of your space and get your guests comfortable. Also don’t forget to turn off the overheads in the darker “no-fly” zones and turn on your front porch and outside lights so your company knows where you live. Show off a little. You AND your guests will be amazed at the results.

Tip #5: Theme Your Spaces and Relax

One last walk through and you are done. Put some finishing touches on things. Set your table with some place mats. Put on some music. Take in how inviting everything feels. If you are throwing a themed party get some of the actual decorations out on those empty and clean surfaces. If you don’t have any, highlight what the gathering is really all about.

Always Be the First One to Your Own Party

Before guests arrive, you should stop, wash your hands, put down the oven mitt, and catch a breath. Goodness knows you have been running around for the last hour. Get yourself a glass of wine and take a slow sip. Look around! Your house looks stunning! Tip 5 is the most important because it teaches you to appreciate your hard efforts and making the whole process more enjoyable and even more quick the next time. You will also now have time to greet your guests, and play host, the best part of having company in the first place. (Invited or not) You will be more proud than ever before, because the effects of some of these tips probably surprised you or made you think about your home differently. (Mine was and is always the lighting) So sit back and enjoy a job well done and share these tips with your friends so everyone can enjoy having a stress free house full of those people most important in our lives.

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