My Quick Routine for Cleaning My House Before Last-Minute Guests Come Over

published Jul 7, 2022
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Cultural conditioning notwithstanding, absolutely nothing and no one says you have to make your house spotless before people come over. There’s something vulnerable and trusting about letting people in when your home is in its “lived in” state. In some ways it can put guests at ease and set the stage for deeper connection. 

That said, there are also plenty of other times when a thoroughly picked-up and clean house is what feels right for the occasion. Maybe you’re having your book club over for charcuterie or the soccer team is coming over for a cookout after practice. Preparing for guests in a situation like this is considerate and polite. But this don’t mean you need to spend hours scouring the house from top to bottom. Rather than adding to your already full plate, when you’re hosting, plan on a concentrated, full-throttle effort that will leave your house more than clean enough and leave you with plenty of time to drape rosemary accents around the salami or pick up ice for the cooler. 

I know this because I’ve pulled it off many times before. Here’s how I clean my whole house in about an hour: 

Get everyone else out of the house.

I believe in having all members of a household contribute to its upkeep, including (especially) kids. But a cleaning blitz is not the time to pass on good home keeping habits. If at all possible, arrange for everyone to leave the house for the duration of your cleaning hour. I often ask my husband to take the kids and dogs out for a walk or to the playground, for instance. This way, you can focus on the task at hand without people and animals continuing to make a mess as you’re cleaning up. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Decide where you won’t clean.

The first step in this fast-track house-cleaning approach is deciding the areas you will skip. For instance, you don’t need a pristine primary bedroom when you’re having guests over. Focus your energy and efforts on the spaces guests will inhabit, such as the common areas, including outside if applicable, and bathrooms in particular. 

Go room by room and task by task.

To do a focused and quick whole-house cleaning, a good strategy is to go room by room for each task you do. Always start in the same room and work your way around in the same order. This way, you won’t waste time switching between cleaning supplies and tools and you won’t expend extra energy trying to remember what you’ve done and what you haven’t. 

Start by picking up and straightening.

The biggest factor in a house that looks put-together is whether there are things strewn all over the place. So start by a deliberate decluttering of every space you’re going to get in order. The laundry basket method is a good technique here because it allows you to pick up out-of-place items fast and get them out of sight, even if you don’t have time to put everything away in the moment. Straightening out items on desks or surfaces also goes a long way in making things look tidy. Picking up and straightening out, even if this is all you do, makes a huge difference in the appearance of your space. 

Clean the bathrooms thoroughly.

The bathrooms are not the place to skimp on cleaning efforts. For any bathroom that your guests might use, do a top-to-bottom cleaning, making sure to polish mirrors and fixtures, and ensuring that the toilets are pristine. Last, clean the floors and make sure soap and toilet paper are full and towels are clean. 

Get the kitchen presentable.

The condition of the kitchen is another factor that determines the overall impression of whether a place feels clean or not. Gather any dirty dishes and put them in the dishwasher, clear off and clean counters, and make sure the floors are decent. The table should also be cleared off and clean, with chairs neatly set around it. 


Dusting may seem too detailed of a task when you need to clean up fast, but dusty surfaces make everything look and feel dirty and that’s not what you want your guests to experience. Grab your dusting mitt and swipe visible surfaces. This is not the time to attack the ceiling fan or the mementoes on the bookshelves; stick to obvious spots and go fast

Credit: Joe Lingeman


Vacuuming instantly freshens up any room by getting rid of dust and dirt and fluffing up carpeting. Again, this is not the time to get detailed. Concentrate on the most visible areas and aim for “good enough.” Remember, you’re going for an overall good impression, not perfection. 

Add the finishing touches.

Throughout your process, keep a watch on your time to keep you from getting bogged down in details. When you’re about five minutes away from your power hour being up, consider some finishing touches like lighting a candle, turning on lamps, or setting out some fresh-cut greens or flowers from your yard. 

Doing these tasks, in order and without distraction, can take your house from disaster to done in an hour. You might end up doing it, not just when you’re expecting company, but for yourself. Because you’re worth a peaceful, welcoming home too!