“A home should be as clean as you can get away with.”
There is a pesky five-syllable word out there I’ve been trying to hone and grow for a while now. It’s a little thing called hospitality, and it comes easier for some of us than others (points at self). Opening your home to guests, neighbors, and strangers and making them feel welcome and cared for is an art. Over the years I’ve gotten better at this. I’ve spent less time worrying about what’s simmering on the stove and more time asking visitors about themselves, their families. I’m not concerned whether the plates are paper, the wine glasses are spotless, and the pillows are plumped, but I do care about an inviting space for guests to relax and enjoy themselves. I want to create a home that is welcoming and warm, and that requires some cleaning and prep work. So I plan for that in advance, and Graham says my stress levels have gone WAY down over the years. Thanks, honey. But what about the unexpected visitor? That last-minute meet-up at your place, the friend who needs to talk, the I’ll-be-over-in-30-minutes guest? For someone who is still “practicing” hospitality, the unplanned visit can send me into full panic mode. My children have been known to hear things like, “Who keeps leaving empty chip bags in the living room?” and “Does no one in this house flush a toilet?” and “This is why we can’t have nice things!.” With a little effort from my family, we can get the entire place ready in 15 minutes flat. Yup, I am raising the next Nascar pit crew.
When time is ticking and company’s coming, here are five tips to make your house feel more like a home:
- Stash the clutter. You should already have nooks and crannies, baskets and hidden compartments made just for this. If you don’t, may I introduce you to the storage bench. The possibilities for containing your/your kids’ crap are limitless here. Stylish baskets are another option. We have a large basket next to our stairs that collects junk during the week and gets cleaned out by the kids on the weekends. You should also do a horizontal scan of your surfaces. Mail, keys, wallets, and homework usually land in the same place. Do a one-armed sweep, throw it all in your pantry and close the door. Voila.
- Give the bathrooms a once over. At some point during a visit to your house, somebody’s going to have to pee. I keep disinfecting wipes in all our bathroom cupboards to clean sinks and toilets surfaces. A spotty mirror is a no-go—get out your glass cleaner and your microfiber cleaning cloth and fix it. And don’t forget to give your toilet bowl a quick swish.
- Clean your floors. When a friend’s coming over in 5, nobody’s got time to mop. Grab a vacuum to suck up the obvious dust and dirt on your carpets and floors. Hit your hardwood stairs with a Swiffer dry. Concentrate on high-traffic areas for any sticky spills and enlist the kids’ help. Chances are it was their mess to begin with.
- Close it up. Is one room in your house too far gone? Or a whole floor uninhabitable for guests? Simply draw the door closed, girlfriend. No one will know the levels of disaster being had in there.
- Make it smell good. Light a candle. Or throw apple slices, butter, sugar and cinnamon on the stove on medium heat. Febreze your couch. Spray Mrs. Meyers Room Freshener in Lemon Verbena right by the front door. You didn’t clean a thing. But it sure smells like you did.